Better policies for agriculture

Summary by the Co-Chairs, Meeting of the Committee for Agriculture at Ministerial Level, 7-8 April 2016*

©OECD/Michael Dean

Ministers of Agriculture and Representatives of OECD’s 34 member countries and the EU and those of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Latvia, Lithuania, Peru, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Ukraine, and Viet Nam, along with Representatives, of BIAC, FAO, IFAD, IFPRI, TUAC, UN and WTO, met in Paris for the first time in six years to explore challenges and opportunities facing the global food system around the theme Better Policies to Achieve a Productive, Sustainable and Resilient Global Food System. Minister Stéphane Le Foll of France and Secretary Tom Vilsack of United States, co-chairs of the meeting, led a day and a half of intensive discussions on the future of agriculture and agriculture’s role in the global future, kicked off by a presentation with OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, to invited members of the press and public on their shared vision for the sector. 

The co-chairs welcomed the participation of countries currently in the process of becoming members of the OECD and other invited non-member countries, recognising the need to encourage international co-operation and to incorporate a broad range of views in discussing our shared future. The inclusion of those additional countries, the participation of the international organisations and OECD Advisory Groups (the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD (BIAC) and the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC)), enriched the debate and brought important new dimensions to the meeting.

We first focused on the key challenges facing the global agriculture and food system. The overriding challenge in global agriculture is to ensure food security for more than nine billion people by 2050 while sustainably managing the natural resources upon which our food system depends. At the same time, agriculture will need to meet the challenge of climate change adaptation and mitigation, help in improving nutrition, and foster economic opportunities that revitalise rural areas and assist smallholders facing poverty and lagging growth. The frameworks of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change provide operational targets to meet those challenges, given a context of increasing weather-related shocks, sanitary risks, and changing markets. Productivity has long been a focus of policy makers and sustainability has received increased attention over the past few years, but resilience of the farm and food sector in the face of those risks remains insufficiently tackled in the policy agenda. Our policies must promote the resilience, as well as the productivity and sustainability of the agriculture and food sector and rural communities; achieving those shared goals will require sustained international co-operation.

Ministers agreed that a transition is needed to reach the policy environment most conducive to moving the global agriculture and food system towards the needed level of productivity, sustainability and resilience. We agreed with long-standing OECD recommendations that policies should have transparent objectives; that they should be targeted to specific outcomes and be tailored to achieving those outcomes with as little impact on unrelated activities as possible; that they should be flexible enough to be applied in diverse situations and to be adapted to changing priorities; and that they should be consistent with trade rules and obligations and be equitable within and across countries. In addition, greater policy coherence will be needed to build the policy environment that supports our agreed targets.

*Page 1 of 4-page text issued under the responsibility of co-chairs, Minister Stéphane Le Foll, France, and US Secretary Thomas J Vilsack, United States.

For the full four-page summary, see

Check out the Twitter feeds at #FutureofAg

©OECD Observer No 306, Q2 2016

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