Defra Secretary George Eustice has rejected calls from farming groups and MPs to put the Trade and Agriculture Commission on a statutory footing.
NFU president Minette Batters, who led the 18-month charge to set up the commission, has said the body needs to be given a legal purpose.
At the moment, the commission is required to report to Trade Secretary Liz Truss, not Parliament, and will only be in place for six months.
Speaking to Farmers Guardian during a press briefing last week, Ms Batters said: “What has happened to date with Liz Truss forming the Trade and Agriculture Commission is an important step down this road, but ultimately it is there for six months and six months only.
“We believe it should be there for the duration of the negotiation of free trade agreements. We feel strongly that it has to be set down on the statute books.”
But during Defra questions in the House of Commons last week (September 10), Mr Eustice told Shadow Defra Secretary Luke Pollard there was no need to beef up the body’s powers.
“We have set up a food and agriculture and trade standards commission,” he said.
“That has been done and it is already meeting. It does not need to be placed on a statutory footing.”
A number of peers in the House of Lords have already tabled amendments to the Agriculture Bill which would give the commission a legal obligation to report to Parliament and extend its working timeframe.
Vicki Hird, head of sustainable farming at Sustain, said: “The Trade and Agriculture Commission is not only of too short a duration and without the right expert membership. It also has very little strength and its advice can be ignored.
“Giving new powers to a far better commission would allay some of the public’s fears about farm, food and animal welfare standards, alongside new legal powers for parliamentarians to have a say on trade policy and deals.”