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 of the AMS parts – Checks by Monitoring (CBM) component, 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 process of administration and control of the European Union (EU) and national support, thus ensuring overall transparency in decision-making. It allows using the spatial data for more efficient farm management and, most importantly, for reduction of the number of sanctions against real farmers, since they will be immediately notified of any discrepancies, thus getting time for rectification.
The Paying Agencies (PAs) 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. Aiming to find out the current situation as regards the preparedness of PA’s for the 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?
- Survey May 2020: The 1-year progress of Area Monitoring System implementation in Paying Agencies (link with results below)
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 systems 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 farmers but also as a helpful tool for farmers to submit more correct applications by providing assumptions suggestions on possible ineligible areas, summer/winter crop/grassland areas, etc. This should ensure lower error rates and reduction of the number of sanctions, which would be much welcomed by the farmers. Moreover, there is an interest of PA’s to provide a 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.
The majority of PA’s are aware of Copernicus Core service products, though there is still a need of learning how these products could be used for CAP purposes. On the other hand, PA’s already tested or plan in the near future to test the EC-funded five cloud-based Data and Information Access Services (DIAS) platforms, which provide centralized access to Copernicus data and information, as well as to processing tools. DIAS should be a cheaper and faster solution for PA’s to implement the AMS. Moreover, the PAs 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 EU H2020 and other funding programs projects (for example, RECAP, DIONE, ENVISION).
The presentation of the survey results “The 1-year progress of Area Monitoring System implementation in Paying Agencies” conducted in May 2020 has been delivered by the NPA representative Aušrius Kučinskas during the H2020 EO4AGRI project webinar “Copernicus and shared LPIS data combined in data cube services”, which was organized within the scope of the Dubrovnik Inspire Hackathon 2020 on 5 June 2020. During the webinar, PA’s and their contractors were invited to discuss policies and incentives for sharing LPIS/GSAA data. Technical procedures and platforms for LPIS data sharing were reviewed, specifically addressing the use of hosted data cubes. Combined processing of LPIS/GSAA and satellite data were presented as it is offered by the Euro Data Cube service to the benefits of higher-level applications (e.g., Machine Learning crop classification). The audience of the webinar / online workshop comprised representatives of the PA’s, industrial suppliers, consultants, and researchers.