FARMING POLL 2015 - DATA: Anger over online release of payment details

Farmers are incensed that details of their EU direct payments can be published.

The Irish Examiner/ICMSA poll finds almost four out of five farmers believe the decision this year to publicise the details of those receiving the payments is an invasion of privacy.

Details of payments have been publicised since May 31, a move strongly criticised at the time, with some farmers claiming it would be a boon for burglars.

The Department of Agriculture, on whose site the details can be accessed, said it had no choice but to publish the data due to EU rules.

The poll found 78% of all respondents agreed — including 63% who strongly agreed — that publication of the data was an invasion of privacy. Just 15% disagreed.

Opposition to the move is strong across the board and peaks with those aged 45 and older. In that age group, 86% believe publication is an invasion of privacy. The age group with the lowest level of antipathy towards the measure are those aged 34 and under, but even among that category, 68% believe it is an invasion of privacy.

FARMING POLL 2015 - DATA: Anger over online release of payment details

There is a high level of opposition to publication of the data across all farm sectors and by farm size.

ICMSA president John Comer said his association has genuine concerns about the fairness and security of such a move. He said there were very well-grounded fears that publishing details of direct payments would arouse the interest of the kind of criminals who target rural dwellers and the elderly already.

Mr Comer said farmers are not against transparency and openness and would, for instance, warmly welcome “openness and transparency in the currently mysterious and hidden area of the margins taken by the various components in our food-supply chain”.

He said farmers smiled when they heard about the need for complete transparency and openness when — despite years of campaigning by ICMSA and other farm organisations all across the EU — “nobody seemed that bothered to publish, or even investigate, the figures taken in final retail margins by some of the biggest and most powerful food retail corporations on the planet”.

“Dealing with the publication of direct payments, there simply has to be some acknowledgement of the security considerations for the farmers concerned. Personally I have no issue with someone going into a Department of Agriculture office or a Teagasc office and outlining their reasons for knowing what farmer X receives in his or her basic payment.

“But we have a major problem with a publicly accessible website or list that gives the name, address, and amount paid to individual farmers in an environment where it is common knowledge that there are criminal elements that deliberately target rural residents.

“Remember that this is happening against a background of the closure of rural Garda stations. Why is it unreasonable to ask why certain people would want to know what some farmer living alone in a remote part of the country were receiving? ICMSA doesn’t object to the listing of the payments but we want some degree of supervision of who is accessing that list and why they are accessing that list.”

Agriculture minister Simon Coveney examines Tesco’s Brussel sprouts with the retailer’s fresh category director, Malachy O’Connor.
Agriculture minister Simon Coveney examines Tesco’s Brussel sprouts with the retailer’s fresh category director, Malachy O’Connor.

On the issue of farm and home security, 81% of those questioned said they still had full faith in the gardaí despite recent scandals; 43% strongly agree and 37% agree.

Some 74% of those questioned said farming was one of the hardest ways to make a living. Farmers with smaller holdings are most in agreement, with 81% of those farming less than 40-acre farms seeing this as the case.

More survey findings and analysis

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