EU farmers declaring more land than they have to increase the subsidies they receive through the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) may soon be a thing of the past. The Monitoring of Agriculture with Remote Sensing (MARS) project, which the EU’s Joint Research Centre started in 1988, is using state-of-the-art space technologies for a more effective and efficient management of the CAP, especially in the field of subsidies granted according to the area farmed.
The Commission’s core idea is that using satellite systems such as GIS and LPIS (land parcel identification system) will enable farmers to determine the boundaries of their land more precisely and will ensure that aid for any piece of land is claimed only once. Farmers can then file their application for subsidies more accurately.
Apart from distributing subsidies more reliably and preventing irregularities, the Commission also hopes that the technology will help implement CAP reforms, which aim at switching from a subsidy system based on production to a formula based on farm sizes and environmental factors.
The GIS technology has already been implemented in most of the EU-15, and nine of the new Member States are also starting to use it. In Italy alone, the system is understood to have narrowed the difference between the area declared for subsidies and the actual area from over 9 to less than 2 per cent since 1999, saving the taxpayer millions of euros.
In the enlarged EU, it is expected that six million farmers will declare some fifty million fields to the EU every year. The new technique is thus considered the “backbone” for field identification in the reformed CAP, which will be implemented progressively between 2005 and 2007.