`Most Agricultural Spending Does More Harm Than Good, UN Report Claims - Olive Oil Times

Most Agricultural Spending Does More Harm Than Good, UN Report Claims

Sep. 20, 2021
Paolo DeAndreis

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A sig­nif­i­cant amount of global pub­lic fund­ing for agri­cul­ture harms peo­ples’ health, degrades the envi­ron­ment, dis­torts food prices and it is highly inef­fi­cient, a United Nations report claims.

The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said the funds are also often inequitable, favor­ing large agri-busi­ness over small farm­ers. The goal of the report is to lobby for new agri­cul­tural fund­ing poli­cies through­out the world.

Reforming agri­cul­tural poli­cies is not about tak­ing away sup­port from farm­ers, but about repur­pos­ing it so that it rewards good prac­tices. - U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, 

The report found that 87 per­cent of that $540 bil­lion (€457 bil­lion) global pub­lic fund­ing is doing more harm than good. Those global funds rep­re­sent 15 per­cent of the total agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion value.

See Also:€100B in E.U. Spending Fails to Reduce Emissions in Ag Sector, Audit Finds

Of that sum, about $294 bil­lion (€249 bil­lion) was pro­vided in the form of price incen­tives and around $245 bil­lion (€207 bil­lion) for fis­cal sub­si­dies to farm­ers. Meanwhile, 70 per­cent has been tied to the pro­duc­tion of a spe­cific com­mod­ity.

Only $110 bil­lion (€93 bil­lion) was used to fund trans­fers to the agri­cul­ture sec­tor col­lec­tively, in the form of gen­eral ser­vices or pub­lic goods,” the report said.


The FAO, the U.N. Development Program and the U.N. Environment Program under­lined that the report does not ask for pub­lic fund­ing to stop, but to change.

The U.N. pro­jec­tions show that under cur­rent poli­cies the global pub­lic fund­ing to agri­cul­ture would top $1.8 tril­lion (€1.5 tril­lion) by 2030, which they argue would also cause fur­ther dam­age unless a clear path to reform is set.

About 73 per­cent of that, $1.3 tril­lion (€1.1 tril­lion), would be in the form of bor­der mea­sures, which affect trade and domes­tic mar­ket prices,” the report reads. The remain­ing 27 per­cent, $475 bil­lion (€402 bil­lion), would be in the form of fis­cal sub­si­dies that sup­port agri­cul­tural pro­duc­ers and could con­tinue to pro­mote overuse of inputs and over­pro­duc­tion.”

Current pub­lic sup­port to agri­cul­ture does not work, wrote the researchers. Malnourishment still affects 9.9 per­cent of the global pop­u­la­tion. In 2020, more than 720 mil­lion peo­ple in the world faced hunger and 2.37 bil­lion peo­ple – about one-third of the global pop­u­la­tion – did not have access to ade­quate food.

Researchers have also high­lighted that a healthy diet was out of reach in 2019 for at least three bil­lion peo­ple on every con­ti­nent.

At the same time, pop­u­la­tion growth is result­ing in an ever-increas­ing demand for food,” the FAO said. These chal­lenges have been exac­er­bated by the Covid-19 pan­demic, which risks over­whelm­ing food sys­tems.”

Additionally, the report cites the find­ings of the 2020 Living Planet Report, pro­duced by the World Wildlife Fund, which showed that the con­ver­sion of land to agri­cul­ture has led to 70 per­cent of global bio­di­ver­sity loss and half of all tree cover loss.”

An esti­mated 1.9 mil­lion square kilo­me­ters of wild and unde­vel­oped land has been lost due to agri­cul­tural land con­ver­sion,” the WWF added. From 1980 to 2000, more than half of new land for agri­cul­ture in the trop­ics came from defor­esta­tion of intact forests. Likewise, for the period 2000 to 2010, it is esti­mated that 80 per­cent of defor­esta­tion in these areas was the result of con­ver­sion to agri­cul­tural and graz­ing lands.”

The new U.N. report comes in advance of sev­eral inter­na­tional sum­mits, such as COP26, and aims to offers six tips to change the course of action to gov­ern­ments and insti­tu­tions.

The researchers believe that if cor­rectly devised and deployed, pub­lic fund­ing to agri­cul­ture can con­tribute to the end of poverty, over­come hunger and achieve food secu­rity while improv­ing nutri­tion, pro­mot­ing sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture, con­sump­tion and pro­duc­tion, mit­i­gate the cli­mate cri­sis, restore nature, limit pol­lu­tion and reduce inequal­i­ties.”

A trans­par­ent, multi-stake­holder approach is inte­gral to the six-step repur­pos­ing process,” the report reads. Transparency and inclu­sive con­sul­ta­tions are crit­i­cal to address­ing insti­tu­tional bot­tle­necks and vested inter­ests that could hin­der reform and the effec­tive imple­men­ta­tion of the strat­egy.”

Reforming agri­cul­tural sup­port raises con­cerns about reduced incomes and food afford­abil­ity, and is likely to be opposed by farm­ers ben­e­fit­ing from the cur­rent sys­tem,” the report adds. It is, there­fore, cru­cial to com­mu­ni­cate that reform­ing agri­cul­tural poli­cies is not about tak­ing away sup­port from farm­ers, but about repur­pos­ing it so that it rewards good prac­tices rather than per­pet­u­at­ing prac­tices that threaten food sys­tems sta­bil­ity, farm­ers’ wel­fare and the envi­ron­ment.”

We urge coun­tries to seize this oppor­tu­nity and con­sider options for repur­pos­ing agri­cul­tural sup­port,” the direc­tors of the involved U.N. food agen­cies wrote in the intro­duc­tion of the report.

Parliamentarians, deci­sion-mak­ers, farm­ers, man­u­fac­tur­ers, pro­duc­ers, dis­trib­u­tors, con­sumers and all other agri-food sys­tems stake­hold­ers, includ­ing women, youth, Indigenous peo­ples and local com­mu­ni­ties – all of us must orga­nize to steer our agri­cul­tural sup­port away from its cur­rent tra­jec­tory,” the direc­tors con­cluded.


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