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EU adopts new rules to enable farm checks using Earth observation data

The European Commission has adopted new rules that will allow a range of modern technologies to be used when carrying out checks for area-based (Common Agricultural Policy) CAP payments.

The new rules, which came into force on 22 May 2018, will allow data from the EU’s Copernicus Sentinel satellites and other Earth observation data to be used as evidence when checking farmers’ fulfilment of requirements under the CAP for area-based payments (either direct payments to farmers or rural development support payments), as well as cross-compliance requirements, such as stubble burning. Other new forms of evidence such as geo-tagged photos, information from drones and relevant supporting documentation from farmers, such as seed labels, will also be acceptable for the first time, as part of a broader shift towards a so-called ‘monitoring approach’ that will lead to a decrease in the number of on-farm checks. Visits to the field will only be necessary when the digital evidence is not sufficient to verify compliance.

Under current CAP rules, EU member states are required to carry out a number of checks on farms as part of the Integrated Administration and Control System. The new rules will allow those member states that wish to do so to eventually replace or complement on-site checks with automated and less burdensome controls.