Data Protection Commissioner called on to examine IFA levy proposal

The Data Protection Commissioner has been called on by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) to investigate if the reported Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) levies proposal is General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant.

Making the calls, ICSA president Patrick Kent said: “I am extremely concerned at the potential breach of farmers’ privacy rights under GDPR and data protection rules posed by proposals that meat factories would supply information about their suppliers to IFA.

“Levies are voluntary and many farmers have extreme misgivings about the method of taking money off them without their prior consent.

At a very minimum, levies should only be collected from those who have opted in. However, this new proposal to force farmers to sign a no-levies document which will then become a blacklist sent to IFA is outrageous.

“My legal advice is that levies should only ever be deducted on an opt-in basis,” the president said.

“There is no way that a farmer can be compelled to sign an opt-out of levies form in respect of livestock or produce supplied to a mart or processor, when it is clear that such confidential information will then be forwarded to IFA,” Kent said.

The president added that it is “highly likely” that the matter will end up being the subject of a claim to the Data Protection Commissioner.

Continuing, he added: “However, it is unacceptable that any farmer who objects will be confronted by the might of a meat factory which in turn has the comfort of being indemnified by IFA.

I am therefore calling on the Data Protection Commissioner to proactively investigate what is going on here and explain to all farmers just what their rights are under GDPR.

The ICSA has said that it represents its members’ interests in Ireland and at European level and does not take levies.

IFA response

Responding to concerns regarding the levy agreement yesterday, in a statement to AgriLand, the farming organisation said: “The IFA takes its responsibilities under the GDPR very seriously.

We have robust policies in place. They are based on legal advice and on guidance received from retained data protection specialists.

“Following a review, IFA’s National Council endorsed the joint membership and levy system to be the fairest mechanism for funding the association.

“This facilitates all farmers to contribute proportionately, based on the scale of their enterprise, to support IFA’s work,” the statement said.