Carrying out inspections through satellite imagery

As part of the annual inspection programme required under the EU regulations governing direct payments schemes and various rural development measures, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine allows for the option to complete land eligibility inspections by means of remote sensing using up-to-date satellite imagery.

Meanwhile, 85% of Ireland’s land eligibility requirements were carried out under remote sensing in 2018.

These were the sentiments expressed by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, during Dáil proceedings last week after he was asked by Independent deputy Denis Naughten about the steps taken to date to fulfill commitments under the programme for a partnership Government on-farm inspections and penalties.

The minister was also questioned about measures that were ongoing or planned, and the evidence – if any – outlining the impact of such changes.

Consultation and stacking

Minister Creed pointed out that his department – in consultation with farm organisations – avails of the option of ‘stacking’ of inspections whereby cases selected for inspection under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) can also count towards the inspection requirements under Greening, ANC, etc.

This practice endeavours to minimise the number of ‘gates crossed’ as much as possible by also ‘stacking’ Animal Identification and Registration (IDR) inspections on land eligibility inspection.

The minister continued: “It is also about combining Animal IDR inspections with the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) and/or Sheep Welfare Scheme (SWS) inspections where feasible.

In order to meet the regulatory requirements for the 2018 inspections programme across the various schemes and inspection types, over 26,000 inspections were required.

“When the options of remote sensing inspections and ‘stacking’ of inspections were applied, this resulted in the actual number of holdings subject to a ‘ground’ inspection being 8,500.”

Yellow carded

The minister then went on to point to the ‘yellow card’ system for penalties which, he added, relates to land eligibility checks.

He continued: “These checks cover both administrative checks and inspections and applies to those cases where a determined over-declaration in area is greater than 3% or 2ha but does not exceed 10%.

For such cases, the penalty will be further reduced by 50%, subject to specific additional criteria.

“This provision applies to BPS, Young Farmers Scheme and the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) only.

“My department implemented this provision in 2016 and, in the period 2016 to 2018, some 2,000 applicants under BPS benefited from this provision.

“My department also applies the provision under the regulations governing the cross compliance regime where a breach is deemed to be minor in nature – remedial action is taken within a specified period and no monetary sanction will apply.”