Subsidized farmers in EU monitored from satellite images

Aurel Dragan 28/05/2018 | 12:24

The European Union member states can check the farmers receiving subsidies using the images provided by the Copernicus Sentinel satellites, without the need for field trips.

The European Commission has adopted new rules that allow for the first time the use of images provided by satellites to carry out checks on farmers. Starting May 22, the data from the Copernicus Sentinel satellites and other Earth observation can be used as evidence when verifying farmers’ compliance with the requirements of the Common Agricultural Policy. Moreover, the authorities will be able to use geographical photos, drones and relevant documentation from farmers, such as seed labels. Field visits will only be necessary when digital evidence is not sufficient to verify compliance.

“This new satellite technology will significantly reduce the number of inspections on the ground, eliminating the climate of fear, which causes significant stress for farmers, and will benefit public administrations by reducing the costs of controls. It is therefore a gain for farmers and managers,” said Phil Hogan, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development.

The proposed new type of monitoring uses earth observation data provided by the Copernicus Sentinel satellites, which it combines with other observation technologies and complements them with geographically marked photographs. Subsequently, the information is automatically processed using computational algorithms that can determine, for example, whether the land is used or what is planted. As a last resort, the data are compared and combined with the existing information in the LPIS, a system for identifying all agricultural parcels in the EU Member States that is part of the IACS-system to ensure the administration and control of applications payment of farmers.

The two Copernicus satellites pass across Europe at least once every two days, which means that the latest information is immediately available. For example, Sentinel-2 carries high-resolution cameras and the images it provides can be used to distinguish between different crops to assess crop health and to monitor land use change.

According to the European Commission, countries will have the freedom to choose whether to apply the new monitoring approach or not.

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