Overview of legislation relevant for determining the eligible area
Regulation (EC) No 1122/2009, Article 34(2).When measuring the areas eligible for payment, ineligible parts of the area concerned shall be deducted. However, Member States may consider certain landscape features (for example hedges, ditches, walls) where they are traditionally part of good agricultural cropping or utilisation practices. If they fulfil local regulations (i.e. a total width determined by the Member State) their area does not have to be deducted. In all cases this width must correspond to the traditional width in the region and shall not exceed 2 metres.
Regulation (EC) No 1122/2009, Article 34(3). Member States may recognise landscape features as being part of the GAEC obligations under cross compliance. In such a case the features in question do not have to be deducted from the eligible area in a parcel, i.e. the feature becomes eligible for payment.
In particular case of agricultural parcels that contain trees the "Guidelines for area measurement" (European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Guidelines on Article 34 of Regulation 1122/2009, Point 1.2 - http://mars.jrc.it/mars/Bulletins-Publications) point out that an agricultural parcel where the density of trees is more than 50 per hectare should, as a general rule, be considered as ineligible. The Guidelines also foresee some flexibility to assess the eligible area within an agricultural parcel of (permanent) pasture: Member States can use a reduction coefficient in the form of a pro-rata system or a percentage reduction.
Moreover, according to the Guidelines (European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Guidelines on Article 34 of Regulation 1122/2009, Point 2.6.2 - http://mars.jrc.it/mars/Bulletins-Publications) ineligible landscape features smaller than 100 m2 have to be deducted from the eligible area only if the total of these landscape features present a significant area of the parcel in question (i.e. when the total of all these small ineligible landscape features exceeds the tolerance of the parcel calculated as the buffer width of the measurement tool - maximum 1,5 metres - multiplied by the external perimeter of the agricultural parcel (Regulation (EC) No 1122/2009, Article 34(1)). Above the technical tolerance all ineligible landscape features in the parcel have to be deducted from the eligible area.
In addition, EU legislation contains certain provisions which ease the treatment of minor over-declarations discovered during the checks. In case the difference of the area declared by the farmer and the area determined by the controls is maximum 0.1 hectare per application the aid to be paid to the farmer is not reduced, but the farmer is paid for the area declared for the payment (Regulation (EC) No 1122/2009, Article 57(3) 2.indent).
The rational of LPIS QAF in a nutshell
- The ETS is developed as common inspection procedure that outputs comparable raw observations from all MS.
- Being compiled in the ETS scoreboard these raw observations are a common basis for analysis in each MS.
- The thresholds applied on this ETS scoreboard act only as a trigger for further analysis. (Below the threshold no explanation is required).
- This further analysis helps to isolate and clarify “raw issues” that are not real problems for the specific conditions in the Member State. This can possibly lead to the compilation of an alternative ETS scoreboard.
- A remedial action plan should be based on the results after analysis, not of the raw ETS-scoreboard.
The purpose of LPIS QA framework
The purpose of the LPIS QAF is not immediately to determine a risk for the Fund. The main focus is set on prevention.
In first order the LPIS should provide correct information to the farmers as regards what can be claimed; i.e. enable processing the claim without any problem. The second objective is to control the claims.
With promoting LPIS QAF the objective of the EC is to enable MS to produce a good assessment of their LPIS functioning and to prepare a remedial plan. For this it is essential that the guidelines are followed, in particular as regards the interpretation of the objects and the application of waivers.
What is the rational for reporting the rate of irregularities from OTSC?
The rate of irregularities from OTSC can be the result of a poorly functioning LPIS. As the LPIS should reflect agricultural reality with regard to the eligibility of the land, ideally, the OTSC should not detect a substantial amount of “additional errors". If OTSC detects a significantly higher error rates from year to year, it can indicate the failure of the member state to address LPIS issues. This aspect is not part of reporting submitted in frame of IACS queries over the full population of the parcels.
Rational for QE 5
As described in the rationale, one purpose of the LPIS is to support the farmer declaration process. In an ideal world, the farmer declaration should be no more than a confirmation of the reference area available. But as it turned out in 2010 the reality is not always ideal: in many cases the area declared doesn't equal the reference area available. A possible cause for example is connected to the situation where not all farmers on a reference parcel apply for aid.
The impact/support of the LPIS on the farmer declaration can be critical for two functional issues:
- If the reference area is too small, the farmer cannot apply for aid on all available land.
- If the total declared area on a parcel is unrelated to the reference area, it provides opportunities for improper declaration of land.
The first issue can be expected to solve itself as parcels with an underestimated reference area should trigger the farmer to request an update of the reference area. An explicit trigger for detailed verification is when the number of incompletely declared parcels in year N become suspiciously more declared on year N+1.