Total support to the agricultural sector (including producer support) was USD 375 billion in 2007-09 (0.9% of OECD GDP). This is down 2.3% from 1986-88. In all but one OECD countries, the agricultural support had declined when compared to the overall economy. High world commodity prices and lower food stocks contributed to food security becoming central to agricultural policy debate.
Many countries implemented previously agreed reforms, others took ad hoc measures in prompt response to price volatility. Some trends in policy reforms include: delinking of support from commodity production, and increasingly linking support to better practices. Some countries adjusted the form of subsidies paid to producers because rising prices negated the need for them.
Food security was the focus of discussions when Ministers for Agriculture from the OECD countries met in early 2010. The Ministers agreed to build on and complement policy principles agreed in 1998 and recognized:
- An integrated approach to food security is needed
- ‘Green growth' offers opportunities
- Climate change presents challenges and opportunities.
The Ministers also agreed that governments should meet many basic responsibilities that include ensuring that:
1. appropriate institutional, regulatory and policy frameworks are in place to enable markets to function properly
2. appropriate policies are developed to manage risk
3. policies are coherent with general macroeconomic, trade and other policies
4. policies support responsible management of natural resources
5. the total costs and benefits to society are considered
6. there is a supportive investment climate
7. innovation is encouraged, including transfer of technologies that enhance productivity and product quality
Some recommendations for governments to consider when shifting support from production levels to adoption of better practices include:
- State clear objectives, use evidence-based evaluations of progress, and improve transparency,
- Target support to lower income farmers and include risk management tools to protect them from price variability and crop damage.
- Encourage payment schemes that cost polluters and benefit ecosystem services providers.
- Promote climate change adaptation and natural resource conservation.
- Invest in needed infrastructure.
- Promote innovation that builds efficiency across the sector.
A stronger and more transparent global market that can reduce price variability and lead to more consistent policies that take a long-term approach which could further stabilize and strengthen the overall industry.