Opinion

Publication of farm payments should be applied to all sectors

The publication of farm payments to farmers across Europe, including Ireland last Saturday, caused a storm in a teacup that was stirred by various farming organisations.

Sure, everyone can go on and see exactly how much of a Single Farm Payment, and other subsidies, their neighbour is receiving. It’s a chance for farmers to look over their neighbours’ hedge and into their bank account for a brief, and quite skewed, view of their finances.

And, now that we’ve all had a good look, we can move on. Nothing to see there and indeed there wasn’t in a lot of cases.

I, and it seems everyone else, was far from surprised at any of the figures. In fact, I was more surprised that some farmers weren’t receiving more. And fair play to those receiving significant amounts.

The argument that it’s public money so it should be public knowledge is a fair point. We all know what grade our teacher and garda friends and neighbours are on, so why not know how much money farmers receive from Europe?

If there is full transparency in one sector in relation to public money, it should be applied to all. I’d like to see access to social welfare payments and indeed the full salaries of those in the public sector, not just their pay scale.

However, the notion that criminal gangs are going to target farmers based on the available data is nothing short of scare mongering.

Does Edward Downey from Meath really think that his €18,000 Single Farm Payment makes him a target? Maybe if he had a son in receipt of another €11,000 it would make them more attractive prey for criminals.

Or, perhaps a John Comer in Castlebar would be a ‘better’ target with his €25,000 Single Farm Payment, or that one Patrick Kent in Wexford might have his Single Farm Payment of €35,000 stashed under the mattress, just waiting for criminals to come calling?

With, by far and away, the most significant payments going to meat processors, agricultural colleges and semi state bodies (Bord Bia received €1.2m), farmers have little to worry about. Except their neighbour having little else to do on a Saturday afternoon.

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