ALL farmers and landowners should have to meet minimum standards to protect water, soil, wildlife and animal welfare after Brexit, campaigners have urged.

A farmer-led network says there must be "ambitious" minimum standards for the industry in the Agriculture Bill, which sets out policy for the sector as the UK leaves the EU, or long-term food security will be at risk.

The Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) is calling on the Government to establish an independent regulator to set clear standards to safeguard, maintain and enhance animal welfare, the farming landscape and the industry.

An independent regulator should support farmers to move towards nature-friendly farming practices with high environmental, production and animal health and welfare standards, the NFFN says.

The organisation, which was launched a year ago, warns soils have become depleted, water courses degraded and populations of birds, butterflies and other species such as hedgehogs have seen numbers fall significantly.

Its call to amend the Agriculture Bill to include minimum standards comes after a review on farm regulation for the Government said estimates suggest some of the most productive land will be lost within 40 to 60 years.

Ministers have set out plans to pay farmers for providing "public goods" such as habitat for wildlife, planting trees to curb flooding and managing soil well, after the UK leaves the EU-wide Common Agricultural Policy subsidy scheme.

But the NFFN wants farmers who choose to focus exclusively on farm food production, using intensive methods, to be required to keep their land in "good heart".

This would stop the environmental degradation that could undermine the land's ability to produce food in the future, according to organisation which has more than 2,000 members from farming and the public.

Targets in areas such as air quality, water quality and soil health will act as an incentive to those who are currently failing to deliver public goods alongside food production, the NFFN argues.

The call comes as Environment Secretary Michael Gove is set to address the Oxford Farming Conference and the Oxford Real Farming Conference on the future of agriculture after Brexit.

Martin Lines, NFFN chairman, said: "It is the Secretary of State's duty to establish an independent regulator before it's too late.

"We can only guarantee long term food security by protecting and managing the natural assets which enable food production.

"If the Government does not amend the Bill to include minimum standards - and put a stop to the environmental degradation caused by intensive farming - British farmers will be in danger of losing their livelihoods."

David Sandford, Northern Ireland chairman of the NFFN added that as, custodians of more than 70% of the countryside, farmers were uniquely placed to produce food while restoring habitats to help wildlife.

"Sadly, previous policies have hindered this progress," he said.

"There are examples of farmers taking the initiative to restore the numbers of yellow-hammers, barn owls and grey partridge and these projects should and could be the norm if proper funding was available."

In his speech to the Oxford Farming Conference, Mr Gove will recognise the need for farmers to have certainty to plan and invest, and will pledge to make the case for long-term investment in British farming.

He is also set to reiterate his support for the Prime Minister's Brexit deal, which he says will see the UK leave the Common Agricultural Policy without the disruption of crashing out with no deal.

And he will praise the role of British farmers in food production, and pledge investment in research and development to boost productivity on farmland.

Mr Gove said: "While I cannot pre-empt the outcome of the Government's Spending Review later this year, I can continue to demonstrate the case for, and put in place the policies that underpin, long-term investment in British agriculture and the rural economy.

"It is also one of the reasons why I hope my colleagues in Parliament support the Prime Minister's deal.

"It isn't perfect, but let's not make the perfect the enemy of the good.

"It not only gives us a 21-month transition period in which current access is completely unaffected, it also allows us to maintain continuous tariff-free and quota-free access to EU markets for our exporters after that.

"It allows us largely to diverge from EU regulation after the transition, to leave the Common Agricultural Policy and end all mandatory payments to the EU."