Michael Gove's reforms could see horsemeat reappear in the British food chain after Brexit, farmers warn
Michael Gove’s reforms to agricultural subsidies risks seeing the return of horsemeat into the food chain, head of the farmers’ union says today.
Minette Batters, the president of the National Farmers’ Union, warned that encouraging cheaper food imports could see horsemeat mixed into meat supplies by overseas suppliers.
Under a new Agriculture Bill published on Wednesday, farmers will be paid for "public goods" such as curbing flooding and improving access to the countryside after Brexit.
The current system of subsidies paid for the amount of land being farmed will be phased out over a seven-year period between 2021 and 2027.
The plans were welcomed by rural groups including the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
But Ms Batters said farmers were concerned, warning that diverting cash away from food production risked seeing a rise in food imports.
Writing on the Telegraph’s website she said “you can’t go green if you’re in the red”.
She added: “Without viable food producing businesses, farming will wither and decline with fewer people producing the food we eat and caring for our natural resources.
“This is not only bad for the environment but would be a political, economic and social disaster for Britain.”
Ms Batters pointed to the "horsegate" scandal in 2013 when in which foods advertised as containing beef were found to contain undeclared or improperly declared horse meat.
Writing on the Telegraph’s website, she said: “When we talk about public goods we should be wary of complacency.
“We must remember that safe, affordable food which can be traced back to British farms is good for the public – remember 'horsegate' five years ago.
“Those politicians determining the future of British food policy would do well to ask themselves: ‘if it’s not produced here where will it be produced, who will produce it and how will they do it?’
“We owe that to our children and to our grandchildren. Once the tap of food production is turned off it’s an incredibly hard slog to turn it back on again.”