Making the Cap figures public has always caused controversy

Farmers say there would be uproar if same system applied to social welfare recipients

 EU commissioner for agriculture  Phil Hogan: “It’s taxpayers’ money and I’m sure other sectors will follow suit in due course.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

EU commissioner for agriculture Phil Hogan: “It’s taxpayers’ money and I’m sure other sectors will follow suit in due course.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

The publication of payments received by farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy (Cap) is not new. The details were published for a period in the past before a court action halted the practice.

To comply with an EU regulation, the Department of Agriculture began publishing the names, addresses and sums of money paid to farmers through EU schemes in April 2008.

Then, on November 9th, 2010, a number of German farmers won a case they took to the European Court of Justice which argued that publication of this information breached their privacy. The court removed the obligation to publish figures for “natural persons”, restricting it to “legal persons” or companies.

The European Commission revised the legislation during the reform of the Cap in 2013, paving the way for publication of the information on or before May 31st each year.

European commissioner for agriculture Phil Hogan has stood over the decision to publish the information, saying: “It’s taxpayers’ money and I’m sure other sectors will follow suit in due course.”

Criminals

They say there would be uproar if the Department of Social Protection began publishing names and details of social welfare recipients.

MEPs such as Fine Gael’s Seán Kelly and Independent Marian Harkin have warned that it will be extremely divisive and say it will erode the public’s support for the Cap throughout Europe.

As a concession to the security concerns, the Department of Agriculture recently decided it would publish only the farmer’s municipal district, instead of the full address. The names of farmers who receive less than €1,250 are not published.

So why did Europe’s farmers receive €55.4 billion in Cap payments last year? The Cap was originally set up to guarantee food security after the second World War, but its aims have broadened since then. It now makes payments to farmers on condition they look after the farm land and meet environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards.

Advocates of the policy say it supports European farmers to provide a safe, affordable and sustainable supply of food. It also helps food producers in Europe compete on price with food producers in non-EU states who do not have to meet these strict standards.

The Cap schemes are split into two pillars. Pillar I payments, which account for the vast majority of farm payments, are funded from the EU’s annual budget. Pillar II includes rural development measures and schemes beneficial for the environment, co-financed by the EU and member states.

Reliant Farmers are highly reliant on these payments. Teagasc research shows

the average subsidy payment received by farmers last year was €18,859. On average, the farm payments account for 70 per cent of farmers’ incomes.

A new Cap came into effect since the 2014 payments were made, and schemes have changed. But in 2014 the main subsidy was the single-farm payment, and farmers received €13,849 on average in singlefarm payments last year.

Other payments include the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (Reps) and the Agri Environmental Protection Scheme which replaced Reps.

France got the largest amount of Cap funding last year, at more than €9 billion. Ireland came 11th out of 28 states, with €1.2 billion.