Sean Rickard - Independent Economic Analysis


Liberating farming from the CAP |  Séan Rickard


This article explains that European agriculture; indeed, global agriculture is entering a new era, in which the demand for food is outstripping the world’s current ability to supply.   The hallmark of this era is high and more volatile agricultural prices resulting in a marked reduction in the affordability of food for European households and greater difficulties for households in poorer nations leading to higher levels of malnutrition and hunger.   Against this background it is imperative that agricultural policy in the EU takes on a new economic focus; one that will encourage the structural changes, management practices and levels of investment necessary to maximise agricultural productivity while simultaneously adopting scientific advances and production systems that are sustainable in their use of inputs and deliver high standards of animal welfare.   The article argues that the coming reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) offers the authorities the opportunity to decisively shift agricultural policy from its current social focus to the necessary economic focus and that in so doing it will not only reduce the burden on EU taxpayers but also ensure levels of efficiency and competitiveness that will underpin affordable food prices.  


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The Value of Crop Protection | Séan Rickard


Food is the most basic of all necessities and it is impossible to think of a modern developed economy that cannot supply its population with a wide choice of high quality food at affordable prices.   This report estimates that without plant protection products, food security in the UK, and by implication in the EU and in most countries across the world, would be severely reduced and the cost of food would rise substantially.   In the UK the cost of food would rise by about 40 per cent, increasing food and drink expenditures by some £70 billion per year and raised to the level of the EU this implies additional food expenditures of some £750 billion.   Not only would this place a burden on household budgets and result in a poorer diet for many but also this sum of money would be withdrawn from other sectors of the economy leading to a loss of businesses and employment.   To put the effect of this withdrawal of expenditure in perspective it amounts to approximately double the annual cut in real terms in public expenditure recently announced by the UK government.  


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UK Farming Post Reform |  Séan Rickard & Deborah L. Roberts


The 2003 reform of the Common Agricultural Policy largely replaced the European Union’s  production orientated system of price support with a decoupled, single farm payment (SFP) system that freed farmers to choose what to do with their land, be it crops, livestock or withdrawal from farming.   In justifying the reform, the authorities argued inter alia that a positive outcome would be the encouragement of a more market orientated and competitive farming industry.   In this paper we examine the likelihood of this outcome for UK agriculture and how it might be achieved.   We find the arguments that the reform will encourage extensive farming techniques and this will serve as the basis of a more market orientated industry unconvincing.   We argue that the reform is more likely to achieve its objective of a more market orientated industry if the reform encourages farmers to collaborate in horizontal networks as user members of Farmer Controlled Businesses.   Such businesses operate as vertical integrators and are particularly suited to developing a market orientation.   We conclude by listing areas of research that can aid an understanding of the marketing functions of Farmer Controlled Businesses and their influence on the economic returns to their user members.  


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A constrained outlook for EU agriculture |  Séan Rickard


After some two years of negotiations, agreement was finally reached at the end of September 2013 on yet another ‘reform’ of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).   The agreement represents little change from current levels or orientation of support.  But a continued, perennial dependency on the public purse does not augur well for the agricultural industry’s outlook.   The reform process was itself proof of political disquiet as to the effectiveness of the CAP, and amongst academics there is overwhelming condemnation of direct farm payments and widespread doubt regarding the policy’s ability to achieve its diverse, multifunctional objectives.   This article explains how the CAP’s current objectives could be better met if direct, area payments to farmers were phased out.  


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outlook on agriculture

Climate Change: Getting the Policy Right |  Séan Rickard


This paper builds on a potential solution; namely, sustainable intensification that has attracted support from a wide cross-section of scientists and technologists. It focusses on two research questions: firstly, to what extent is sustainable intensification a capital-led intensification; and secondly, within the EU, what market-orientated policy reforms are needed to bring about a more capital intensive farming industry. The paper concludes that the phasing out of direct payments would speed structural change, concentrating production on larger scale farms that are in a stronger position to invest in capital-intensive sustainable intensification.


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Food Security and Climate Change: The Role of Sustainable Intensification, the Importance of Scale and the CAP (pages 48–53) |  Séan Rickard


Food security, the depletion of the world's natural capital and climate change form a trilemma for EU agriculture. This article argues that while reducing food waste and meat consumption can make a contribution, only the widespread adoption of sustainable intensification (SI) – to achieve a step-change in natural resource productivity (NRP) growth – can deliver the necessary increase in output while reducing the industry's demands on the environment and GHG emissions. Maximising the growth of NRP depends not only on advances in plant and animal breeding but also a general transition to precision farming.


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International Journal of Agricultural Management |  Séan Rickard


An international forum and source of reference for those working in agricultural management and related activities, including social, economic and environmental aspects of food production and rural development.


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International Journal of Agricultural Management

Breaking Up is Hard to Do |  Séan Rickard


Prospects for a reformed agricultural policy’ has just been published in the book Breaking Up is Hard to Do


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BREAKING UP front cover