IFA levy system ‘fairest mechanism for funding’

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has responded to concerns raised over its levy collection agreement form, defending its voluntary contribution system.

In a statement to AgriLand, the farming organisation said: “The IFA takes its responsibilities under the GDPR [General Data Privacy Regulations] very seriously.

Robust policies

“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 association noted that all farmers benefit from the policy work carried out by the IFA in its regional offices, at national level and in Brussels.

“However, we believe it is fair to prioritise access to services such as direct payments assistance, our legal helpline and our debt support service, towards farmers who are contributing fully,” the IFA said.

According to the IFA’s most recent accounts in its annual report 2018, European involvement fund levies were worth €3.2 million; up on the €2.96 million taken in in 2017.

The IFA levy is deducted at a rate of 0.15% on the gross value of all produce sold by compliant farmers.

Concerns

The IFA was responding to concerns raised in relation to some aspects of the organisation’s levy form, particularly in relation to privacy and information.

In a levy agreement form seen by AgriLand, farmers who wish to opt out of paying the voluntary levy to the farming organisation must submit their name and contact details – as well as their supplier/herd number – to the relevant collector. As part of the opt-out process, a copy of the completed form is provided to the IFA.

According to the farming organisation, this is “to allow the IFA to tailor their support services regarding farmers who do not wish to contribute the levy towards the funding of the association”.

One farmer contacted AgriLand to raise concerns regarding the provision of such details directly to the association.

Other areas of concern highlighted included the assurance that the IFA “will ensure that any commercially sensitive information will be held securely within IFA”, raising question marks over why it should be given in the first place.

The issue of indemnifying the collecting processors – compensating or securing them against legal responsibility for their actions – was another point of contention.