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Agricultural policy normally refers to a set of laws and regulations that control the business of agriculture. Some policies may be concerned with domestic activities such as land use. Other types of policies may deal with international agriculture issues such as taxes.
Agriculture is generally a very important issue for governments. People are usually required to be responsible for feeding themselves. They exercise their responsibility by purchasing food. A government, however, tends to be the entity responsible for ensuring that there is sufficient, safe food on the market to be purchased. To ensure that it is doing its part, a government may attempt to achieve a number of goals through different types of agricultural policies.
Pricing, for example, is an area that may be too sensitive for governments to leave it to chance. This is especially true with staple items such as rice, wheat, or cornmeal. In countries that have large numbers of poor people, governments often deem it necessary to regulate prices on basic items. This is an effort to prevent mass starvation and malnutrition. Regulating prices can also help reduce the number of people who may otherwise seek relief from the government.
Nutrition is another important focus of agricultural policy. Good governance generally includes concern about the welfare of the people. It is not always good enough for a government to ensure that there is food on the market. The government may also need to consider whether the food that is available contains the nutrients that people need to be healthy. In cases where there is limited access to a wide variety of foods, enrichment and fortification may become matters of agricultural policy.
Enrichment and fortification aim to make sure that food contains the nutrients that are essential to a healthy life. Making sure that food does not contain things that are harmful is also a priority for most governments. Agricultural policy may mandate the use of certain fertilizers and pesticides while banning others. There may also be laws preventing the importation of certain foods from certain places due to fear that they may cause mass infections, such as foot-and-mouth disease.
Another reason that governments may prevent importation is to protect domestic markets. In many countries, large segments of the population earn a living through agriculture. If foreign goods of the same type are allowed to flood their markets, it could endanger the livelihoods of millions of people.
Most countries tend to have a positive outlook toward selling excess food on international markets. In some cases, however, agricultural policy will restrict exports. This may happen when there is fear that a certain food item is becoming scarce.