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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Agriculture Environment

Agriculture and the environment: Introduction

Environmental concerns play a vital role in the Common Agricultural Policy which deals both with the integration of environmental considerations into CAP rules and with the development of agricultural practices preserving the environment and safeguarding the countryside.

Half of the European Union's land is farmed. This fact alone highlights the importance of farming for the EU's natural environment. Farming and nature exercise a profound influence over each other. Farming has contributed over the centuries to creating and maintaining a variety of valuable semi-natural habitats. Today these shape the majority of the EU's landscapes and are home to many of the EU's richest wildlife. Farming also supports a diverse rural community that is not only a fundamental asset of European culture, but also plays an essential role in maintaining the environment in a healthy state.

The links between the richness of the natural environment and farming practices are complex. While many valuable habitats in Europe are maintained by extensive farming, and a wide range of wild species rely on this for their survival, agricultural practices can also have an adverse impact on natural resources. Pollution of soil, water and air, fragmentation of habitats and loss of wildlife can be the result of inappropriate agricultural practices and land use.

EU policies, and notably the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), are therefore increasingly aimed at heading off the risks of environmental degradation, while encouraging farmers to continue to play a positive role in the maintenance of the countryside and the environment by targeted rural development measures and by contributing to securing farming profitability in the different EU regions.

The agri-environmental strategy of the CAP is largely aimed at enhancing the sustainability of agro-ecosystems. The measures set out to address the integration of environmental concerns into the CAP encompass environmental requirements (cross-compliance) and incentives (e.g., set aside) integrated into the market and income policy, as well as targeted environmental measures that form part of the Rural Development Programmes (e.g., agri-environment schemes).

Detailed information on the CAP's contribution to environmental sustainability and the part played by other policy and regulatory measures in helping the EU to meet global environmental sustainability aims and targets can be found in the Fact-Sheet "Agriculture and the environment".

Environmental integration into the CAP

It is an objective of the Community to reach the right balance between competitive agricultural production and the respect of nature and the environment. The integration process refers to the introduction of measures seeking environmental protection into different Community policy areas. It implies an active pursuit of coherence between agricultural and environmental policy.

The European Council of Cardiff (1998) invited all relevant formations of the Council to establish their own strategies for environmental integration and sustainable development within their respective policy areas. This marked the beginning of the so-called Cardiff process, where successive European Councils have reaffirmed the commitment to integrate environment and sustainable development concerns into all Community policies and to development of appropriate indicators to monitor such integration. In response to this, the Commission has promptly published communications related to the integration into the agricultural policy and the development of agri-environmental indicators

The European Council in Vienna (December 1998) reaffirmed the commitment of the Cardiff meeting. In January 1999 the Commission published the Communication "Directions towards sustainable agriculture", a starting point for the agricultural sector.

The European Council in Helsinki (December 1999), adopted the Strategy for integrating the environmental dimension into the CAP. The integration strategy sets specific objectives as: quality and balanced use of water, agrochemicals risk reduction, reduction of degradation of soil, climate change and air quality and landscape and biodiversity preservation.

The European Council in Göteborg (June 2001) endorsed the European Union strategy for sustainable development, adding the environmental dimension to the social and economic ones, as well as the Agricultural Council conclusions on environmental integration and sustainable development in the Common Agricultural Policy.

Integrating environment protection requirements into the CAP

Since Agenda 2000, the Common Agricultural Policy has two pillars: the market and income policy ('first pillar'), and the sustainable development of rural areas ('second pillar'). The 2003 CAP reform brings greater quality to environmental integration, with new or amended measures to promote the protection of the farmed environment in both pillars.

Concerning market and income policy, the cross-compliance is the core instrument. The reform CAP 2003 reform also involves decoupling most direct payments from production. From 2005 (2007 at the latest), a single payment scheme will be established based on historical reference amounts. This will mean reducing many of the incentives for intensive production that have been associated with increased environmental risks. The second package of reform (2004) of market regimes for Mediterranean sectors has confirmed the change of direction taken by the CAP in 2003. For the sectors concerned (olive oil, cotton, tobacco and hops), a significant part of the current production-linked payments will be transferred to the decoupled single payment scheme starting in 2006.

As regards the rural development policy, compliance with minimum environmental standards is a condition for eligibility for support under several different rural development measures, such as assistance for investments in agricultural holdings setting-up of young farmers and improving the processing and marketing of agricultural products. Moreover, only environmental commitments above the reference level of Good Farming Practice (GFP) may qualify for agri-environment payments. The support to less-favoured areas also require the respect of the codes of GFP.

The complexity of the relationship between agriculture and the environment – harmful and beneficial processes, diversity of local conditions and production systems – has conditioned the approach to environmental integration in the context of the CAP. Central to the understanding of this relationship is the principle of Good Farming Practice which corresponds to the type of farming that a reasonable farmer would follow in the region concerned. This includes at least compliance with the Community and the national environmental legislation. GFP entails, for example, compliance with the requirements of the Nitrates Directive and the use of plant protection products.

However, wherever society asks farmers to accomplish environmental objectives beyond the reference level of good farming practices, and the farmer incurs, as a result, a cost or loss of income, then society must pay for the environmental services provided through agri-environmental measures.

The European Commission commissioned a report to the Institute for European Environmental Policy on the "Environmental integration and the CAP".


The principle that farmers should comply with environmental protection requirements as a condition for benefiting from market support was incorporated into the Agenda 2000 reform. The 2003 CAP reform put greater emphasis on cross-compliance which has become compulsory.

The Agenda 2000 CAP reform introduced the requirement for Member States to take the environmental measures they consider appropriate in view of the situation of the agricultural land used or the production concerned. This requirement was incorporated in the "Horizontal Regulation" (No 1259/1999 [summary]), which provides the common rules in relation to all payments granted directly to farmers.

Member States had three options for fulfilling this obligation: giving support for agri-environmental commitments, fixing general mandatory environmental requirements (based on environmental legislation), and setting out specific environmental standards. Where farmers do not respect the environmental requirements, appropriate sanctions are to be applied, which may include the reduction or even the withdrawal of direct aids. Examples of environmental conditions are adherence to maximum stocking rates for cattle or sheep, compliance with specific conditions for the cultivation of sloping land, respect of maximum permitted volumes of fertilizers per hectare, and compliance with specific rules concerning the use of plant protection products.

From 2005, all farmers receiving direct payments will be subject to compulsory cross-compliance (Council Regulation No 1782/2003 [consolidated version] and Commission Regulation No 796/2004 [pdf]). 19 legislative acts applying directly at the farm level in the fields of environment, public, animal and plant health and animal welfare have been established and farmers will be sanctioned in case of non-compliance (partial or entire reduction of direct support). Beneficiaries of direct payments will also be obliged to keep land in good agricultural and environmental conditions. These conditions will be defined by Member States, and should include standards related to soil protection, maintenance of soil organic matter and soil structure, and maintenance of habitats and landscape, including the protection of permanent pasture. In addition, Member States must also ensure that there is no significant decrease in their total permanent pasture area, if necessary by prohibiting its conversion to arable land.

Agri-environmental measures

The EU applies agri-environmental measures which support specifically designed farming practices, going beyond the baseline level of "good farming practice" (GFP), that help to protect the environment and maintain the countryside.

Apart from the principle that farmers should observe a minimum level of environmental standards as a condition for the full granting of the direct payments ("cross-compliance"), another basic principle embodied in the Community strategy for the integration of environmental considerations into the CAP is that, wherever the society desires that farmers deliver an environmental service beyond that baseline level, this service should be purchased through agri-environmental measures.

In the framework of the rural development policy, the Community offers a menu of measures to promote the protection of the farmed environment and its biodiversity. There are, among others, possibilities of support for less favoured areas and agri-environmental measures, which entail, respectively, applying or going beyond the usual Good Farming Practices.

Agri-environment schemes were introduced into EU agricultural policy during the late 1980s as an instrument to support specific farming practices that help to protect the environment and maintain the countryside. With the CAP reform in 1992, the implementation of agri-environment programmes became compulsory for Member States in the framework of their rural development plans. The 2003 CAP reform maintains the nature of the agri-environment schemes as being obligatory for Member States, whereas they remain optional for farmers. In addition, the maximum EU co-financing rate has increased to 85% in Objective 1 areas and to 60% in other areas.

Farmers who commit themselves, for a five-year minimum period, to adopt environmentally-friendly farming techniques that go beyond usual good farming practice, receive in return payments that compensate for additional costs and loss of income that arise as a result of altered farming practices. Examples of commitments covered by national/regional agri-environmental schemes are:

* Environmentally favourable extensification of farming;
* management of low-intensity pasture systems;
* integrated farm management and organic agriculture;
* preservation of landscape and historical features such as hedgerows, ditches and woods;
* conservation of high-value habitats and their associated biodiversity.

More than one third of the Community contribution to rural development (EAGGF - European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund) has been spent on agri-environmental measures (average 2000-2002). Across the EU, the share of agricultural land enrolled in agri-environmental measures in total agricultural area has increased from 15% in 1998 to 27% in 2001. The 2001 data includes all the new contracts signed in 2000 and 2001 under Regulation No 1257/1999 [summary], covering 16 million of hectares and the on-going commitments under the former Regulation (EC) 2078/92, which still represent 18 million of hectares. In addition, there were, in 2001, 8.442 agri-environmental contracts to support animal breeds endangered, covering 60 568 livestock units.

Agriculture and biodiversity

By managing a large part of the European Union's territory, agriculture preserves many specific genes, species and habitats. The EU set up measures in support of the agricultural biodiversity, to contribute reaching the 2010 target of halting the loss of biodiversity.

Biodiversity is a broad term that refers to the variety of life and its processes. It includes all life forms, from single cell to complex organisms and processes, pathways and cycles that link living organisms into populations, ecosystems and landscapes.

The agricultural biodiversity includes all components of biological diversity of relevance for food and agriculture, and all components of biological diversity that constitutes the agro-ecosystem: the variety of animals, plants and micro-organisms, at the level of genetic, species and ecosystem which are necessary to sustain the key functions of the agro-ecosystem, its structure and processes.

Two major changes in agriculture have upset its equilibrium with biodiversity. These are the intensification of production, on the one hand, and the under-utilisation of land, on the other. The specialisation, concentration and intensification of agricultural production that have occurred during the last decades, are widely recognized as potentially threatening biodiversity conservation. Many species have a direct interdependence with agriculture (i.e. many bird species nest and feed on farmland). However, it is difficult to isolate the effects of changes in land use from others such as urbanisation and the progression of infrastructure, which also occur in rural areas.

However, sound agricultural management practices can have a substantial positive impact on the conservation of the EU's wild flora and fauna, as well as on the socio-economic situation of rural areas. Traditional farming contributes to safeguarding certain existing natural or semi-natural habitats. In some EU Member States, land abandonment and the withdrawal of traditional management may become a threat to biodiversity on farmland. Therefore, preventing these processes is a key action for reaching the 2010 target of halting the loss of biodiversity.

The Biodiversity Action Plan for Agriculture was adopted in 2001. The CAP instruments as shaped by Agenda 2000 and subsequent reforms provide the framework for integrating biodiversity concerns into EU agricultural policy. The priorities of the Action Plan are: the promotion and support of environmentally-friendly farming practices and systems that benefit biodiversity directly or indirectly; the support of sustainable farming activities in biodiversity-rich areas; the maintenance and enhancement of good ecological infrastructures, and the promotion of actions to conserve local or threatened livestock breeds or plant varieties. All these priorities are supported by research, training and education actions. Biodiversity conservation greatly depends on the sufficient and targeted application of measures within the CAP, notably compensatory allowances for less favoured areas and agri-environmental measures.

Following a mandate from the Council and the European Parliament, in 2004 the Agriculture DG drew up a report on the implementation of this action plan in consultation with all interested parties, represented in an ad hoc working group.

A new Community programme which finances measures to promote the conservation, characterisation, collection and utilisation of genetic resources in agriculture has been launched in April 2004.

Agriculture and genetically modified organisms

EU legislation protects citizens' health and the environment from possible risks associated with the cultivation or the marketing of GMOs.

EU legislation on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has been in place since the early 1990s and this regulatory framework has been further extended and refined. Specific legislation is designed to protect citizens' health and the environment while simultaneously creating a unified market for biotechnology. A major strand of EU legislation on GMOs covers the release of genetically modified organisms into the environment. In 2002 an approval process for the release into the environment or placement on the market of any GMO or product consisting of or containing GMOs was put in place. Examples of the stipulations in the regulatory framework are:

* an assessment of risks with respect to the environment and to human health associated with the cultivation or the putting on the market of GMOs;
* mandatory post-market monitoring requirements, including on long-term effects associated with the interaction with other GMOs and the environment;
* mandatory information to the public;
* a requirement for Member States to ensure labelling and traceability at all stages of the placing on the market;
* first approvals for the release of GMOs to be limited to a maximum of 10 years;
* obligatory consultation of the Scientific Committee(s);
* an obligation to consult the European Parliament on decisions to authorise the release of GMOs.

Since the Community legislation on GMOs entered into force in the early 1990s, the commercial release of 18 GMOs has been authorised in the EU. But, since October 1998, no further authorisations have been granted. Legislation on GMOs is under review.

Detailed information on the EU legislation on GMOs can be found on the "Food and Feed Safety" web site.

Question and Answers on the regulation of GMOs in the EU

Communication to the Commission for an orientation debate on Genetically Modified Organisms [pdf] (03/2005)

Coexistence of GM crops with conventional and organic farming

Economic Impact of Unapproved GMOs on EU Feed Imports and Livestock Production

Agriculture and soil protection

The Common Agricultural Policy reinforces the respect of standards of good agricultural and environmental conditions referring to protection of soil from erosion and maintenance of soil organic matter and soil structure.

Soil degradation processes such as desertification, erosion, decline in soil organic matter, soil contamination (e.g. by heavy metals), soil sealing, soil compaction, decline in soil biodiversity and salinisation can cause soil to lose its capacity to carry out its main functions. Such degradation processes can result from inappropriate farming practices such as unbalanced fertilisation, over-abstraction of groundwater for irrigation, improper use of pesticides, use of heavy machinery, or overgrazing. Soil degradation may also result from abandonment of certain farming practices. For example greater specialisation towards arable farming has frequently been accompanied by abandonment of traditional crop rotation systems and manuring with green legumes, practices that contributed to the restoration of soil organic matter content.

The sixth environment action programme emphasises the need for an EU strategy on soil protection. This would supplement various national soil protection programmes that address the specific needs of topographic and climatic conditions. The Commission's communication "Towards a thematic strategy for soil protection" [summary] sets out the building blocks for EU action to arrest soil degradation. It maps national actions and identifies the gaps that could be filled at EU level, as well as outlining possible actions including new legislation related to the use of sewage sludge in agriculture and compost, a proposal for soil monitoring legislation and a timetable for these.

Agri-environmental measures offer opportunities for favouring the build-up of soil organic matter, the enhancement of soil biodiversity, the reduction of soil erosion, contamination and compaction. These measures include support to organic farming, conservation tillage, the protection and maintenance of terraces, safer pesticide use, integrated crop management, management of low-intensity pasture systems, lowering stock density and the use of certified compost.

With the 2003 CAP reform, the reinforced cross-compliance includes respect of standards of good agricultural and environmental conditions referring to protection of soil from erosion and maintenance of soil organic matter and soil structure.

Detailed information on the EU's soil protection strategy can be found on the Soil Policy Development web pages.

Agriculture and pesticides

In order to minimise the detrimental environmental impact of pesticides the EU seeks to ensure their correct use and informs the public about their use and any residue issues.

Pesticides used in agriculture are usually referred to as plant protection products. They protect plants or plant products against pests. They are widely used in farming for their economic benefits — to fight crop pests and reduce competition from weeds, thus improving yields and protecting the quality, reliability and price of produce.

However, their use does involve risk because most have inherent properties that can make them dangerous to health and the environment if not used properly. Human and animal health can be negatively affected through direct exposure (e.g. industrial workers producing plant protection products and operators applying them) and indirect exposure (e.g. via their residues in agricultural produce and drinking water, or by exposure of bystanders or animals to spray drift). Soil and water may be polluted via spray drift, dispersal of pesticides into the soil, and run-off during or after cleaning of equipment, or via uncontrolled disposal.

The EU thus seeks to ensure their correct use, it regulates in order to minimise their detrimental environmental impact and informs the public about their use and any residue issues.

There are EU regulations covering the placing of plant protection products on the market, the placing of biocidal products on the market and fixing maximum residue levels in food. Detailed information on the EU pesticide legislation can be found on the "Plant protection" web site. The EU also regulates to protect water quality in respect of pesticides. The water framework directive provides an integrated framework for assessment, monitoring and management of all surface waters and groundwater based on their ecological and chemical status. The directive requires measures be taken to reduce or eliminate emissions, discharges and losses of hazardous substances, for the protection of surface waters. By 2001 33 priority substances had been listed, out of which 13 were substances used in plant protection products.

Agri-environmental measures offer support for commitments on keeping records of actual use of pesticides, lower use of pesticides to protect soil, water, air and biodiversity, the use of integrated pest management techniques and conversion to organic farming. The EU's sixth environment action programme addresses the need to encourage farmers to change their use of plant protection products. The Commission communication "Towards a thematic strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides" [pdf] follows this up and suggests several possible measures such as establishing national plans to reduce hazards, risks and dependence on chemical control. Following a consultation process with stakeholders the Commission will make proposals for a strategy to improve pesticide use in agriculture. Detailed information on the EU thematic strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides can be found on the "Sustainable use of plant protection products" website.

The reinforced cross-compliance established by the 2003 CAP reform includes the respect of statutory requirements arising from the implementation of EU regulation covering the placing of plant protection products on the market.

Agriculture and nitrates

The EU legislation on nitrates aims at reducing water pollution by nitrates from agricultural sources and at preventing further pollution.

The EU's nitrates directive [summary] was introduced in 1991 with two main objectives in mind: to reduce water pollution by nitrates from agricultural sources and to prevent further pollution. The directive is managed by Member States and involves: monitoring of water quality in relation to agriculture; designation of nitrate vulnerable zones; establishment of (voluntary) codes of good agricultural practice and of (obligatory) measures to be implemented in action programmes for the nitrate vulnerable zones. For these zones, the directive also establishes a maximum limit of nitrogen from livestock manure that can be applied per hectare: 170 kg N/ha per year.

Codes of good agricultural practice cover such activities as application periods, fertiliser use near watercourses and on slopes, manure storage methods, spreading methods and crop rotation and other land management measures. Action programmes must include obligatory measures concerning periods of prohibition of the application of certain types of fertiliser, capacity of manure storage vessels, limitations to the application of fertilisers (on steep slopes; to water-saturated, flooded, frozen or snow-covered ground; near water courses), as well as other measures set out in codes of good agricultural practice.

Implementation of the directive by Member States is a complex process. So far, only a minority of Member States have fully applied the directive and the Commission has opened a number of infringement proceedings against Member States for non-implementation. The linkage between good farming practice and respect of statutory environmental standards (including those relating to the nitrates directive), as established in the framework of the EU's rural development policy, may contribute to improved implementation by Member States.

With the 2003 CAP reform, respect of statutory requirements arising from the implementation of the nitrates directive is included within the framework of the reinforced cross-compliance measures.

Detailed information can be found on the "Implementation of Nitrates Directive" web pages.

Agriculture and water

The Common Agricultural Policy provides support to investments for improving the state of irrigation infrastructures and allowing farmers to shift to improved irrigation techniques. It also protects water quality in respect of pesticides and nitrates.

Agriculture is a significant user of water resources in Europe, accounting for around 30 % of total water use. In southern Europe (where it is a fundamental input) irrigation accounts for over 60 % of water use, in most countries; in northern Member States it ranges from zero to over 30 %. The quantity of water used for irrigation depends on factors such as climate, crop type, soil characteristics, water quality, cultivation practices, and irrigation methods. Either as an artificial addition to natural availability, or as a compensation for seasonal variability of rainfalls, irrigation allows improvement of the crop productivity and reduction of the risks associated to dry periods, and makes it possible to cultivate more profitable crops.

However, irrigation is also the source of a number of environmental concerns, such as over-abstraction of water from subterranean aquifers, irrigation driven erosion, soil salinisation, alteration of pre-existing semi-natural habitats; and, secondary impacts arising from the intensification of the agricultural production permitted by irrigation.

The Commission communication "Pricing policies for enhancing the sustainability of water resources" indicates the basic principles for water policies, with a view to promoting sustainable use of water resources. It stresses the need for water pricing policies to reflect all the different types of cost associated with the provision and use of water. This principle is fully embedded in the water framework directive, which requires Member States to ensure, at the latest by 2010, that water pricing policies provide adequate incentives for users to use water resources efficiently and that the various economic sectors contribute to the recovery of the costs of water services, including those relating to the environment and resources.

Under rural development measures, the CAP provides support to investments for improving the state of irrigation infrastructures and allowing farmers to shift to improved irrigation techniques (e.g., drop irrigation) that require the abstraction of lower volumes of water. And, agri-environmental schemes cover commitments to reduce irrigation volumes and adopt improved irrigation techniques.

With the 2003 CAP reform, respect of statutory requirements arising from the implementation of the groundwater directive is included within the framework of the reinforced cross-compliance.

The EU also regulates to protect water quality in respect of pesticides and nitrates.

Detailed information on the EU water policy can be found on the "Water policy in the European Union" website.

Agri-environmental indicators

The EU is committed to improving its agricultural environment. The development of agri-environmental indicators shall provide the means for assessing the evolving interaction between agriculture and the environment.

In order to devise the correct initiatives to improve agricultural environment and to measure their success, it is essential to develop the means to assess them ('indicators'), especially at regional/local level. Agri-environmental indicators help to transform physical and monetary data about human activities and the state of the environment into decision supporting information. With the help of environmental indicators it is possible to understand better the complex issues in the field of agriculture and environment, to show developments over time, and to provide quantitative information. For example, the development of fertiliser use is meaningful only if considered in relation to the development of actual fertiliser uptake.

In January 2000, the Commission adopted the Communication "Indicators for the Integration of Environmental Concerns into the Common Agricultural Policy", which identified a set of agri-environmental indicators to serve the following multiple purposes:

* to provide information on the current state and changes in the conditions of the environment in agriculture;
* to understand and monitor the linkages between agricultural practices and their beneficial and harmful effects on environment;
* to identify the key agri-environmental issues that are of concern in Europe today;
* to provide contextual information, particularly concerning the diversity of agri-ecosystems in the European Union;
* to help targeting of agri-environmental measures, with the aim to achieve the most significant progress in reducing agriculture’s impact on the environment where environmental pressures are greatest;
* to assess the extent to which agricultural and rural development policies respond to the need to promote environmentally friendly farming activities and sustainable agriculture and to communicate this to policymakers and the wider public;
* to feed the global assessment process of agricultural sustainability.

In March 2001, the Commission published the Communication "Statistical Information needed for Indicators to monitor the Integration of Environmental concerns into the Common Agricultural Policy" [pdf] which focused on the data needed to compile that set of indicators and identified a number of requirements to be met for the definition or calculation of some indicators.

The IRENA operation

To improve, develop and compile the agri-environment indicators identified by these two Communications at the appropriate geographical level, the IRENA (Indicator Reporting on the integration of Environmental concerns into Agricultural policy) project has been launched (September 2002). The project is a collaborative effort between the Directorates General for Agriculture, Environment, Eurostat, Joint Research Centre and the European Environment Agency which is responsible for the co-ordination.

The IRENA operation has resulted in the following outputs:

* 40 indicator fact sheets and their corresponding data sets;
* an Indicator Report ("Agriculture and environment in EU-15 – the IRENA indicator report") providing an comprehensive overview of the interactions between agriculture and the environment in the European Union (EU-15 ) based on the indicators developed and the DPSIR (Driving forces - Pressures - State - Impact - Responses) framework. Several thematic agri-environmental "storylines" are used to illustrate indicator results and to review the effects of farming on the environment. These are: water use and water resources; water quality and the agricultural fertiliser and pesticide use; land use and soil; climate change and air quality and, landscape and biodiversity;
* an Indicator-based Assessment report on the integration of environmental concerns into the CAP.

The reports and the indicator fact sheets can be found on the IRENA website.

The intended users of the outputs of the IRENA operation are the European Union Institutions, the Agriculture and Environment Ministries and policymakers in the Member States, as well as stakeholder groups.

Agriculture and forestry

EU policy supports the conversion of agricultural land to woodland and forest and aims at maintaining the ecological stability of forests and at restoring damaged ones.

The afforestation of agricultural land has become an established part of agricultural policy. If correctly managed forestry can have a significant and positive impact on the natural landscape and on biodiversity. Forests also play a role in offsetting the 'greenhouse effect' and the threat of global warming. In addition, forest management is an alternative source of revenue and employment for rural areas, especially in more marginal land conditions. The CAP provides financial incentives to farmers converting agricultural land to woodland and forest. It also supports forest improvement, protective measures against forest fires and the establishment of wind breaks (important in fighting soil erosion). The principal aims are to maintain the ecological stability of forests and to restore damaged ones.