Environmental Performance of Agriculture in OECD Countries Since 1990

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In OECD countries, agriculture uses on average over 40% of land and water resources, and thus has significant affect on the environment. This report provides the latest and most comprehensive data and analysis on the environmental performance of agriculture in OECD countries since 1990. It covers key environmental themes including soil, water, air and biodiversity and looks at recent policy developments in all 30 countries.

Over recent years the environmental performance of agriculture has improved in many countries, largely due to consumer pressure and changing public opinion. Many OECD countries are now tracking the environmental performance of agriculture, which is informing policy makers and society on the trends in agri-environmental conditions, and can provide a valuable aid to policy analysis. The indicators in this report provide crucial information to monitor and analyse the wide range of policy measures used in agriculture today, and how they are affecting the environment. 

Did You Know?  In OECD countries, agriculture uses on average 40% of land and water resources.

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OECD Country Trends of Environmental Conditions related to Agriculture since 1990: Ireland

Primary agriculture’s contribution to the economy is rapidly declining [1, 2]. Between 1990 and 2005 agriculture’s contribution to GDP and employment more than halved to 2.7% and 5.7% respectively [1, 3] (Figure 3.13.1). The past decade has been characterised by farm families increasing participation in the non-farming activities of the rural economy [4]. Agricultural production is intensifying on a reduced area of land and concentrated on fewer farms [1]. Over the period 1990-92 to 2002-04 the volume of agricultural production rose by over 1%, but the total area farmed declined by 2.6% (Figure 3.13.2). Nearly 45% of farms are less than 20 hectares in area and over 40% of farmers work part-time [1]. Between 1991 and 2003 agricultural productivity (gross value added per employee annual average) grew by 3.2%, compared to 3.4% for the whole economy, partly reflecting the substitution of labour by purchased inputs [5]. The volume of purchased farm inputs rose over the period 1990-92 to 2002-04: inorganic nitrogen fertiliser by +1%; pesticides +5%; and direct on-farm energy consumption by +37%; although inorganic phosphate fertiliser use fell by –31% (Figure 3.13.2).

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