Sustainable agriculture must meet the three related economic, social and ecological challenges and its production methods must reflect the concerns of consumers. The measures to be adopted must obviously comply with existing environmental legislation and meet the general objectives of Community environmental policy.
They must be based on the provisions of the reformed CAP resulting from Agenda 2000. Those provisions cover inter alia the policy on agricultural markets. Under the common rules on direct support schemes in those markets, Member States must lay down environmental requirements they consider to be appropriate and may make payments dependant on compliance with those requirements (cross compliance).
In addition, the policy on rural development (referred to in Agenda 2000 as the \"second pillar\" of the CAP alongside the markets policy) includes special environmental measures, known as agri-environment measures. These provide for payments for commitments going beyond good agricultural practice. They constitute an important environmental tool, being compulsory in all rural development programmes and based on a conscious, voluntary commitment by farmers to greener agriculture. The environment is no longer seen as an \"add-on\" but as an essential part of agricultural and rural development and of the socio-professional life of farmers. Farmers, as the first link in the production chain, have a tremendous responsibility for the sound management of environmental resources and that responsibility must be recognised.
It should not be thought that more environmentally friendly agriculture means old-fashioned methods. For example, organic farming (one form of sustainable farming) uses modern, yet natural, plant-protection methods, which avoid the use of pesticides. Research carried out in universities and agricultural institutes has a key role to play in promoting innovative farming techniques that meet environmental, health and quality standards.
Finally, it must be stressed that the aim is not to call into question the objectives of the reformed CAP but rather to ensure that the measures carried out actually achieve those objectives. Fully applied, the rural development policy is an essential tool for creating the conditions for sustainable farming. Consolidating this \"second pillar\" is one of the main priorities of the CAP. Compliance with the financial perspective for 2000-06 requires that the resources available must be used as effectively as possible, making the accurate targeting of measures and their evaluation all the more important.
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