Stories tagged: policy

#IamAg! Robynne Anderson: The Future is Farming

Robynne Anderson, Coordinator of the International Agri-Food Network, tells Farming First how agriculture has been her life and why studying agriculture is so important.

To find out the range of exciting careers available to young people in agriculture, visit our infographic. For more interview with experts on how they were inspired to take up their careers, visit the Farming First TV channel.

Food security and climate change: seven evidence-based actions to achieve a sustainable food system

The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change has produced a summary for policy makers of a report called ‘Achieving food security in the face of climate change’. This summary will shortly be completed by a detailed report of findings and recommendations.

The summary includes seven key recommendations to policy makers that, if actioned, the authors believe would bring us closer to a global sustainable food system in the face of climate change.

The key message from the summary is that the global food system faces pressure. This is due to a range of factors, including the shift in diets towards higher consumption of calories, fats and animal products and the growing, increasingly urban, population.

Further pressure is added to the food system through inefficiency – an estimated 12 million hectares of agricultural land are lost to land degradation each year, and around a third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted across the global food system.

Moreover, although sustainable agriculture can be a powerful mitigating factor in tackling the effects of climate change, many current farming practices – including land clearing and inefficient use of fertilizers and organic residues – mean that agriculture is a significant contributor to greenhouse gasses (accounting for up to 30 percent of global emissions).

This is problematic as the authors argue that ever-higher temperatures are exacerbating the above issues, and that global climate change will have an adverse effect on agricultural production, bringing us toward critical thresholds in many regions.

The authors argue that:

“Business as usual in our globally interconnected food system will not bring us food security and environmental stability.”

In order to make the vital transition to a global sustainable food system, CCAFS have proposed seven evidence-based actions to achieve food security in the face of climate change. These are:

  1. Integrate food security and sustainable agriculture into global and national policies.
  2. Significantly raise the level of global investment in sustainable agriculture and food systems in the next decade.
  3. Sustainably intensify agricultural production while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental impacts of agriculture.
  4. Develop specific programmes and policies to assist populations and sectors that are most vulnerable to climate change and food insecurity.
  5. Reshape food access and consumption patterns to ensure basic nutritional needs are met and to foster healthy and sustainable eating patterns worldwide.
  6. Reduce loss and waste in food systems, targeting infrastructure, farming practices, processing, distribution and household habits.
  7. Create comprehensive, shared, integrated information systems that encompass human and ecological dimensions.

Farming First has written a policy paper on climate change, and has a range of resources on the role of agriculture in creating a global green economy.

The future of Direct Payments in Agriculture

The International Food and Agriculture Trade Policy Council (IPC) have released a new paper in their Policy Focus series looking at the future of direct payments in the US and EU.

Direct payments, or agricultural subsidies, are used as a means of phasing out agricultural market intervention in the form of maintaining high commodity prices and the buying up and disposing of surpluses. They are government subsidies payed to farmers and agribusinesses to supplement their incomes, manage the supply of commodities and influence their cost. Direct payments effectively act as income support to farmers that is not linked to production or price.

In the EU, direct payments account for the largest share of the Common Agricultural Policy budget, spending some €36 billion on them in 2008. The US in turn spends $5 billion dollars a year on direct payments. Over time, the report’s authors argue, these have become a drain on government budgets and have contributed to trade frictions.

The IPC originally welcomed the introduction of direct payments as a move away from market intervention, but with the proviso that these were temporary measures. The paper’s authors emphasise that the linkage of direct payments in the EU to “cross-compliance”, the requirement to meet certain environmental standards, have made direct payments less controversial than in the US.

The paper’s authors provide some key recommendations, which include:

–       The case for continuing payments in the EU needs to be made in a way that is convincing to the public by strengthening the link with the provision of public goods

–       The rationale for continuing payments in the US is weak, and thus should be eliminated on policy reasons

–       In the US, money saved from eliminating payments should go into supporting research and development for productivity enhancement to allow US farmers to compete effectively in world markets.

To read the paper in full, please see:

Addressing Agriculture in Climate Change Negotiations

The increase of the world’s population to 9 billion people by 2050, the rise in global calorie intake by 60 percent between 2000 and 2050 due to greater affluence, as well the rising demands on land for the generation of food and fuels, will require significant increases in agricultural productivity in the context of more constrained availability of resources.”

Addressing Climate Change and Agriculture: A Scoping Report, 2011

With agriculture contributing almost a third of developing countries’ GDP and providing employment to 65 per cent of developing countries’ populations, the impact of climate change on agriculture has repercussions on lives and economies across the globe.

The agriculture sector holds significant potential in mitigating climate change through reductions of emissions, and effective policies could increase the capacity of farming and food systems to increase food production whilst minimising its impact on the climate.

The Meridian Institute report Addressing Climate Change and Agriculture suggests that:

  • Early action on tackling the effects of climate change within the agricultural sector will allow countries to prepare for near- and longer-term agricultural adaptation, closely linked to food security and development efforts.
  • Data collection and policy development measures may result in useful country-specific data and experience, which could inform vital long-term national strategies in mitigating the impact of climate change on global populations.
  • Technology will have an important role to play in developing agricultural practices that are able to withstand changes in climate. Technology deployment and related capacity building in agriculture comes with significant costs for which developing countries in particular need financial support.

Land Use Futures: Making the Most of Land in the 21st Century

Picture 2The UK Government’s Foresight Programme has released an in-depth analysis of the future of land use in the UK, examining the challenges faced over the next fifty years. The study, which was carried out over two years, examines the interaction of human use of land with natural processes, highlighting agriculture as ‘probably the single most dominant influence on the landscape’.

Agriculture occupies almost 74% of the UK land surface. Foresight’s report, ‘Land Use Futures‘ notes three main drivers of agricultural land use in the UK: agricultural policy, the conditions in international markets, and the technologies that markets and regulation introduce to the sector all play primary roles in determining what farmers produce on their land and how they produce it.

The report states that a rise in global population, strains on natural resources, climate change and changes in diets will put additional pressure on the land used in agriculture. The study highlights the importance for action to be taken to improve on agricultural productivity whilst reducing its impact on the environment.

The report offers the following recommendations for ensuring that the way agricultural land is used today can meet future needs:

Greater investment in science and technology, requiring collaborations among many public and private stakeholders, will help to accelerate sustainable practices of land use in agriculture whilst helping to improve the productivity of agriculture.

Maintaining high-quality farmland and supporting infrastructures such as land drainage systems will become of greater necessity in the advent of climate change and increased global demand for food and energy.

The multiple roles of agriculture that benefit society, other than food production, must be recognised, for example:   

  • Agriculture can generate positive environmental value, for example natural resource protection.  Reward systems for land managers through environmental stewardship programmes should be redesigned to help reduce agriculture’s negative impact on the environment, and help promote the wider ecosystem services it provides.            
  • Agriculture can provide vital climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration, flood risk management and protection of biodiversity. New governance systems are needed to create incentives for low-carbon agricultural practices.

Dr. Marjatta Eilitta Discusses Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development in Sub-Saharan Africa

_MG_5687Based in Accra, Ghana, Dr Marjatta Eilitta of the International Fertilizer Development Center recently presented some of her views on how farmers in sub-Saharan Africa could gain better access to agricultural inputs through better policy and market conditions.

The average farmer in sub-Saharan Africa uses only 8 kilos of nutrients per hectare of cultivated land.  This is less than one-tenth the average amount used elsewhere in the world.  What’s more, these inputs are often reserved only for the plantation crops which are then sold in the foreign export markets.

Dr. Eilitta argues that the marketplace for these agricultural inputs is “undeveloped or fragmented”.  Prices for fertilizers in Tanzania are 50% higher than they are in Thailand (and 80% higher in land-locked Mali than in Thailand).  Countries also often lack fertilizer laws for regulating use and holding suppliers accountable.

But Eilitta also offers hope for progress.  In the Abuja Declaration, African leaders agreed to increase average nutrient use to 50 kilos per hectare by 2015.  Eilitta also offers three areas on which further improvements should be based:

1. improve supply systems for fertlizer while opening access to profitable export markets

2. support the people not the products through the use of government-issued vouchers and the monitoring of agri dealers

3. promote multi-country agricultural input markets with harmonized regulations, developed regulatory systems, and reduced tariffs

Watch the video here: