Producers, distributors, retailers, consumers and governments face many challenges in managing production and distribution risks and public expectations along the agricultural and food value chain. Among the numerous issues that are seen to require increasing attention by the agricultural and food sector, are:
- maintaining production volumes and meeting product specifications
- improving productivity, competitiveness and profitability
- improving natural resource management, protecting biodiversity and responding to climate change
- interpreting and responding to market signals and managing price volatility
- ensuring viable rural communities
- ensuring food safety and availability, and
- enabling adequate sectoral competition.
Just as there are many challenges, there is also a range of possible responses. Drawing on experiences from Europe, Australia and elsewhere, this Sustainable Agricultural and Food Policy in the 21st Century: Challenges and Solutions conference will explore many of these challenges, and consider ‘best practice’ policies and tools to manage the risks and address them for the benefit of producers, the environment and broader society.
Convened by the Australian National University (ANU), as part of a four year Australian Research Council-funded project, the conference has been developed in collaboration with the European Commission, the Australian Mission to the European Union, and the Australian Government Commonwealth Departments of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF); and Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
Conference Program and abstracts: PDF file, 443KB
Conference themes and key questions
Set over two half-days, the conference will be structured around two themes:
- Promoting producer resilience, profitability and delivering public goods, and
- Maintaining food security and standards
To guide discussion and debate, the following key questions have been identified:
- What policies, tools and mechanisms exist to manage income volatility in the agricultural sector?
- How can government and industry ensure the latest research and innovation in technology and management practices are adopted along the whole supply chain?
- What policies, tools and mechanisms exist to reward farmers for public good outcomes?
- How can the agricultural sector adapt its processes and practices along the supply chain to manage the challenges of climate change?
- What policies and mechanisms exist to ensure food quality and safety? How can we limit the impact of those policies on the international trade system?
- How can we ensure the accessibility of sufficient food supplies in an increasingly integrated and complex trading system, and with new challenges such as climate change to deal with?
Conference themes in detail
1. Promoting producer resilience, profitability and public good outcomes
Managing income stability in the agricultural sector is a critical issue in the EU and Australia. The vulnerability of the farming sector to price volatility is very high, in terms of both input costs (fertiliser, water, land) and output prices. Income volatility is likely to increase over the coming decades due to the effects of climate variability, as the frequency and intensity of extreme events (drought, flooding, prolonged abnormal temperature changes) affects harvests.
Related to income stability is the issue of enterprise profitability, and indeed the ‘health’ of the agricultural sector overall. With world agricultural markets becoming progressively more competitive and increasing pricing and cost volatility, together with economic recession and greater demands on the sector for ‘public goods outcomes’, the sector faces difficult times to continue profitably and sustainably. This theme will explore the options to manage income stability, promote producer resilience, profitability and public goods outcomes, including:
- Tools to reduce volatility
- Moderating output price volatility
- Training, education and rural services
- Innovation in agricultural techniques and farm management
- Adapting to climate variability
2. Maintaining food security and standards
In addition to guaranteeing the availability (either domestically or through trade) of food to the population, there is enormous pressure throughout the supply chain to ensure that food is produced in the safest and most environmentally sustainably fashion possible, at a reasonable price to consumers. This in turn demands that agricultural and food markets are as efficient and transparent as possible. To deliver on this expectation, governments, producers, distributors and retailers face new challenges in terms of (i) meeting food safety standards and (ii) providing detailed information for consumers on origin, quality, nutritional content and processing history of products. To achieve this, those producers that have access to the most innovative process and production techniques have a clear advantage.
This theme will explore these issues, focusing particularly on:
- Food self sufficiency and accessibility
- Reducing impediments to trade through more efficient and transparent agricultural and food markets
- Food standards and information
- Monitoring and evaluation in supply chains
- Private sector standards labelling
- Carbon foot-printing
The conference speakers will draw on experiences from around the world, with speakers from Australia, Europe, Brazil and New Zealand. Discussion will be led by two experienced moderators, with the key issues and outcomes captured by ‘rapporteurs’, with a view to producing a final report for publication.
- Associate Professor Don Kenyon AM, Australian National University
- Dr Mark Cropper, DG Agriculture and Rural Development, European Commission
- Dr Tim Hall, DG Research, European Commission
- Professor Ann Capling, University of Melbourne
- Rose O’Donovan, AGRO News
- Dr Karen Hussey, Australian National University