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Applicability limits of Sentinel-2 data compared to higher resolution imagery for CAP checks by monitoring

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) ‘checks by monitoring’, replacing the on-the-spot-checks presently used to verify that the area-based direct aid is granted correctly to EU farmers, can be introduced already as of crop campaign 2019. In fact, according to the recently adopted Article 40a of the implementing regulation (EU) 746/2018 of 18 May 2018 amending the Implementing Regulation (EU) No. 809/2014, several MS Regions are, opting to introduce an agricultural aid check system based on monitoring. Such checks rely on automatic methods to observe, track and assess the CAP eligibility criteria, commitments and obligations. Regular and systematic observations are carried out using the Copernicus Sentinel imagery or equivalent, making use of automatic machine learning techniques coupled with an efficient handling of farmer aid applications. In the case where the spatial resolution of above mentioned imagery is not sufficient to conclude on the support (eligibility, holding compliance), the competent authority must undertake appropriate ‘follow up activity’. This can be in form of efficient interaction with the beneficiaries, or for example by making use of ‘time stacks’ of information derived from a higher resolution image source (i.e. High High Resolution- HHR- satellite imagery with a ground sampling distance approximately two or more times better than the Sentinel-2). Before introducing such HHR approach, it is supposed that the MS has run through the so-called ‘sifting” preparatory operation. At the end of such iterative process, the set of “small” parcels for which alternative check methods should be made will be known. The question is to understand when the HHR use is effective (i.e. adequate to accomplish its purpose), and therefore really gives an enhanced information, superior to that extracted from the coarser resolution imagery.