The overall objective for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) period 2021-2027 is to move from the process of controlling the agricultural activity compliance with the requirements to the increase of operational efficiency as well as prevention of irregularities by applying innovative technologies that enable performing the assigned functions in the most efficient way, replacing human and administrative resources by automated processes, creating new and simpler services for farmers. For that, the Area Monitoring System (AMS) should be in place. AMS requires joining of satellite observation data (e.g. from Copernicus) with GIS data originating from territorial Land Parcel Identification Systems (LPIS). One part of AMS is Checks by Monitoring (CBM), which is based on satellite data and photos sent by farmers about the carried out agricultural activities is in the process of implementation. CBM enables farmers and the public to access data used in the processes of administration and control of the European Union (EU) and national support, thus ensuring overall transparency in decision-making. It allows to use the spatial data for more efficient farm management and, most importantly, for reduction of number of sanctions against real farmers, since they will be immediately notified of any discrepancies, thus getting time for rectification.
The Paying Agencies (PA’s) in their approach for launching the CAP AMS on time are currently investigating implementation solutions for Copernicus and commercial satellite data access as well as its processing. The ongoing H2020 NIVA project contributes extensively to the implementation of AMS through modernisation of Integrated administration and control system (IACS) by making efficient use of digital solutions and e-tools, by creating reliable methodologies and harmonised data sets for monitoring agricultural performance while reducing administrative burden for farmers, paying agencies and other stakeholders. The objective will be achieved by providing a suite of digital solutions, e-tools and good practices for e-governance and initiates an innovation ecosystem to support further development of IACS that will facilitate data and information flows.
Aiming to find out the current situation as regards the preparedness of PA’s for introduction of AMS in their countries, including identification of existing gaps, threats and risks, the National Paying Agency of Lithuania conducted two surveys: in 2019 and 2020:
- Survey May 2019: Replacing the On-the-Spot Checks (OTSC) with Area Monitoring System – the only valuable product of Copernicus for Paying Agencies?
After having compared the results of the above two surveys, conclusions can be drawn that most of the PA’s are running multiple internally/externally funded technical projects and planning that CBM will substitute physical on the spot checks (OTSC) in coming years, however the PA’s are still facing certain difficulties to do this faster because of small parcels, complex subsidy system with few monitorable eligibility criteria, doubts about the future audit approach, lack of skills, etc. PA’s would like to get stronger leadership and a common strategy developed by the European Commission (EC) to help in dealing with the above problems, also a more tangible input from the EC as regards technical solutions: provision of all needed algorithms for AMS (crop type detection, grass mowing date, crop harvest etc.) and increasing the spatial resolution from 10-20 to 5 meters.
The PA’s are also exploring the possibilities to use the CBM data not only as a compliance check tool after the support application is submitted by farmer, but also as a help tool for farmers to submit more correct applications by providing the suggestions on possible ineligible areas, summer/winter crop/grassland areas and other. This should ensure lower error rates and sanctions, which would be much welcomed by the farmers. Moreover, there is an interest of PA’s to provide broader list of services to farmers, for example, estimation of crop yield including the identification of drought, flooded and burned out areas. Also, possibilities to provide better fast-track services for farmers are discovered through collaboration with land, forest, water and environment management agencies, insurance companies, advisory and farm management, including precision agriculture, service providers.
Majority of PA’s are aware about Copernicus Core service products, though there is still a need of learning how these products could be used for CAP. On the other hand, PA’s already tested or plan to test in the near future the EC- funded five cloud-based Data and Information Access Services (DIAS) platforms, which provide centralised access to Copernicus data and information, as well as to processing tools. DIAS should be cheaper and faster solution for PA’s to implement the AMS. Moreover, the PA’s are keen to use the Free & Open Source Software (FOSS) and open source algorithms, developed by European Space Agency (ESA), EC and others (through Sen4CAP, NIVA and other projects), but still not decided whether they will use the e-tools/platforms, which could help with AMS and which are developed through other EU H2020 programme projects (for example, RECAP, DIONE, ENVISION).