Details of individual payments to farmers and landowners in Northern Ireland have been made public, much to the chagrin of the Ulster Farmers’ Union.
Northern Ireland agriculture minister David Cairns said the publication of amounts received for such things as single farm payment, LFA compensatory allowances and countryside management was necessary to increase transparency in the way public monies are spent.
But UFU president Kenneth Sharkey said declaring names and counties alongside the amounts received would cause “genuine concern and distress” to farming families.
“We proposed that payments could be published along with farm business reference numbers, rather than the family name,” he said. “This would have satisfied any genuine public interest.”
By publishing names, DARD was simply creating a “curiosity shop” on the internet, which could lead to cases of mistaken identity and give the false impression that farming was a profitable industry.
The published data shows that a total of £271m was paid to Northern Ireland’s farmers and landowners under a range of schemes in 2005/06. Among the major beneficiaries was the department of agriculture’s own education and research facility, CAFRE, which received over £222,500.
At the other end of the scale was a Co Armagh farmer, who got just £1.80 in weather aid. The lowest single farm payment was £4.78 to a farmer in Co Antrim.
Full details are published on www.dardni.gov.uk in the “grants and funding” section.
French farmers have started to receive a 50% advance on their 2006 SFP’s following the recent decision by Brussels to allow any member state to bring forward the payment date from 1 December to 16 October.