It’s been fascinating to get a peek into the word of the geeks behind (and connected) to FarmSubsidy the last few days. They’ve been running the European Open Data Summit here in Brussels, headed by Jack Thurston, and later today they will arrange a press conference with the tempting title “Who wants to be a farm subsidy millionaire?”. Each year, EU hands out 55 billion euro in farm subsidies, the largest pot in the EU budget.
In short, FarmSubsidy is a huge database with information about who receives EU’s farm subsidies and where they are situated, based on data from the European Commission. You can go to your region of Europa (I can’t go to mine because Norwegian farmers are excluded – agriculture is not part of our European Economic Agreement (EEA) with EU), check out the data on local farms or companies, and soon, you will be able to map where the recipients live. Since the start in 2005, FarmSubsidy has been able to push for more openness around agricultural data, but as you see in the list of countries, several countries are still only releasing partial data, and Germany is the most disappointing country of all by refusing to follow the Commission’s principle of budget transparency.
For the last few days, the geeks have “scraped” even more data to make sure the list of the biggest farm subsidy millionaires are ready for the press conference later today (sugar is the key word for the top 1 receiver…)
I’m fascinated with FarmSubsidy because it is an incredible tool for journalists to “follow the money”, to use the favorite expression of Brigitte Alfter, co-founder of FarmSubsidy. International Herald Tribune ran yesterday a hug story about how a big American company, Smithfield Food is transforming Eastern European farming, subsidies by EU money. The database for FarmSubsidy had been used in part of the research, the reporters told me during a lunch yesterday.
The strive for transparency is driving these geeks, and FollowTheMoney is a another project they are running. Another suggestion is to FollowTheGeeks, they are up to some very interesting stuff!