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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Ciaran Moran Twitter Email

Department to cease unannounced inspections as all farmers to be monitored by satellite

Imagery is available every 3-5 days from the Sentinel Satellites.

The use of no-notice inspections of farmers by the Department of Agriculture is to cease under the new Common Agricultural Policy, the Farming Independent understands.

The Department of Agriculture will instead rely on satellite inspections to monitor every farmer's compliance with CAP rules.

Currently, full Cross Compliance inspections are unannounced though some elements of the full Cross Compliance inspection may be deferred to within 48 hours.

However, it's understood that farm organisations have been informed unannounced inspections will be replaced with 100pc satellite inspections of all farms under the new CAP.

It comes as the use of the new Area Monitoring System (AMS) has become compulsory in Member States to track the compliance of farmers with the CAP's rules and regulations.

This new approach represents a major change in the management and control of the CAP.

The Department of Agriculture has said the new system would have many significant benefits for farmers, including a reduction in the number of on-farm inspections and the introduction of warning alerts to farmers, which will help to minimise the occurrence of non-compliances.

It also says a new alerts system will facilitate farmers to implement changes at farm level to ensure compliance with scheme requirements and avoid penalties.

However, many are concerned that the new regime represents Government overreach into farmers' activities and impinges on their privacy.

The new AMS system will allow for regular and systematic observation, tracking and assessment of agricultural activities and practices on agricultural areas.

This will be done automatically using computer algorithms and continuously throughout the year.

The system will use data from the Sentinel 1 (Radar) and Sentinel 2 (Optical) satellite imagery. Imagery is available every 3-5 days from the Sentinel Satellites.

Notably, the Sentinel 1 satellite provides radar imagery and is not affected by cloud cover as the microwave signals produced by the satellite can penetrate through the clouds.

The Department has said it will be useful on arable land where activities like ploughing and harvesting are more pronounced and, therefore easier to identify.

However, it said permanent pasture activities such as grazing and mowing are more difficult to identity with Sentinel 1 because, even with mowing, there is still vegetation, however short, left on the ground.

The Sentinel 2 satellite provides low resolution optical imagery, which it said is more suitable for checks in this area.

However, unlike Sentinel 1, Sentinel 2 imagery is affected by cloud cover.

Under the new system, the land parcels are assessed using a system of coloured flags assigned to each parcel/holding (traffic light system). A green flag indicates the parcel is compliant, a yellow flag indicates a potential noncompliance or that the results are inconclusive, and a red flag means the parcel is considered non-compliant and a financial reduction may be applied.

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