Over 6,000 farmers hit with remote sensing eligibility inspections last year

A total of 6,214 cases were selected for remote sensing land eligibility inspections in 2016 by the Department of Agriculture, the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, has said.

He said that EU regulations governing the administration of the Basic Payment Scheme and other area-based schemes require that full and comprehensive administrative checks are fully completed to ensure eligibility with the various schemes requirements, before any payments issue.

This includes Ground or Remote Sensing (Satellite) inspections where applicable, he said in response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Fein’s Martin Kenny last week.

“The selection of cases for inspection is set down in EU regulations and is undertaken by means of a risk analysis process with cases being selected on a risk and random basis.”

All cases to be selected for inspection must be eligible beneficiaries under the various schemes.

“Therefore the selection of cases for inspection, while commencing after the closing date for receipt of applications, i.e. May 15, for the 2016 scheme year, is an on-going process so as to ensure this specific regulatory requirement is adhered to.

“Furthermore as amendments to applications could be accepted by my Department up to June 10, 2016, the details of the land to be subject to the inspection could not be finally established until this period has elapsed.”

What does the remote sensing process involve?

Minister Creed outlined that the inspections process involves a comprehensive review of the satellite imagery received at three stages during the year.

This is to ensure that the actual claimed area in the application form corresponds to the area farmed by the applicant, that the crop types are as claimed and that ineligible land or features are not included for payment purposes, he said.

“The verification of crop types is of particular significance in relation to the ensuring compliance with Crop Diversification requirements for the Greening Payment.

“The governing regulations further prescribe that where it is not possible to make an accurate determination on the eligibility of a parcel or parcels of land by means of an assessment of the available imagery, a field visit must be undertaken to verify the position on the ground.”

As the commencement of a remote sensing inspection is dependent on the receipt of and processing of a range of satellite imagery throughout the year it is not possible to give a definitive commencement date for an inspection.

For the 2016 scheme year, Minister Creed said that his Department commenced receiving results of the inspections from the beginning of September, with results for 99.7% of the selected cases having been received by mid-December.

“Results for the majority of the remaining cases have now been received with a very small number of cases still outstanding.

“My Department is prioritising the processing of all outstanding cases and cases continue to be finalised to payment stage on a daily basis.”