IFA ‘has made contact’ seeking data commissioner meeting

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has made contact with the Data Protection Commissioner and has sought a meeting on the issue of its levy agreement form.

Confirming the news to AgriLand, a spokesperson for the farming organisation said that the IFA got in touch with the commissioner yesterday (Tuesday, March 12).

This is in addition to an earlier statement from the association on the matter, which said: “The IFA takes its responsibilities under the GDPR [General Data Protection Regulations] 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.”

Calls for commissioner investigation

Earlier today, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) called on the Data Protection Commissioner to investigate if the reported IFA levies proposal is 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.