The European Commission has proposed that member states cut on-farm inspections in half for some farm checks.

The move will be discussed by agriculture ministers from across the EU at next week’s Council of Agriculture Ministers on 26 February.

The farm inspection cut of 50% for some checks is among a raft of proposals in a document sent by the Commission to the Belgian presidency aimed at cutting the administrative burden on farmers.

The reduction in inspections would be linked to better automated analysis of satellite imagery from Copernicus, so using the eye in the sky to reduce the boots on the ground.

“With fewer visits from the administration to manage, farmers will have more time to dedicate to their core work,” the Commission stated on Thursday.


It comes against a backdrop of widespread farmer protests across Europe, with the common denominator across all protesting groups being anger over the growing regulatory burden and cost of compliance imposed on farmers.

The Commission has proposed short- and mid-term measures, which it says could bring “some relief to both farmers but also to national administrations”.

The reduction in inspections would be linked to better automated analysis of satellite imagery from Copernicus. \ ESA-ATG medialab

GAEC rules

It is proposing to simplify some of the good agricultural and environmental conditions (GAEC) conditionality requirements for farmers. It has already granted a partial exemption on the fallow land rules for 2024, a rule that does not impact on Irish farmers.

On top of that, it is proposing to change the rules on GAEC 1, which requires that areas of permanent grassland in the EU are kept stable compared with the reference year 2018.

Under this requirement, former livestock farmers with large grassland forced to shift to arable crops production because of market disturbances in the meat and dairy sector could be asked to reconvert their arable land into permanent grassland. This obligation could lead to loss of income for the farmers concerned.

Now, the Commission is proposing to change this rule within weeks to avoid penalising farmers who are forced to switch from grassland to arable.

On GAEC 6, the Commission is reviewing which agricultural practices may be possible during sensitive periods when fulfilling the obligation to cover soils under GAEC 6.


Separately, the Commission is to survey all stakeholders to share their views on the administrative burden that may be linked to the nitrates directive. An online public consultation will be open until 8 March 2024.

Small farms

Also up for discussion next week is the proposal that small farms of under 10 hectares would be made exempt from GAEC controls.

“This exemption would significantly simplify the daily work of small farmers who represent 65% of CAP beneficiaries, while maintaining the CAP's environmental ambitions since small farms cover only 9.6% of the areas receiving CAP support,” it said

Force majeure

It is also being proposed that the concept of force majeure and exceptional circumstances be reviewed and more uniformly applied across EU member states.

Force majeure means that farmers who cannot fulfil all their CAP requirements due to exceptional and unforeseeable events outside their control (such as in cases of severe droughts or floods) do not have penalties imposed on them.

'Ease the pressure'

Announcing the proposals, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that the Commission is “fully committed to delivering solutions to ease the pressure currently felt by our hard-working farming women and men”.

European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski. / DG COMM

“We are easing the administrative burden on our farmers to help them guarantee food security for European citizens. Simplification of our agriculture policies is a constant priority, at both EU and national level.

"With this range of actions, we are delivering on the pledge we made to our farmers to accelerate this discussion. I look forward to hearing the views of our member states.”

Fields, not files

European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski said: “The message from farmers is clear: they want to be working in their fields, not stuck behind files.

“In response, the Commission has identified a range of EU-level actions that could help to ease the administrative burden on farmers over the coming months and years.

“I welcome this renewed acceleration towards simplification and I commit to working with member states and stakeholders on these actions and every initiative that will enable farmers to spend their working hours on what matters – supporting their families and producing our essential goods,” he added.