The National Farmers' Union (NFU) has paid tribute to its former president Sir David Naish, who has died at the age of 78.

Sir David, a native of Nottinghamshire, was president of the union between 1991 and 1998 - following in the footsteps of his uncle Lord Netherthorpe, who was president between 1945 and 1960.

In its tribute the NFU said that Sir David was well respected internationally, and was admired for his political skills, coming from the local politics scene as a councillor.

During his tenure at the helm of the NFU, he also became the president of COPA, the pan-European farmer representative body. He also made a name for himself across the Atlantic among US farming organisations, having visited the country regularly.

In 1986, he was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Society, and held the office of Deputy Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire in 1991; He was knighted for services to agriculture in the 1994 Queen's Birthday Honours.

"Our thoughts are with Sir David's family at this time. Sir David was well known and highly respected both nationally and internationally for his knowledge, integrity and commitment to British farming," said Minette Batters, current president of the NFU.

She added: "Those who worked with him during his time as president have described him as a very kind and considerate giant in the farming industry; well respected, always credible, with a warm sense of humour and who always had time to listen.

In particular, British farmers owe a debt of gratitude to the leadership Sir David gave to the British farming industry in one of its most challenging eras during the BSE crisis.

"Sir David led from the front and played a crucial role in supporting British farmers while working with the highest levels in Government to introduce measures to restore public confidence," said Batters.

She concluded by saying: "British farming was better for having him as NFU president and he will be sorely missed."