Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Questions (817)

Michael Healy-Rae


817. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason satellite inspections are not carried out earlier in the year (details supplied). [45317/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

EU regulations governing the administration of the Basic Payment Scheme, the Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme and other area-based schemes require that full and comprehensive administrative checks, including Ground or Remote Sensing (Satellite) inspections where applicable, are fully completed to ensure eligibility with the various schemes requirements before any payments issue. There are certain minimum numbers of inspections that must take place annually under the various schemes.

The method of selecting 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 in respect of 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. 15th May, is an on-going process so as to ensure this specific regulatory requirement is fulfilled..

This year, late applications were accepted up to 9th June, with a deduction. Furthermore, amendments to applications were accepted up to 9th June, and, allowing for the Preliminary Checks process whereby applicants could amend their application further up to 19th June as a result of issues notified to them by my Department, the final details of the land to be subject to the inspection process cannot be fully established until these periods have elapsed.

The process of a Remote Sensing inspection involves a comprehensive review of the satellite imagery received at two stages during the year, and also the assessment of additional imagery, where required, to ensure that the actual claimed area in the application 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. 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.

Some 6,840 applicants have been selected for a Remote Sensing inspection in respect of the various 2019 area-based schemes. As of 4th November, my Department had received inspection results in respect of 83% of these cases for final processing. Of these cases, over 95% have been finalised and advanced to payment stage processing, which ensures that any non-inspection related scheme criteria have been met. For example, an applicant under the Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme must meet scheme specific criteria relating to stocking density and stock retention periods before payment can issue.

Where an over-declaration in area, at scheme level, is identified as part of the inspection process, officials in my Department contact the applicant concerned giving them the opportunity to accept the inspection findings or to submit comments for examination. Currently, 2% of cases for which inspection results have been received are at this stage of the process and will be finalised when the applicant contacts my Department. The remaining cases are subject to final processing.

My Department continues to finalise the outcome of Remote Sensing inspections on a daily basis to ensure that ANC and BPS payments due are issued as quickly as possible.