As part of its ongoing move to simplify and modernise the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the European Commission has adopted new rules that will for the first time expressly allow a range of modern technologies to be used when carrying out checks for area-based CAP payments. This includes the possibility to completely replace physical checks on farms with a system of automated checks based on analysis of Earth observation data.
The new rules, which came into force on 22 May 2018, will allow data from the EU’s Copernicus Sentinel satellites and other Earth observation data to be used as evidence when checking farmers’ fulfilment of requirements under the CAP for area-based payments (either direct payments to farmers or rural development support payments), as well as cross-compliance requirements, such as stubble burning. Other new forms of evidence such as geo-tagged photos, information from drones and relevant supporting documentation from farmers, such as seed labels, will also be acceptable for the first time, as part of a broader shift towards a so-called ‘monitoring approach’ that will lead to a decrease in the number of on-farm checks. Visits to the field will only be necessary when the digital evidence is not sufficient to verify compliance.
Phil Hogan, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, said:
This new satellite technology will significantly reduce the number of field inspections, removing the climate of fear, which causes significant stress for farmers. It will also benefit public administrations, by reducing the costs of administering controls and checks. It is thus a win-win for farmers and administrators.
Under current CAP rules, EU member states are required to carry out a number of checks on farms as part of the Integrated Administration and Control System, which ensures that any payments made to farmers from the CAP budget are made correctly. The new rules will allow those member states that wish to do so to eventually replace or complement on-site checks with automated and less burdensome controls. Several member states have already indicated their intention to immediately start using new technologies such a geo-tagged photos.
The proposed new monitoring approach uses the earth observation data extrapolated from the Copernicus Sentinel satellites and combines it with other satellite or Earth observation technologies or complements it with geo-tagged photos. This is then processed automatically using computer algorithms that can determine for example the land use or land cover of the agricultural areas observed. This information is then compared and combined with existing information in the Land Parcel Identification System, a system for the identification of all agricultural parcels in EU member states that is part of the existing IACS, and cross-referenced with each individual application for aid to assess whether the payment can be made. In cases where this automated system cannot determine whether claims are accurate, additional evidence (including geo-tagged photos or other relevant documentation submitted by the farmer or data from drones, for example) may be used to support the claim. If this too proves inconclusive, physical inspections in the field may have to be carried out.
Major benefits for member states and farmers
Countries will be free to choose whether to apply the new monitoring approach. They will have flexibility over whether to apply it to specific aid schemes, such as the basic payment scheme of direct payments to farmers, or to rural development support measures, or to combinations of the two; they will also be able to gradually extend the area covered by monitoring within the first two years of its implementation. Additional benefits for national administrations include a more integrated communication process with farmers, a reduced administrative burden as a result of fewer on-site checks and a flexible application process.
There will also be significant benefits to farmers. For example, it will now be possible to inform farmers who need to perform certain activities such as grass mowing before a set date if the grass has still not been cut. This will ensure that farmers are able to carry out their environmental and other obligations in good time and so avoid penalties for non-compliance with CAP rules. Reducing the number of on-the-spot checks will also reduce significantly the time spent by farmers with inspectors in the field. Farmers will also be able to benefit from synergies with other digital technologies, such as crop monitoring and yield forecasting, to manage their farms better. Paperwork can also be reduced through the improved automation of activity recording.
25 Mayo 2018