Thursday, April 27, 2017

The need for resilience

Participants in the panel on Brexit and agriculture

The Agricultural Economics Society conference in Dublin in the earlier part of this week attracted a number of interesting presentations and a speech by EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan.

One point that he made was that any free trade agreement with the UK would have to cover food standards, food quality, food safety, animal welfare and environmental issue. The aquis wold have to be imported into a FTA. The UK could not be used as a backdoor mechanism for inferior goods.

One theme that emerged from the conference was the need for farmers to show 'resilience' in the face of changing conditions and uncertain circumstances. However, that may not be a quality they all have.

One poster presentation by Niall O'Leary investigated the personality traits of farmers. It showed that 'independence' was the most common trait, in the sense of 'I'll do it my way.'

Agricultural economist Alan Swinbank said that high tariffs were a relic of a 1980s CAP when there was a fear that imports would undermine the intervention price. If one lowered tariffs to ten per cent that would still give more protection than enjoyed by other sectors.

There was considerable discussion of ecosystem services, although I was still left uncertain about how this concept could be operationalised. In policy terms it was seen as a means of challenging the 'agriculture first' element in policy. The objective would be to promote the total social value of rural land resources.

It was uncertain whether we had identified all ecosystem services. How could a balance be achieved between marketed and non-marketed services? There was the question of trade offs between different ecosystem services. Local environmental governance organisations (LEGOs) could be a mechanism for coordination at a local level.

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