2020 is an exceptional year. The outbreak of COVID-19 has paralyzed the world like never before. The movement of people and goods, operation of factories, implementation of various projects and etc. almost went to zero. The daily life of Paying Agencies (PA) was also influenced. Even though the administrative checks of the documents were quite easily moved from PA offices to staff homes, the on the spot checks (OTSC) were stopped due to local quarantines. Luckily, the European Union operatively responded to the outbreak of COVID-19 and its consequences by adopting a wide range of regulations in many areas: health, economy, research, border, mobility and agriculture. One of main adoptions here related to the execution of OTSC by introducing “the use of photo-interpretation of satellite or aerial ortho-images or other relevant evidence including evidence provided by the beneficiary at the request of the competent authority, such as geotagged photos, which could permit definitive conclusions to be drawn to the satisfaction of the competent authority”.
In IACS support schemes the execution of checks by remote sensing techniques is not a novel idea as these techniques are used for a long time. Still, until now a lot of processes have been executed manually. This is where a newly developed Area monitoring system (AMS), which is one of the NIVA project elements, have the biggest impact – it automates a lot of processes. Even though, the development of AMS takes more time than expected as only ¼ of EU member states used it in 2019, this year because of COVID-19 quarantine restrictions member states felt the need of AMS like never before and some of them even decided to use AMS prototypes (instead of OTSC) in practice and see real ups and downs, not theory. One of these countries – Lithuania - used the Sentinel algorithms, developed through Sen4CAP project, to check and confirm the parcel compliance and the results exceeded expectations. It’s a good boost of confidence for the next years, when the AMS should become fully operational.
On the other hand, until now the non-IACS support schemes have been subject only to physical OTSC, so newly adopted legislation provided a rear chance to pilot the available software solutions in order to check the compliance without exiting the (home) office, like geotagged photos application, which is also one of the NIVA project elements. For example, in Lithuania, 90% of all the OTSC, planned for 3 month quarantine period (March 15-June 15) were executed while using the geotagged photos. After the quarantine, only those related to constructions were visited as the necessary measurements needed to be done. Even though, in the beginning farmers were hesitating to execute the checks by themselves by sending the geotagged photos of investments and documents, but as the time passed more and more of them provided the necessary proofs in order to quicker receive the support.
It is clear, that even after the COVID-19 pandemic will end, the CAP administration and controls processes will never be the same again.