Farming: EU wants payments made public

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Scottish MEPs and UK ministers have this week issued calls for the publication of the payments farmers receive from the European Union.

The publishing of these figures was stopped two years ago following a court action in Germany where farmers claimed their privacy rights had been infringed.

However, current EU Agricultural Commissioner Dacian Ciolos is keen that this information is available to taxpayers and has brought it back on to the agenda

Alyn Smith MEP has long advocated this as an act of transparency and yesterday he said: “We have to be able to justify the public money that we are spending on agriculture and rural development, especially when it is such a large amount of the EU’s budget.

“I am extremely proud of the job that farmers do, and I know the hard work that goes into the job. Making single farm payments transparent for all European citizens to see is the only way we can not only justify the money that is spent, but also, at the same time, educate the public as to the extremely valuable work that our farmers perform, not just in terms of producing our food but also in maintaining our landscape and sustaining the viability of our rural areas.

“The public are investing and have a right to know what they are getting for their money. Farmers who are producing food and public goods have nothing to worry about in justifying their subsidy.”

George Lyon MEP said he had laid amendments to the Commission’s legislation, which excludes publishing details of payments to small scale farmers.

“It cannot be right in principle that only payments going to large farms should be published with payments to smaller farms withheld. The principle has to be all farmers or no farmers,” he said

In another amendment, Lyon said he did not want to see the publication of payments done on a league table basis with all payments lumped together.

He wanted the individual payment for each support scheme to be published in separate lists, including separating out the new payments such as greening, young farmers, LFA top up and coupled payments.

“There should be a description of what each of the payments is for so the public understands exactly what their taxes are being spent on.

UK environment minister Richard Benyon said that transparency with public money was more important than individual privacy.

“People have a right to know how their money is being spent, which is why the UK Government is calling for full disclosure of who gets what from the CAP,” he said.

“At a time when some countries are calling for even more money to be spent on the CAP, they can’t at the same time deny taxpayers the right to know who receives it.”