THE AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS SOCIETY
Letter from the President
Agricultural Economics: what’s in a name?
Agriculture is often described as “declining” sector because its share of both national income and employment tends to fall as economies develop. Yet even as a small sector in economic terms it plays a pivotal role in everybody’s lives. It provides the food we eat – a decision we devote considerable thought to each day. It produces much of our clothing (unless – like a previous President – you spend your life in cycling gear). It dominates land use and what we see when we venture out of cities. And it is central to our existential worries – not least about our health, the environment and climate change. The ”decline” of agriculture led to most Agricultural Economics departments in the UK and other developed countries being either rebranded to reflect wider concerns (food, resources, environment), or incorporated into other – mostly Economics – departments. Even the UK ministry responsible for agriculture, DEFRA, no longer has the word agriculture in its title.
Bucking this trend, the AES and its Journal of Agricultural Economics, maintain a clear focus on an academic discipline (economics) applied to a specific sector (agriculture). The irony – apparent from the recent survey of members – is that many who belong to the Society and come to its conferences bridge academic disciplines and subject areas. The term “agricultural economics” does not reflect this heterogeneity of interests. The membership splits roughly between those with and without a farming background (the latter share increasing) and more members over 60 countered by a rising proportion under 30 – what Steve Ramsden referred to as “youth and wisdom”. There is nevertheless further scope to widen female participation and encourage membership from outside the UK.
As the Society approaches its 100th anniversary its old-fashioned name is an identification of a still needed niche where people with diverse subject interests and academic approaches can see how agriculture fits into those concerns and how the toolkit of economics may be helpful. While in the long run, as Keynes famously said, we are all dead, our descendants – and those under 30 – may be glad of the continuity of “agricultural economics”.
Jonathan Brooks AES President 2022-23 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Defra-AES One-Day Conference on Agricultural Productivity
The annual Defra-AES one-day conference on 9 December brought together a wide range of interests and expertise at the first in-person one-day conference since the restrictions of the covid pandemic were eased. The near capacity audience benefited from the knowledge and research of excellent speakers and the opportunity for discussion and networking.
Improving agricultural productivity in a sustainable manner is a key aim of agricultural strategy in the nations of the UK and in many other countries and regional groups. This is of especial priority given that the global population has just surpassed 8 billion people and natural resources – on which the food supply chain depends - is under increasing pressure.
Agricultural productivity has been flat lining in the UK (and in some other economic sectors and in countries at comparable levels of development) for over a decade yet without a boost more resources will be required to supply the increasing demand for food with detrimental implications for environmental sustainability.
Emma Campbell (Defra Chief Economist) welcomed participants and noted that sustainable productivity meant avoiding the depreciation of natural capital. The morning session opened with a wide-ranging analysis of agricultural total factor productivity for food and environmental security in which Keith Fuglie (USDA) stressed the crucial importance of R&D as the key lever on which policy should focus, but that needs to be complemented by environmental policies. Jesús Anton (OECD) presented OECD work on the measurement of agricultural total factor productivity (TFP) considering environmental impacts, with the aim of decoupling productivity growth from GHG emissions. Johannes Sauer (TU Munich) showed that the evidence on the impact of agri-environmental schemes in EU countries on productivity was mixed with limited benefit to the environment, but the context is crucial.
The afternoon session focused on the UK’s approach to agricultural productivity (Anne Murthy, Defra); barriers to agricultural productivity growth in Scotland (Andrew Barnes, SRUC); and GHG emission mitigation and agricultural production (Trevor Donnellan, Teagasc). In the final session, a panel (Ciaran Devlin, Defra; Sophia Davidova, University of Kent; Graham Redman, Andersons Centre; and Rohit Kaushish, NFU) reflected on the day’s presentations and comments from the audience. In tackling the gaps in methods, measurement, and interpretation of TFP, accounting for trade-offs across and within the dimensions of sustainability, and recognising the challenges in making comparisons across countries, there is a rich agenda for the agricultural economics profession and policy makers to address, not least to identify the distinction between private benefits and public goods. Although there are complex issues and interactions, policies need to be translatable at the farm level so that farmers have the incentive to adopt best practices. The old adage that “one size does not fit all” is highly relevant in this context and one of the key conclusions of a very stimulating day was that while R&D and innovation are necessary, they are not sufficient to raise agricultural productivity: complementary policies and actions are also needed.
Thanks to Ciaran Devlin (Defra) and Jonathan Brooks (AES President) for skilfully and effectively chairing the sessions, and to Euan Gilchrist and his team at Defra for the excellent organisation of the event in Defra’s Nobel House. Presentations can be accessed on the AES website (aes.ac.uk).
PS. Professor David Zilberman's (Berkeley) review of 2022 is a mix of personal and professional experiences and reflections, including embracing Zoom and working some days at home (productive), the importance of innovation and supply chains, for sustainable economic growth, and the bioeconomy. Always well worth reading at https://blogs.berkeley.edu/2022/12/20/my-annual-review-2022/
Wilfrid Legg, AES Honorary Secretary
AES Annual Conference 2023
The Annual Conference of The Agricultural Economics Society will be held at the University of Warwick from 27 to 29 March 2023. The programme promises to be rich and varied, with contributions from colleagues from acroiss the globe. Professor Erik Mathijs (KULeuven, Belgium) will deliver the Keynote Address on Reconfiguring agri-food supply chains to support healthy and sustainable diets. The Presidential Address entitled Because it matters will be given by Brendan Bayley (HM Treasury, United Kingdom). Dr Alisa Spiegel (Thünen Institute, Germany) will lead a symposium on the costs and benefits of increasing the artea of organic agriculture. Dr Steve Wiggins (Overseas Development Institute, United Kingdom) will lead a workshop on writing skills in agricultural economics and Dr K Hervé Dakpo (INRAE, France) will give a masterclass on nonparametric production analysis. A poster session will showcase work in progress on many diverse topics. Social events include a morning run and the Conference Dinner (with a surprise guest speaker and awards ceremony!).
Look out for updates on the AES website for more information at http://www.aes.ac.uk/page.asp?ID=3
Frederic Ang, AES Programme Secretary (email@example.com)
During 2022 EuroChoices produced of two special issues based on three Horizon-2020 projects - AgriLink, LIFT and UNISECO, plus a regular general issue. Our first issue in 2023 will be a general issue for which we are still seeking submissions. This will be followed by a special issue on Agriculture in the EU BioEconomy: Economics and Policies. Sadly, we said goodbye to co-editor David Blandford who resigned, for personal reasons, from his North America role. David's reviews of submitted articles were incisive, detailed and authoritative and his comments for authors were always measured and helpful. We wish David and his wife well for the future.
We were keen to find a North American replacement for David and I am pleased to report that Professor David Orden, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech has been appointed. This will enable us to continue our interactions with the North American agri-food and rural economy agenda. As ever, we invite submissions to EuroChoices on topics likely to be of interest to our readers. Finally, we were particularly pleased to have received this message from our publisher, Wiley: "Altmetric has tracked 22,636,521 research outputs across all sources so far....this one has done particularly well, : it's in the top 5% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric". Congratulations to authors, Luiza Toma, Cesar Revoredo-Giha, Montserrat Costa-Font, Bethan Thompson.
As ever, the editorial team invites submissions to EuroChoices on topics likely to be of interest to readers. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/1746692x
John Davis, Editor in Chief
Other conferences and EAAE events
EAAE Congress, Rennes, 29 August to 1 September 2023 on the theme of Agri-food systems in a changing world: Connecting science and society.
Deadlines for submission:
31 January 2023: Contributed papers
15 March 2023: Organised sessions
1 April 2023: Posters
Further details of the Congress can be found at https://eaae2023.colloque.inrae.fr/
Visit https://eaae.org/ for EAAE news and seminars.
Tim Lloyd EAAE and IAAE Liaison Officer
Agriculture Ministers meet at the OECD
In November 2022 Ministers (50 in total) from OECD and associated countries met to take stock of progress in policy reform, and to discuss and debate issues of mutual interest. Jointly chaired by Ministers from Canada and New Zealand the meeting concluded with a Declaration on Transformative Solutions for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems and a Chairs’ Summary. Such meetings are not frequent: the previous one took place in 2016. Over the years more attention has been devoted to the sustainability of the whole food supply system and the challenges facing countries both domestically and internationally in the context of uncertain and often disturbing global political, economic, and environmental developments, including climate change https://www.oecd.org/agriculture/ministerial/. Many topics need more for research!
A shorter Newsletter is also circulated with the JAE. The deadline for items for the next issue is 1st April 2023, to firstname.lastname@example.org