The first ever EU conference held in a new Member State took place last week, focusing on control with remote sensing (CwRS) of area-based subsidies, an innovative way of assessing agricultural subsidies.
The central issue of the conference focused on the fundamental reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), adopted in September last year. This reform, of course, implies important changes and adaptation in the management and control systems of the Member States.
It is the European Commission (EC)'s belief that in order to prevent agricultural subsidy irregularities, the development and use of remote sensing, geomatics, and information & communication technologies are essential.
By implementing the use of innovative geographic information system (GIS) technology, satellite imagery and land parcel identification systems (LPIS), the Commission believe that subsidies will be distributed more quickly, efficiently, fairly and reliably.
The objective of this, the MARS (Monitoring Agriculture with Remote Sensing) programme, is to continue developing a control system which suits the CAP reform with its different schemes, as well as advancing operational high and very high resolution imagery in risk analysis and fraud detection.
The programme is working towards allowing farmers to determine their agricultural parcel boundaries more precisely and file more accurate subsidy applications. LPIS digital data enables the production of customised maps to be sent to farmers as part of the subsidy application procedure.
This helps farmers in an expanded EU to complete their forms more accurately, reduce errors and facilitate administration.
Aerial photography and high-resolution satellites have been in use for a long time in remote sensing controls of area-based subsidies. What is new, however, is the application of very high-resolution satellite data that started with a successful test phase of 15,000 km2 area coverage carried out in 2003.
This continued with a successful operational programme reaching 50,000 km2 in 2004, and the aim is now to reach 140,000 to 150,000 km2 in 2005. It is expected that, each year, five million farmers and farming businesses will declare more than 50 million agricultural parcels.
In total, participants from 32 countries took part in the conference, including all 25 EU Member States. Of the 10 which joined the EU this year, eight have already adopted the Single Area Payment Scheme (SAPs). In addition, there are participants from Candidate Countries (Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Croatia), and three further countries from outside the EU (Switzerland, Israel, and Macedonia).
In 2004, 22 Member States used the CwRS approach for their agricultural controls. More importantly, in 2005, a further 10 member states will adopt the Single Payment Scheme (SPS). The remaining five (France, Finland, Greece, The Netherlands and Spain) intend to do so in 2006.
However, statutory management requirements (SMRs) on, for example, environmental issues, are applicable to all countries that were EU members before 1 May 2004. In addition, the important cross compliance rules with good agricultural and environmental conditions (GAEC) are applicable in all 25 Member States from 2005 onwards.
The event marked the 10th anniversary of the founding of the system and the 10th such conference, bringing together a record number of 300 representatives from government and industry working within information technology, imaging instrumentation and support of farmers.