Agriculture plays the most important role in the conservation of a cultural landscape. In addition to the produc-tion of foodstuffs with possibly high value it fulfils important functions for the conservation of landscape appearance, for the protection of wild animals and plants, the resources water and soil and for the stabilisation of the natural household. One must strive for a kind of agricul-ture in the biosphere reserve which sustains the natural fertility of the soil in a sustainable manner and which does not have any considerable negative effects on the environmental media (such as air, water, animals and plants).
Fields which are intensively farmed may not have any detrimental effect on neighbouring valuable biotopes and must - despite their character - guarantee a minimum of habitat quality. These conditions are met by ecological farming methods. But unlike the situation in other land-scapes the present use intensity in the Rhön is relatively compatible with nature. In a biosphere reserve agricultural activities must also be preserved in areas with unfavourable site condi-tions. The necessary activities of landscape maintenance should - also in the future - be provided by the local farmer as the creator and custodian of the cultural landscape. These activities must be rewarded by society as a whole. With respect to the agro-structural development it must be taken into account that the reduction in the number of farms and decreasing animal husbandry lead to a severe conflict which considerably endangers the protection targets for the Rhön, i.e., the conservation of a cultural landscape. The solution to that conflict is one of the main future tasks in the biosphere reserve. The generally required reduction in agricultural production is to take place in the Rhön by means of a voluntary extensification of farming in former intensively cultivated areas and not by large-scale abandonment or afforestation of agricultural sites with marginal productivity.
Economic framework conditions must be created which permit further farming without intensive fertilisation and application of pesticides. In this respect the Rhön has a model function for other European uplands. The aim is a graded farming intensity (cultivation gradient) reflecting site quality and capacities of surfaces; most farms are already practising such methods. The framework management plan proposes the following targets and measures to support and promote farming in its important tasks within the framework of the conservation and maintenance of the cultural landscape Rhön. Continued use of grassland by promoting milk cow husbandry (guaranteeing reference quantities for milk, milk pooling, milk leasing) and support for extensive animal husbandry with, e.g., suckling cows or sheep. Promotion of direct marketing by farms, shops on the farm, delivery services and gaining restaurants, clinics etc. as partners and purchas-ers of agricultural products, design of a label stating the origin of the product and/or design of a quality label. Extension of trans-company coop-eration especially in the sector of marketing, extensive animal husbandry (e.g., pasture cooperative), shared machines/stables, estab-lishment of a land exchange for sites which would otherwise lie fallow, etc. Optimum use of already existing programmes for the promotion of nature conservation and agriculture by giving specific advice to all farmers. Use of further opportunities for earning money through activities outside of the agricultural sector, such as renting out apartments for holidays, crafts, working in the tourism sector (e.g., as nature guide). Increasing exploitation of alterna-tive possibilities for the use of grassland products, e.g., selling hay, hay-based bathes, composting, and the production of energy. These measures should be imple-mented on a step-by-step basis. The strategy of measures contained in the framework management plan is prima-rily aimed at voluntary cooperation by farmers. In the first step farmers should be advised as soon as possible and on an individual basis on the improved use of national financial programmes. At the same time the opportunities for further cooperation between farms and possibilities to keep the milk quota in the region should be introduced. On a short and medium-term basis a comprehensive strategy for the improved marketing of products should be put into practice which will once again require preparatory intensive counsel-ling for farmers. In a second phase - after intensive counselling - measures can be undertaken to support agriculture in increasing chances to further maintain the cultural landscape.