14th Nov 2018

Farm subsidies open to public scrutiny

  • Governments must publish the names of farmers receiving EU subsidies under new transparency rules. (Photo: maraker)

EU governments have started publishing the projects for which EU farm subsidies have been paid out as well as the names and addresses of farmers receiving the funds, as part of reforms to the bloc’s common agricultural policy.

Under rules which came into effect on Monday (1 June), national agriculture ministries are tasked with publishing the names of beneficiaries, municipalities, and the amount of aid given, together with a description of the measures for which it was awarded.

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  • Farming subsidies continue to account for around 35 percent of EU spending each year, with €56 billion in aid being paid out in 2014 under a variety of schemes. (Photo: European Commission)

The new regime was agreed by MEPs and ministers back in 2013 and will apply for the EU’s seven year budget framework between 2014 and 2020.

Farming subsidies continue to account for around 35 percent of EU spending each year, with €56 billion in aid being paid out in 2014 under a variety of schemes.

Portugal and Latvia have decided to disclose all payments above €500, while most other EU governments have set their threshold at €1250.

The UK’s National Trust, which manages large swathes of the countryside and a number of stately homes, was the largest recipient of aid, receiving just over £10 million (€13.9 million) in 2014, according to the UK rural affairs department.

Governments could face legal action from the commission if they do not publish the information.

"I hope that these new transparency rules will help the wider public better understand how the CAP is helping to address society's concerns,” said EU farm commissioner Phil Hogan.

The EU executive first began publishing the recipients and the amount of farm aid they received in 2008, but a 2010 ruling by the European Court of Justice stated that the CAP transparency rules infringed the principle of proportionality and lacked details on the nature of the aid received.

The new transparency regime is part of a “broader objective of the European Commission to improve and maintain a high level of transparency on how the EU budget is managed,” the commission said.

"It is laudable that the Commission has attempted to find a balance between the obvious public interest in knowing how public money is spent and the right to privacy of farmers," Brigitte Alfter, Europe editor of the Journalism Fund told this website.

"But the effect of the national thresholds remains to be seen," she added.

However, the implementation of the rules have already caused a backlash among the farming community. The leader of the Irish Farmers’ Association, Eddie Downey, complained that the regime was a breach of confidentiality and to the financial data of the farmers named.

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