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Multifunctionality in Agriculture

Evaluating the degree of jointness, policy implications

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These proceedings examine the nature and strength of jointness between agricultural commodity production and non-commodity outputs from the perspective of three areas important to the agricultural sector: rural development, environmental externalities and food security. This workshop also examined whether the relationships among these non-commodity outputs were complementary or competing. Finally, the policy implications that could be derived from the findings of this workshop were also a key element in the discussions and are summarised in the Rapporteur’s summary.

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Degrees of Jointness for Food Security and Agriculture

It was in the early 1990’s that the term multifunctionality as such entered the political discussion (for a literature review see Bohman et al., 1999). Due to the increased awareness of the concept of multifunctionality, the OECD has contributed, through a broad process of consulting and coordination, to providing a theoretical framework for this perspective which has the potential to challenge the foundations of welfare economics. In the course of this process, it became clear that the theoretical origin of the perception of multifunctionality lay in the phenomenon of jointness: the production of agricultural goods was connected with the production of non-commodity outputs. “The key elements of multifunctionality are: (i) the existence of multiple commodity and noncommodity outputs that are jointly produced by agriculture; and (ii) the fact that some of the non-commodity outputs exhibit the characteristic of externalities or public goods, with the result that markets for these goods do not exist or function poorly.”(OECD, 2001) Generalising this notion of jointness, all production processes allowing for all weight and energy flows are characterised by some sort of joint production (Baumgärtner and Schiller, 2001).

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