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AES Newsletter

July 2021

Letter from the President - Making agricultural economics (and economists) relevant

Welcome to the AES newsletter from Janet Dwyer, AES President.  Earlier this summer I was invited to join a panel discussion on the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Italian Association of Agricultural Economics, to consider the role of Agricultural Economics societies in the years ahead. On reflection, I picked out 3 main points which I feel will be important: i) being relevant, ii) being methodologically innovative, and iii) ensuring an ethical approach and a climate of respect and inclusion. My fellow panellists were drawn from EAAE, ESRS (rural sociology) and from agricultural science, and it seems we shared a common vision in many respects. We had a good discussion on relevance and the importance of agricultural economics keeping close to practice, with a membership offer and outreach activities that would retain the interest and involvement of policy makers and agri-food system practitioners, including farming and supply chain organisations. It was noted that formal academic excellence assessments across the EU may overlook the value of engagement and direct impact. This made me thankful that, whilst imperfect, the UK’s commitment to including impact as part of our national research excellence assessment system gives an important signal about the value of ensuring research relevance.

Another point of discussion was whether Societies should become involved in discussion of how agricultural economics is taught – quite a few of those on the panel and among the audience seemed to agree that this was important, for the future. Interestingly we have had some similar exchanges between Executive Committee members of AES, in recent months. I believe that enabling students to consider a pluralist approach, alongside instruction and critical evaluation in ‘mainstream’ economic theory and debate, is essential if we are to be able to innovate in theory, looking ahead.  And I think that such innovation will be absolutely key to our sustaining credibility, authority and added-value, in this pandemic- and climate-challenged era.  Happy summer (or winter) holidays to all – I am sure you have earned them: it’s been quite a year!  

Janet Dwyer AES President 2021-22 (jdwyer@glos.ac.uk)

EuroChoices focuses on climate change and other topical issues
EuroChoices continues to celebrate its 20th year in pursuing its outreach mission and members of the editorial team have been making special contributions. In the summer issue, scheduled for publication in the first week of August, Co-editor Tomás García Azcárate profiles the work of Agriculture Commissioner, Franz Fischler during the first five years of this century, coinciding with the birth and development of the journal. He argues that the Fischler changes were radical and consolidated the road to modernisation of the Common Agricultural Policy.

This year sees one of the most important international conferences - the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which will meet in Glasgow, Scotland, in November. As part of our commitment to analyse and explain in accessible language, I have commissioned a special section in the summer issue consisting of eight articles on a range of climate issues associated particularly with the agri-food and rural sector. Economists play a crucial – and sometimes overlooked – moderating role, alongside the technical work of colleagues in the natural sciences, in analysing the economic and social impacts of alternative mitigation and adaptation responses to climate change. Only through cross-disciplinary collaboration of this kind can credible and sustainable solutions to mitigating climate impacts be found - outcomes that are balanced, taking account not just of scientific findings but also of socio-economic factors such as distributional impacts. Sadly, this balance has not been at all apparent during the Covid pandemic, where medical and related science seems to have completely overshadowed socio-economic impacts.

I encourage authors – especially early career members of our profession – to write for EuroChoices on climate and other topical issues. The journal imposes unique demands on authors in terms of Relevance, Rigour and Readability and it is vital that careful attention is paid to the author guidelines via the Contribute tab on the journal’s homepage: www.wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/euch  Readers may recall our contributions to the climate debate in advance of COP25 in Paris (2015). Issues 14(1) and 14(2) of EuroChoices focused respectively on climate change mitigation and adaptation responses and associated policy challenges facing the agri-food and rural sectors in Europe. Selected articles from these two issues, along with other relevant articles published in subsequent years, will shortly be available in a free to view virtual issue via the journal homepage.

John Davis, Chief Editor (eurochoices@aes.ac.uk)

Holiday (or work) reading for agricultural economists

OECD–FAO Agricultural Outlook 2021 –2030

This annual report finds that despite average global food availability per person growing by 4%, achieving zero hunger will be challenging. Disparate growth in food availability between regions will likely see consumers in middle-income countries increase their food intake most significantly while diets in low-income countries will remain largely unchanged. This has serious implications for undernourished and vulnerable populations who are most in need. Productivity improvements are expected to see agricultural production increase by 1.4% p.a. over the period. Global agricultural GHG emissions are projected to grow by 4%, with livestock accounting for more than 80% of this increase. The bottom line is that to meet the 2030 deadline to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals - especially zero hunger - governments need to step up efforts to reach global food security and environmental targets.  https://doi.org/10.1787/19428846-en  

Agricultural Policy Monitoring and Evaluation 2021

This annual OECD report monitors and evaluates agricultural policies in 54 countries and includes country specific analysis based on up-to-date estimates of support to agriculture that are compiled using the Producer and Consumer Support Estimates (PSE and CSE) and related indicators. This year’s report focuses on policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and analyses the implications of agricultural support policies for the performance of food systems. The countries studied provided $US 720 billion annually to support their agricultural sectors during the 2018-20 period, while at the same time a small number of the countries implicitly taxed their producers to the tune of $US 104 billion per year by keeping prices below world levels. Two-fifths of the support to the sector is provided through policies that maintain domestic farm prices above international levels, while another $US 66 billion are payments linked to output or the unconstrained use of variable inputs. All these policies distort production decisions and markets but obstruct efforts to make agriculture more productive, sustainable and resilient, while only a small share of support goes to research and development, or infrastructure, or specifically to enhance the environment needed to equip the agricultural sector for future challenges.  https://doi.org/10.1787/2d810e01-en  

Building Agricultural Resilience to Natural Hazard-induced Disasters

Natural hazard-induced disasters (NHID), such as floods, droughts, severe storms, and animal pests and diseases have significant, widespread and long-lasting impacts on agricultural sectors around the world. With climate change set to amplify many of these impacts, a “business-as-usual” approach to disaster risk management in agriculture cannot continue if we are to meet the challenges of agricultural productivity and sustainable development. Drawing from seven case studies – Chile, Italy, Japan, Namibia, New Zealand, Turkey and the United States – this joint OECD-FAO report argues for a new approach to building resilience to NHID in agriculture. It explores the policy measures, governance arrangements, on-farm strategies and other initiatives that countries are using to increase agricultural resilience to NHID, highlighting emerging good practices. It offers concrete recommendations on what more needs to be done to shift from coping with the impacts of disasters, to an ex-ante approach that focuses on preventing and mitigating the impacts of disasters, helping the sector be better prepared to respond to disasters, and to adapt and transform in order to be better positioned for future disasters.  https://doi.org/10.1787/49eefdd7-en

On a rather lighter note, James Rebanks, a farmer in the English Lake District, combines personal stories with his passion for nature, and a critique of intensive farming, in English Pastoral: An Inheritance (2020). The author recognizes that his farming system of trying to marry production of agricultural commodities with conservation of nature will not feed the world and is not profitable, in so far as the value of conservation is not reflected in his farm's income. He takes a middle way, arguing we have to feed people but not at the expense of starving nature (especially soil). He makes a strong case that working with and not fighting nature is the only sustainable system to adopt in the long run. This book could also be usefully read by policy decision makers at a time of change and challenge. It really does ask us to question what sort of future farming systems we want (at least in the UK).  https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/290329/english-pastoral/9780141982571.html


The European Association of Agricultural Economists and the International Association of Agricultural Economists will both be holding virtual conferences this year. The EAAE conference dates are 20-23 July (http://www.eaae2021.org/) and the IAAE conference on 17-31 August (https://iaae-agecon.org/).  Check upcoming EAAE news and list of upcoming seminars at www.eaae.org

The Newsletter is also published online (www.aes.ac.uk).  The deadline for items for the next issue is 16 December 2021, to wilfrid_legg@hotmail.com

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