Digital Opportunities for Better Agricultural Policies

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Recent digital innovations provide opportunities to deliver better policies for the agriculture sector by helping to overcome information gaps and asymmetries, lower policy-related transaction costs, and enable people with different preferences and incentives to work better together. Drawing on ten illustrative case studies and unique new data gathered via an OECD questionnaire on agri-environmental policy organisations' experiences with digital tools, this report explores opportunities to improve current agricultural and agri-environmental policies, and to deliver new, digitally enabled and information-rich policy approaches. It also considers challenges that organisations may face to make greater use of digital tools for policy, as well as new risks which increased use of digital tools may bring. The report provides practical advice on how policy makers can address challenges and mitigate risks to ensure digital opportunities for policy are realised in practice. Finally, the report briefly considers the broader regulatory and policy environment underpinning digitalisation of the agriculture sector, with the view to ensuring that use of digital tools for agricultural and agri-environmental policy remains coherent with the digitalisation of agriculture more generally.



Executive Summary

In 2016, OECD Agriculture Ministers issued a Declaration on Better Policies to Achieve a Productive, Sustainable and Resilient Global Food System, which placed “a high priority on developing policies to underpin competitive, sustainable, productive and resilient farm and food businesses” (OECD, 2016[1]). Recent and ongoing developments in digital technologies can help deliver such “better policies”. Advances in data collection technologies, particularly in situ and remote sensors, have markedly increased the spatial and temporal data resolution of agricultural data, and reduced the cost of gathering such information. Adoption of precision agriculture machinery in the agriculture sector provides a new source of data that is relevant for policy. Advances in data processing, “artificial intelligence” and computing power allow vast amounts of data from many and varied sources to be analysed and deliver new insight relevant for policy makers and administrators, as well as for producers and other actors in agriculture and food. Advances in encryption and data protection technologies, together with advances in institutions for data sharing, offer the opportunity to broaden access and reduce the transaction costs of accessing agricultural micro data while preserving confidentiality where necessary. These developments provide opportunities to improve policies by helping to overcome information gaps and asymmetries, lowering policy-related transaction costs and enabling people with different preferences and incentives to work better together.


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