FB44: Mountain Farming and the Environment

European countries have been addressing the problems of mountain areas through specific sectoral policy programs for several decades. Since the 1970s, the implementation of compensatory allowances schemes has been the most notable measure in this field and has drawn attention to the difficulties and tasks of mountain agriculture. Yet, with growing environmental concern, an heightened awareness of the environmental impact of farm management systems in these regions is called for, and the achievements of agricultural land use with regard to environmental performance under unfavourable conditions should be emphasised. It has been recognised in this time that agricultural policies in general, and particularly those for less-favoured areas (LFAs) and mountain areas, can no longer be conceived by focusing on the production function alone, but have to take into account a multitude of tasks comprising the provision of resources and services to the regional economy.

Hence support for agricultural structures in mountain areas affects biodiversity, environmental development and cultural landscapes. The interrelationship of effects is also reflected by an increased demand for integrated development programmes fostering the involvement of a wide range of different players and the search for local solutions. However, such actions require an adequate policy framework. Reforms of agrarian and regional policy have already taken up steps in this direction. This report aims at underlining the awareness developed and encouraging action towards the sensitivity of mountain areas. This aspect will have to play a substantial role in the current debate on the reform of EU policies.

The principal aim of this report was to provide condensed survey information illustrating, however, the diversity and common approaches in the area. To this end, a series of study-area-specific documents have been used and served as the basis for focused papers following a standardised presentation structure for each study area of the "Central and Eastern Alps" regional group. The papers presented by Michael Köbler (Technical University of Munich) Paolo De Giorgi (Swiss Group for Mountain Regions), Gaby Eschler and Erwin Stucki (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich), Elena Piutti (Centro di Ecologia Alpina Monte Bondone)Tomaz Cunder (Agricultural Institute of Slovenia), Marija Markeš (Triglav National Park), Thomas Dax and Georg Wiesinger (Bundesanstalt für Bergbauernfragen) concern the regional context, the main impacts of mountain agriculture, the environmental situation and the driving forces on the environment, an assessment of the most relevant agri-environmental measures and strategies for future environmental specific mountain policy. By way of introduction and summarising the study area results, the report opens with a survey of core findings on the inclusion of environmental concerns into mountain agricultural policies.

These research tasks, together with the reflection of the intensifying international debate on mountain issues, have contributed to the understanding of the need for the integration of environmental concerns into mountain policies. The need is felt to be particularly urgent as the irreversibility of changes have to be taken into account in an integrated regional approach in order to prevent undesirable developments in the environment of our mountain areas and degradation of essential resources.

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