Farm Ireland

Sunday 23 October 2016

Farmers fear criminals may access online payments data

Published 03/06/2015 | 02:30

Independent MEP Marian Harkin says individuals should not be named
Independent MEP Marian Harkin says individuals should not be named

FARMERS are demanding security measures be put in place to keep track of who has access to information on the €1.8bn in EU payments to more than 130,000 farmers.

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Farming organisations are calling for a registration system - at the very least - but would still prefer the payments remain anonymous, and are set to raise the issue with Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney.

It comes as a leading agriculture expert said the details of the payments to individual farmers around the country could be provided with "more privacy".

However, Alan Matthews, Professor Emeritus of European Agricultural Policy at Trinity College, argued it is "perfectly legitimate" to publish the details of the larger firms.

There was a flurry of activity on the website as the information required to be uploaded under EU transparency measures showed more than 330 farmers and rural businesses received more than €100,000 in direct payments from Brussels last year. It highlighted the stud farms, agricultural colleges and meat processors that were among the big beneficiaries of €1.8bn worth of payments under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

It includes payments to farmers under schemes such as the disadvantaged area payments, aid for the fruit and veg sector and environmental schemes.

John Comer, president of the ICMSA, said that his association has genuine concerns about the fairness and security of such a move at a time when rural residents are being targeted by criminals.

He called for a degree of "supervision" over who is accessing the list and why they are accessing the list.

IFA president Eddie Downey called for any person wishing to access the information on the Department's website to be required to register their name, address and contact details.

Mr Downey called it a "breach" of confidentiality, and called for Mr Coveney to challenge the "unacceptable" infringement. Prof Matthews said he had sympathy with the argument that the names of private individuals should be made anonymous.

Independent MEP Marian Harkin said the information should be made public but without naming individuals.

The EU payments from October 16, 2013 to October 15, 2014 showed a wide variation across the country in the monies received under the schemes.

In Cork, farmers and businesses received €215.7m, with €74.5m going to farmers in Limerick, while Leitrim received €34.1m in funding.

Well-known names included John and Peter Queally of Dawn Meats who last year received €686,958 in total payments, including €245,883 in single farm payment.

In addition, one of the country's largest fertiliser and grain merchants, Walter Furlong in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford took in €367,648 in SFP, while Thomas O'Brien in Cobh, Co Cork received €444,412 in total payments.

Patrick Reynolds, one of the country's biggest potato growers, in Navan, Co Meath, took in €260,805, while Tom and Simon Browne, who milk over 750 cows in Killeigh, Cork, received €241,349. One of the largest vegetable producers in the country, O'Shea Farms Ltd, Piltown, Co Kilkenny received an SFP of €316,144.

The latest figures from Teagasc show 40pc of farmers earned less than €10,000 including their single farm payments last year.

The Department said it was required by the European Commission to publish details of CAP funding as a "transparency" measure.

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