NFU president Minette Batters has called on the government to introduce a food standards commission that scrutinises future trade deals and safeguards.

Making the call to Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers at the Oxford Farming Conference, she said the NFU would never accept British farmers being put out of business because of a trade deal that allows imports of food that would be illegal for farmers to produce in the UK.

She said the new food standards commission must be a fundamental part of how the government approaches trade deals and backed by legislation in the Agriculture Bill. Its primary purpose would be to scrutinise proposals in trade deals and make recommendations on the UK’s future food trade policy to ensure that the UK farming’s high production standards won’t be undermined, with a requirement for the government to act on these recommendations.

Mrs Batters said: "This year will be the greatest reset for our food and farming system since the 1940s and the decisions made by this government will be felt for decades to come. We must once again recognise that there is nothing more important to our economy, our health and our environment than the very food we eat."

She said British farming already leads the way in producing climate-friendly food.

"British farmers are world-leading in our standards of animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety," said Mrs Batters. "Farmers and the public want it to stay that way which is why it is crucial that the government introduces a food standards commission that can scrutinise future trade deals and ensure we do not allow imports of food that would be illegal for our farmers to produce here.

"This needs to be backed in legislation by the Agriculture Bill - which will be so significant for our industry."

Mrs Batters also called for a "revolutionary approach to how we plan, protect and pay our farmers to store water."

She said the country faced huge challenges in managing water in the years ahead – pointing out that 50 per cent of the potato crop is still in the ground and only a third of winter crops planted.

The Government is committed to spending an additional £100 billion on public infrastructure over the next five years and, Mrs Batters said, it needed to revolutionise water infrastructure.