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Winter 2002/2003
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European Union Mandates GIS for AgriBusiness Aid

map of Europe, click to see enlargementThe member/state delegate sovereignty of the European Union (EU) currently comprises 15 members and is preparing for the accession of 13 more. EU's Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) has a set of rules that regulates agricultural production and markets. Since 1964, EU has made funding available for the development of rural areas. CAP has been successful in stabilizing and developing European agricultural economies, and over the years, its policies have evolved to meet the demands of modern economic structures.

CAP's Agenda 2000 institutes radical reforms that create a sound basis for future development defined by the concept of sustainable development. To accommodate the massive amounts of information generated by the growing EU community, Agenda 2000 includes a component that requires members to incorporate information technology (IT) systems into government agencies. An element of this mandate is GIS. For example, council regulation 1593/2000 (amending European council regulation 3508/92), article 4 states the following: "An identification system for agricultural parcels shall be established on the basis of maps or land registry documents or other cartographic references. Use shall be made of computerized graphical information system techniques including preferably aerial or spatial orthoimagery, with a homogenous standard guaranteeing accuracy at least equivalent to cartography at a scale of 1:10,000."

Because GIS is recognized as a key component in today's IT systems, EU requires that it be a part of the core technology of its members. When the Agenda 2000 regulation fully adopted establishing GIS into an integrated administration and control system for certain European community aid schemes, concentration on GIS dramatically increased. The regulation further stipulates that GIS be used to establish a land parcel identification system (e.g., field units, agricultural parcel) by 2005.

EU's grants have enabled EU's departments of agriculture to plan a strong GIS integration strategy. The strength of this strategy has made it possible for many concerned departments to begin developing a valuable field unit coverage. This field unit coverage data set is definitively seen as the crucial factor for integrating GIS into agriculture. If this type of geospatial agridata is accessible, then an industry agrigeoBusiness can successfully commence.

In the near future, farmers seeking EU funding will be required to apply for aid through a procedure wherein they must use GIS technology somewhere in the application process. One method of application will be by means of Internet/Intranet-based GIS applications.

For many people, adapting to the new EU requirements will not be a challenge. Some farmers are already employing GIS. For example, large farms in the eastern German states are currently using GIS for field documentation. Georeferencing fields is useful to large agricultural Businesses. Some large farm Businesses even have their own GIS analysts. Using online GIS applications to apply for CAP funding will merely be another step in this technological evolution.

Since it is important to develop data sets that can be accessed by others both currently and in the future, data standards are needed. For example, basic data from the Land Survey and Mapping Agency is topographic and aerial; land surveying on one side requires that the geodatabase be based on Open GIS Consortium (OGC) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards. The Competence Center-GIS for Agriculture and Forestry (CC-GIS), therefore, is adamant about incorporating geospatial data standards of the OGC and ISO and attaching metadata to data. Agricultural geospatial services based on these international standards are a vital qualifier for disbursement and access to geodata.

A nationwide GIS user group is forming because the German Agricultural Administration has recognized a need for the use of GIS technology within the agricultural application domain. A commission of the German Agricultural Ministry, which is responsible for the establishment of a general information system for food, agriculture, and forestry, founded a special task force in November 2002. The task force coordinates and stimulates the overall use of GIS in agriculture in Germany. The task force works in full cooperation with the Institute for Agriculture and Forestal Informatics at the University of Münster.

For more information, visit Europa, the European Union's online information service, at

See main article, "Northrine-Westfalia's Department of Agriculture Distributes Geodata to Thousands of Employees."

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