EU uses space technologies to combat CAP subsidy fraud

State-of-the-art satellite systems will help implement CAP reforms by ensuring farmers are only claiming aid for genuine farmland. The new technology will soon be used in the entire EU-25.

EU farmers declaring more land than they have to increase the
subsidies they receive through the EU's Common Agriculture Policy
(CAP) may soon be a thing of the past. The Monitoring of
Agriculture with Remote Sensing (MARS) project, which the EU's
Joint Research Centre started in 1988, is using state-of-the-art
space technologies for a more effective and efficient management of
the CAP, especially in the field of subsidies granted according to
the area farmed.

The Commission's core idea is that using satellite systems such
as GIS (geographic information system) and LPIS (land parcel
identification system) will enable farmers to determine the
boundaries of their land more precisely and will ensure that aid
for any piece of land is claimed only once. Farmers can then file
their application for subsidies more accurately.

Apart from distributing subsidies more reliably and preventing
irregularities, the Commission also hopes that the technology will
help implement CAP reforms, which aim at switching from a subsidy
system based on production to a formula based on farm sizes and
environmental factors.

The GIS technology has already been implemented in most of the
EU-15, and nine of the new Member States are also starting to use
it. In Italy alone, the system is understood to have narrowed the
difference between the area declared for subsidies and the actual
area from over 9 to less than 2 per cent since 1999, saving the
taxpayer millions of euros.

In the enlarged EU, it is expected that six million farmers will
declare some fifty million fields to the EU every year. The new
technique is thus considered the "backbone" for field
identification in the reformed CAP, which will be implemented
progressively between 2005 and 2007.

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