Remote sensing for single farm payment announced

AGRICULTURE and Rural Development Minister, Michelle O’Neill, has announced her intention to introduce measures to improve the timeliness of Single Farm Payment inspections in 2012. These include remote sensing for some land eligibility inspections.

The minister explained: “My department, as a Paying Agency of the EU, is required to carry out inspections, or on the spot (OTS) checks, to verify the eligibility of land claimed for payment. However, I have been extremely concerned at the time needed to complete these inspections, during 2011.”

She added: “I am pleased to announce that I have been able to commence inspections on 21 May this year, which is some four weeks earlier than usual.

“In addition, I can also announce that, for the first time, my department will be carrying out a small proportion of OTS checks using a new technique employing ‘remote sensing’ or satellite imagery. This should improve the prospects of early completion of inspections in future years.”

The department will have satellite imagery captured for the purpose of conducting approximately 250 OTS checks in the 2012 campaign. For any parcels (fields) where there are issues that cannot be confirmed by remote sensing, rapid field visits will be carried out to verify the position. One of the significant benefits for farmers will be that this method of inspection will cause less disruption to the farm business. If successful, it is planned to increase the number of inspections next year.

Remote sensing will be used to determine Single Farm Payment Scheme eligibility and Less Favoured Area Compensatory Allowance Scheme eligibility in 2012. It will not be used to determine compliance with regard to agri-environment schemes in 2012.

Minister O’Neill concluded: “Adopting this technology as part of our inspection regime will have the potential to reduce the number of physical inspections conducted at present. This in turn will help to reduce the administrative burden placed on farm businesses.”