ICMSA point to “legitimate security considerations” around publication of Single Farm Payment details
The President of ICMSA, John Comer, said that his Association had – and still has – genuine concerns about the fairness and security of such a move and he expressed surprise and disappointment that Ms Prendergast would be so blasé about very well grounded fears that publishing details of Single Farm Payments would arouse the interest of the kind of criminals who target rural dwellers and the elderly already.
“The first point I’d make on behalf of ICMSA is that farmers are not against transparency and openness, quite the contrary – there’s no group inIrelandthat has a greater interest in openness and transparency in, for instance, the whole area of the margins taken by the various components in our retail chain. Farmers will smile when they hear these calls about the need for transparency and openness in their financial affairs. What dairy farmers receive, for instance, for a litre of their milk and what a housewife pays for the same litre of milk seems to be a matter of mystery that nobody but the farmer cares about. That’s a matter that could very usefully do with an investigation by the EU but despite years of campaigning by ICMSA and other farm organisations all across the EU, there doesn’t seem to be any will to publish those figures about the margins. We’d love some support from Phil Prendergast on that”, said Mr Comer.
“Dealing with the Commission’s plan to publish the details of Single Farm Payment, ICMSA would make the same point today we made back in 2009 before the legal challenge by German farmers stymied the Commissions plans at that stage. There simply has to be some acknowledgement of the security considerations of the farmers concerned. ICMSA has no issue with someone going into a Department of Agriculture Office or a Teagasc office and outlining their reasons for knowing what farmer ‘X’ received in his or her SFP. But we have a major problem with a publicly accessible website that lists the name, address and amount paid to individual farmers in an environment where more and more we see rural residents being targeted deliberately by criminal elements – and all against a background of a programme to close rural Garda stations. We do not think it’s unreasonable to ask why certain people would want to know what some farmer living alone in a remote part of the country was receiving”, said Mr Comer.
“That is ICMSA’s point: we’re not being paranoid about the right of EU taxpayers to know what we received in our SFP. For the most part, Single Farm Payments are very modest and no more than a recognition of the money owed to farmers for producing excellent food affordably for the EU’s population: that was the rationale for the existence of the SFP. So we don’t object to the listing of the payments; we merely want some degree of supervision of who is accessing that list and why they are accessing that list”, continued the ICMSA President
“I note in passing that Phil Prendergast’s website is admirably detailed about her own salary and expenses and entitlements received as a member of the European parliament. Her statement made the point that the SFP is taxpayers’ money and those taxpayers were entitled to know who was getting what. Well, the salaries and expenses and allowances paid to Phil Prendergast’s colleagues in the parliament and the bureaucrats working within the parliament and the wider EU are also taxpayers’ money, so perhaps we can look forward to a similar drive to see all those payments being published on a publicly accessible website”, concluded Mr Comer.
Ends 2 October 2012.
John Comer, 087-2057846
Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758
ICMSA Press Office