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How To Choose The Best Blogging Platform

htctbbA lot of bloggers are sometimes confused as to what platform to choose. Well, in order to have the best blogging platform, it is important to consider several things. First, know your needs. It is necessary that you know what you need for the entire blogging process so that you can determine the effort and money you need. Some blogging platforms are given for free but you have to purchase some plug-ins so that your website will look nice. If you just purchase the plug-ins without even thinking if you need it, you just have wasted a lot of money for it. Second, the best blogging platform should come in a great package. This means that it should be easy to use, especially if you are a beginner and it should showcase your vision for the website. Read as many reviews as you can for any of these blogging platforms and know which one suits to your needs.

Lastly, consider the possible costs of your website. There will come a time that you need a software to run your website perfectly. So if this is needed already, better choose the right one. Ensure everything you purchased should work well the best blogging platform you chose.

Identifying The Best Blogging Platform

If you are into blogging, you would probably need the best blogging platform to showcase your writing and let the internet users around the world see it. Basically, there are numerous blogging platforms available nowadays and these include WordPress, Blogger, Tumbler and many others. Each platform has different features and provides variety of experience to users. If you are to choose which among the platforms is applicable, you have to consider numerous things. At first, know your capabilities in using the best blogging platform. If you are the type of individual who is not a computer expert, you have to choose a platform that is user friendly. If you are up for a challenge, choose a platform that allows you to customize, incorporate plug-ins and many more.

Second, know the availability of the platform. Some platforms are for free while others require a fee. This means that whenever you add a certain plug-in, there is a need for you to purchase it. Hence, you should prepare these things before hand. Lastly, read several reviews. If you are quite confused as to which best blogging platform to use, better read user reviews in the internet so that you will be oriented properly.

Read more about blogging in general, including niches and topic selection.

How Data Recovery Gets Done In Irvine

Even if you are not a computer expert, hard drive problems can be killer, but fixable. The first thing that you have to do is to obtain all the necessary cables, extra computer and other equipments and tools. As soon as you have these materials, search online in order to know the step by step guide for your computer. There will be a certain command to be entered in the computer system so be careful in putting all the information. You can also download a software for the data recovery. Of course, there is a corresponding fee for such software so better prepare your money for it. Follow the instructions given by the software and do not attempt to do something that you are not sure of.


Lastly, if these manual steps are difficult to do, seek for data recovery Irvine services. There are numerous companies that offer these services online and offline. The only thing that you have to do is to seek for the right technician so that things will go well on your computer system and in the retrieval of files. Through this way, you can be assured that the data recovery Irvine is going to be effective and worthwhile.

How To Recover Poweredge RAID

RAID is one of the most important parts in computer. If this has been damaged because of some external and internal factors, you need to perform the necessary actions right away to recover Poweredge RAID. If you do not do so, it will be difficult on your part to recover the lost files stored in your computer. In order to ensure that this procedure is successfully done, seek the right computer technician who can recover Poweredge RAID. Most computer technicians are very familiar with this process so after a few minutes or hours of fixing the RAID, you will then have your computer systems back on track.

However, if you are having a hard time fixing your computer problems or seeking the right person to do it for you, better seek recommendations from your friends or to anyone who knows this very well. An unsuccessful attempt of your computer system can potentially damage it. Hence, it is necessary to seek the right person and be able to recover the RAID successfully. There are varieties of classified ads or online sources where you can see the services of computer technicians.

Recover Your Poweredge RAID Online

If you have lost your data files because of a calamity or any causes, you can recover Poweredge RAID all by yourself. There are a number of individuals who successfully recovered their files without seeking an expert computer technician. All they did was they download a software online and just follow the necessary instructions. There are several online sources of software on recover Poweredge RAID and the good thing about this is you can have variety of options to choose from. If you prefer affordable or low cost software, you can always have it as long as you search the right source. However, if you want the most effective software, then try to choose those that come from a reliable and trusted software seller.

Basically, some of the software for RAID recovery can be obtained for free. But you have to ensure that it is true and usable because it is just a waste of time if you do not get the right tool. Of course, you also have to prepare the necessary equipment needed for the recovery process. If you do not have a spare computer, you should at least borrow from your friend. Just make sure to follow the right process to recover your Poweredge RAID.

Considering Hyperspectral Imaging For Agriculture

Technology in agribusiness continues to grow, just as the number of devices we use to connect with the Internet does. Unfortunately, many of these technologies remain fairly bleeding edge, but for the larger agribusiness company that is looking to make changes that can result in massive growth, but more importantly understanding, of crops and crop yields, there are quite a few higher end technologies.

A not so typical hyperspectral camera.

A not so typical hyperspectral camera.

One of the most exciting breakthroughs recently has been the use of Hyperspectral imaging as well as multispectral imaging in agriculture applications. This enables the farmer to look at his crops at more than just a surface level – hyperspectral images can be taken of crops to measure not only their development throughout the growing cycle, but also their health. And while the farmers using this technology tend to be fairly leading edge and early adopters of the technology, larger concerns are taking a strong look at it.

Finding A Hyperspectral Imaging Specialist

While there are certainly many specialists out there, California’s Surface Optics remains a leader in hyperspectral imaging. This is a very specialized industry, and as farmers begin to see the long term economic benefits of hyperspectral imaging, companies like Surface Optics will be providing far more of the service than ever before. The only issue at present for smaller farm concerns tends to be pricing, which can actually be quite high. Larger ag companies feel this “burn” less, of course, as their overall investments in growing technologies tend to be far higher.

Crop defects are particularly important to detect early, so as to not only increase yield, but to avoid a situation where crops may need to be destroyed – due to their weak molecular composition. It’s something that may not be a big deal if one is talking about a 300 acre farm, as an example, but what about a 3000 acre farm? As consolidation of American farmland continues, these are real questions that farm operations do have  to look at.  Staying competitive and increasing yields has always been a key focus of farmers, and technology has become a massive part of this.

Make no mistake: hyperspectral imaging is here to stay in the Agriculture sector. The only question a farmer needs to ask of himself is this: when will I jump on this train?



Alleviating Your Worries With IRS Tax Help

aywwirsYou cannot solve your tax issues if you do not seek IRS tax help. As a taxpayer, it is very important to go over your tax records so that you can know how much you owe to the government and why such kind of penalty is given to you. There are a number of people who are faced with tax penalties because they neglect to pay their taxes on time. It is a federal law that anyone who did not file a tax return will face the consequences of it. Thus, if this happens to you, make an effort to seek for IRS tax help so that you will know everything.

The role of the tax help is to assist those individuals who are experiencing tax debt or penalties. There are agents who will give them the information about their tax status. However, these agents work at specified business hours. If you cannot seek for a personal assistance, you can browse the government website of Internal Revenue Systems. The website provides numerous links that will guide the taxpayer on paying their taxes. It will also make IRS tax help easier and more convenient to those individuals who have busy schedules.

IRS Tax Help Website For Working Individuals

Few people are faced with tax issues every now and then. Good thing IRS tax help is available in order to provide assistance for individuals who are faced with this problem. This tax help can be obtained in different ways. You can call the telephone hotline in order to be assisted or you can make a personal appointment in the Internal Revenue System office. The advantage of a personal assistance on IRS tax help is you can clarify whatever tax concerns you are facing. There are certain business hours for personal appointment so you have to abide on it.

However, if you have a tight schedule on your work, you can browse the IRS official website. The tax help site will give you a lot of guidelines about your taxes and filing of tax returns. Aside from that, you can learn how to resolve your tax issues at the comforts of your home. You do not have to make an appointment or call someone for help because the IRS website is accessible 24 hours a day in 7 days a week. Just spend some time on IRS tax help so that you can go back to work without the worries of facing tax penalties from the government.

US Exports Add Up

Ever heard a line like, trade is vital to American agriculture? Or, agricultural trade is an important contributor to the nation’s economy?

We’ll bet you have. You may even have used these lines yourself.

But what are the facts behind these oft-repeated generalities? How does agricultural trade really measure up?

aaWe scrutinized the data and consulted trade analysts. Here are some of the answers we found — compiled in this special selection of ratings, rankings, top ten lists and other factual morsels that are worth a byte in any exporter’s laptop files.

In an age where numbers count and everyone likes to keep score, try one of these out at your next meeting, sales presentation or speech.

Note: Data are for calendar years, unless otherwise specified.

Meat Beats Steel

Dollar for dollar in 1999, the United States exported more meat than steel, more corn than cosmetics, more wheat than coal, more bakery products than motorboats, and more fruits and vegetables than household appliances. Agriculture generally ranks among the top six U.S. industry groups in export sales, accounting for about 7% of the nation’s total goods exports by value.

Best and Worst Years for Exports

In the last two decades, the best year for U.S. agricultural exports was fiscal 1996, when sales peaked at a record high of just under $60 billion. The worst year occurred a decade earlier in 1986 when nominal export value slumped to around $26 billion. U.S. agricultural exports in fiscal 1999 totaled $49 billion.

Nearly a Third of Crops Go Abroad

How important are foreign markets to U.S. agriculture? One measure is the export share of production. Although shares vary widely among different products, comparisons between production and export volumes confirm agriculture’s heavy reliance on global markets. For crops, the export share of production has averaged about 30% since 1992, reaching as high as 36% in 1995. For meats and other animal products, the export share is steadily increasing, topping 9% in 1997 and 1998. For all agricultural products as a group, foreign markets take about one-fifth of U.S. farm production.

Thinking Outside the Borders

America’s a big and prosperous market of 275 million people, but there are plenty more consumers beyond U.S. borders. In fact, 96% of the world’s more than 6 billion consumers can be found in other countries.

Ag Serves Up Steady Trade Surpluses

Agriculture continues to produce a trade surplus, as it has every year since the late 1950′s. It’s a welcome exception to the ever-growing U.S. merchandise trade deficit, which reached a record-high $346 billion last year. U.S. agricultural exports outpaced imports by nearly $11 billion in 1999. As recently as 1996, this surplus topped $27 billion. In the last four years, the United States exported nearly 16 times as much wheat by value as we imported, 19 times as much coarse grains, and 145 times as much soybeans. Over the same period, U.S. exports of red meats topped imports by 63% or an average $1.7 billion a year. For poultry meat, imports are negligible, while 1996-99 exports averaged $2.2 billion a year. Only in a few major product categories do imports exceed exports.

Exports Equal Jobs

Exports create jobs. For fiscal 1999, an estimated three-quarters of a million full-time U.S. jobs were related to the production, assembly, processing and distribution of U.S. agricultural products for export. Of this total, the majority — some 470,000 jobs — were off the farm.

No Contest for Top Export State — California Is No. 1

Measured by the value of state agricultural exports, California is king. In fiscal 1998, California exported an estimated $7.6 billion in farm and food products. No. 2 Iowa followed at $3.5 billion. In 18 states, agricultural exports accounted for $1 billion or more in sales. For all states, on average, exports accounted for 27% of farm cash receipts.

Consumer Products Set Growth Pace

Corn, wheat, soybeans and other bulk commodities used to dominate the trade picture, accounting for two-thirds or more of total U.S. agricultural exports. No more. Since the mid-1980s, the most rapid and consistent growth has been among consumer-oriented products–everything from meats to snacks, and fruits and vegetables to pet foods. This category ranked third in 1985, after bulk and intermediate products. By 1999, for the first time ever, consumer-oriented exports captured the lead, aided in part by depressed bulk commodity prices.

U.S. Still World’s Largest Exporter

sleThe United States remains the world’s largest exporter of agricultural products, followed by the European Union. The U.S. captured 18% of 1999 global agricultural trade, estimated at $270 billion. In other words, U.S. products account for about $1 out of every $5.50 in exports worldwide. Although our market share has been higher, that is not bad for a country with only 4% of global population, fewer than 1% of the farmers, and perhaps a tenth of the arable land area. Recent slippage in the U.S. market share reflects a strong dollar, weakness in major U.S. markets and intense foreign competition in grains and oilseeds.

Big Markets Begin With Japan

Despite a $2.8-billion drop in purchases of U.S. agricultural products since 1996, Japan retains its long-held position as our leading export market. Its spending on U.S. grains, meats, fruits and vegetables, and other farm products totaled $8.9 billion in 1999. Canada followed with a record $7.1 billion in purchases, bypassing the 15-nation European Union at $6.4 billion. Mexico was fourth at $5.6 billion, and South Korea completed the top five. Back in 1979, Asia replaced Western Europe as our largest regional market, but much recent attention has focused on our North American neighbors. NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico together bought $12.7 billion in U.S. farm products last year.

Will Investors Consider A Strong Ag Concern For Their Capital?

Capital not only won’t consider agriculture, as now structured, in the future, it will “flee” the industry, he said.

acCooper and Zell, in remarks to the agribusiness leaders and interviews with Feedstuffs, said agriculture can’t succeed as an industry in which thousands of producers make independent, individual decisions about what they can produce based on their productive resources rather than on what they can add value to and sell. The industry’s structure must become “dramatically and profoundly” different, they said.

Cooper and Zell spoke to the agribusiness leaders at the 10th annual conference of the International Food & Agribusiness Management Assn. (IAMA), which includes management from private, public and cooperative agriculture businesses, economists from the academic and private sectors and policy-makers.

Cooper: Fewer producers must add more value to production

Cooper said the new economy decoupled commodity prices from inflation as the U.S. economy — with a core inflation of 2.5% — has deflated, and businesses are forced to hold the line on price increases. Accordingly, she said agriculture has lost one of the industry’s main means of raising prices, i.e., inflation.

Furthermore, agriculture commodities have always been cyclical but, for 200 years, have decreased more on the down cycle than they have increased on the up side, she said. This has become even more extreme in today’s deflated economy and with today’s productivity and technology in which production has increased so much faster than demand that demand is muted next to output.

Indeed, agriculture’s share of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) has decreased from 13% in 1920 to less than 2% today, she said, a trend that’s occurring in every developed country in the world. “Only the least-developed economies have a large part of their GDP devoted to food,” she said.

Farm income has not kept pace with the rest of the U.S. economy because government subsidies have encouraged farmers and livestock producers to continue to produce, and technology has permitted them to produce too much, Cooper said. Now, the economy is moving to even greater deflationary pressure in which business-to-business and business-to-consumer commerce is accelerating, she said, and e-commerce will bring even more increased productivity and reduced costs into transactions, aggravating agriculture’s plight.

acpE-commerce will drive efficiencies and lower prices by eliminating from transactions all business segments that cannot add value to production, she said, including middle-man segments and producers themselves. “Prices are going to continue falling in sector after sector,” and business segments must add value to make products and services worth more to accommodate or recover from lower prices, she said.

However, Cooper emphasized that, for agriculture, it’s not just adding value but decreasing and restructuring the production base so farming and production decisions are made by fewer participants, with resources and scale to capture economies and, then, increase value.

“It’s politically incorrect to say this,” Cooper told Feedstuffs, because farming and food production are held so sacredly in the U.S. and worldwide. “Farmers are critical to human well-being,” she said.

However, the reality of the situation is productivity is increasing, and will continue to increase, so fast that fewer and fewer producers are and will be needed to produce the world’s food requirements, she said. To not consolidate and rationalize production, she said, would be to keep agriculture outside the new economy and poor.

Zell: Fewer producers must compete for more capital

Zell drove the same tractor. Agriculture has always been an industry of too many producers, he said, and because of this, it has always been an iudustry that captures its profits and ROI at cyclical peaks and hands returns back at cyclical lows.

Peaks are based on asset liquidation, and exit of producers and downturns start as producers rebuild assets, he said, but given today’s astounding growth in productivity, peaks are ending sooner and downturns are lasting longer. This is affecting investment in the industry, he said.

Historically, investment in agriculture has been timed for the upturns to capture ROI at the tops and then be pulled out on the downturns, Zell said. Agriculture, therefore, has never “had to compete” for capital, for investment, he said.

In the 21st century economy, however, capital demands higher ROI at less risk, an investment scenario agriculture cannot provide. Moreover, agriculture has relied on and sought artificial price supports and political fixes for all its problems, he said, and capital finds that kind of “management” too risky.

“Capital has choices,” Zell said, especially in the new economy’s communications and other technology sectors, where capital is managed better and provides higher and steadier ROI. “It’s likely that there will be a major reduction in capital flow to agriculture,” he said. “There will be a flight of capital from agriculture.”

Agriculture will have “to compete for capital,” he said, “but the current industry (production) is too speculative. It needs to be more accountable (to capital) and less politicized, and it needs superior management” to get that way.

For that to happen, he said, there needs to be “rapid” consolidation and rationalization to respond to excess supplies, low prices, a need for more value, political disruption, risks and cycles. “There are too many producers” making too many production decisions in agriculture today, he said.

Zell explained to Feedstuffs that, without a capital flow into the industry, producers who can’t finance their farms and ranches through cash flow will have to exit production or find alternative means to farm and/or produce livestock. He said this process will rationalize decision-making into larger operations that can compete for capital through production strategies that balance demand and supplies and produce value-added products with higher and more steady returns, which will attract investment back into the industry.

“Consolidation, if done well, will turn this industry into one that can get capital and participate in the new economy,” he said.

Does Europe’s Agri-Policy Make Sense?

deapPoliticians have long justified the existence and maintenance of agriculture policies on the grounds that they protect the incomes of small and family business-type farms, thus sustaining all the multifarious functions of agriculture and rural policy.

Indeed, the maintenance of current policies which are now increasingly based on direct subsidisation, is being justified in Europe and other developed counties outside Europe on the grounds that it will favour the less geographically and economically advantaged in maintaining an agriculture capable of serving a number of socially, environmentally and economically desirable functions.

The reality is however that current policies are not performing these functions. They are not doing so for the simple reason that direct subsidies based on specific forms of production — as are the European Union‘s compensatory payments – must inevitably maintain the present type of production and, seen from a social and economic point of view, favour the large and prosperous over the smaller and less prosperous. More importantly from a broader perspective, they are geographically disproportionate and work against perceived environmental and social policy objectives.

Richest farmers get most subsidy

A recent OECD Policy Brief [*] summed up the inadequacies of current EU and other developed country farm policies as follows:

“At present only about 25 cents of every dollar spent on producer support actually finds its way into the producer’s pocket. The balance of the support is either capitalised into asset values, particularly land, or is transferred up or down the food chain to input suppliers or processors and distributors.

“Further, since support policies in most countries are based on prices, output or area planted, it follows that the largest – and often most productive and profitable – farmers benefit the most from present policies. The largest farms (i.e. the 25% of farms with the highest annual sales) generally receive more than half, and as much as 90%, of support provided by governments.”

The level of subsidy dependency created by these policies can be judged from the OECD conclusion that the share of support in farm income or net operating income is high in almost all developed countries, with the notable exception of Australia and New Zealand where subsidies have been trimmed to a minimum. In the European Union, Japan and Switzerland, it bizarrely exceeds 100%. While this indicates that the income of the largest 25% of farms would be negative, it also suggests the degree of adjustment needed to return to a more rational policy based on the market.

Farm incomes exceed urban incomes

What is more, current policies do not, as is often claimed, maintain equity between rural and urban areas. The OECD points out that those farms which benefit most from subsidies “are generally characterised by both higher household incomes and higher net worth than that of the average consumer and tax-payer who finances these transfers.”

Among EU countries comparable average farm incomes were substantially higher than urban household incomes in Belgium, France, Denmark and the Netherlands — in the latter country close to two and a half times higher. “Current policies tend to benefit a few large producers more so than the many small and medium-sized producers. This is true even of the emergency, ad hoc measures recently employed, few of which were specifically targeted or tailored to income needs.”

Policy inequities revealed

An earlier OECD study [**] demonstrated clearly the inequity of present support policies, particularly those operating in the European Union. It concluded that:

a) In all categories of farming, the distribution of the benefit of market price support follows that of output — the larger the farm the greater the share of market support – despite slight differences due to differences in product mix of farms;

b) On average, direct payments do achieve slightly more equal distribution than market price support, reflecting the continuing strong link between most direct payments and production or the factors of production. (There are some targeted payments whose distribution is inversely related to size, but they are minimal set against support as a whole);

c) Support is slightly more equally distributed across farm size than output.

d) Differences in output, support and income across regions are less than those across farm types or size classes.

e) Over the last ten years, the distribution of output, support and income in the countries reviewed shows little change: it has become slightly more unequal in Denmark and New Zealand, and a little more equal in Finland and Japan.

f) Because the distribution of support is close to that of output, the largest farms, and hence the most prosperous ones, are the main beneficiaries. In this sense, support is inequitable. At the same time, support overall in most countries has an (only slight) redistributional effect on income by farm size because, as mentioned above, its distribution is slightly more equal than output.

g) Support tends to increase income disparities between farm types

h) Small farms are more dependent on support than large ones, even though they receive only a small proportion of total support.

The calculations show that the largest farmers receive the largest share of the benefit from market support and subsidy. The top 25% of farms in terms of gross sales have a 40 to 75% share of total agricultural output, and their share of market price support ranges from 43 to 79%. The actual share varies according to the degree of specialisation and the level of support for each commodity.

The percentage share of total direct payments received by the top quarter ranges from 26 to 65% always lower than the group’s contribution to output, but to a relatively minor extent. This reflects the fact that most direct payments paid to producers in OECD countries are still tied to production levels or input use or both.

Income/support relationship in EU

dfIn the European Union, the OECD looked at the income and subsidy relationship in the four main types of farm: arable farms, cattle farms, dairy farms and intensive pig and poultry, covering respectively 31, 12, l4 and l4% of the total.

Output and support are markedly more concentrated in arable farms than in the various types of livestock farm, among which there is a very similar distribution profile. The share of direct payments in total support is highest for arable farms owing to the importance of area payments. Direct payments account for the lowest share of total support for dairy farms since these farms receive even more market price support than the farm average and the other farm types. Overall, dairy farms receive twice the average support, while non-dairy cattle farms receive a little more than average.

The OECD concludes that; “Even if support achieves its objectives with regard to income, it does not do so cost-effectively or equitably. Thus providing support in order to limit the incidence of low incomes in the sector when the bulk of that support goes to the largest farms, is more expensive than providing income supplements only to those households that really need them.

“Similarly, in order to reduce income disparities in the sector, measures targeting less favoured farms would be more cost-effective. Moreover, concentrating support on the largest farms does not encourage them to improve performance and hence has a cost in terms of the sector’s economic efficiency.”

Targeted social policies needed

Overall, this study suggests that targeted social policies would be much more appropriate as a way of limiting the incidence of low incomes among farm households.

These figures make nonsense of the EU strategy of maintaining and strengthening the compensatory payment system and defending in the WTO and elsewhere its continuation on the grounds of the multifunctionality of agriculture in the European economy and society. Specifically targeted subsidies detached from production would, as the OECD emphasises throughout this analysis, more effectively achieve those objectives.

Price To Subsidy Link Cited With Supply Issues

Governmental support of agriculture rises when markets fall, and appears to diminish when prices rise. Given the intractability of developed country governments in their determination to support agriculture when reason dictates that such support should have long since been abandoned, this phenomenon is hardly surprising.

ptslcThe latest Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development analysis of levels of support to agriculture [*] confirms this unsurprising relationship (see also article in European Policy News section this issue). With a 35% plus fall in world agricultural commodity prices between 1997 and 1999, the proportion of farm incomes in OECD countries coming from either taxpayer or consumer support (the ‘Producer Subsidy Estimate’ or PSE) has returned to a level as high as that of the mid-1980s.

“Overall, support to producers, as measured by the percentage PSE, was at about the same level in the 1997-99 period as in 1986-88,” the OECD concludes most damningly.

The cost of agriculture policies to consumers and taxpayers remains undiminished. The total subsidy to agriculture in the OECD member countries including consumer transfers amounted to US$361 billion ([epsilon]339 billion) in 1999, with growth since 1996 at a similar rate as GDP in the OECD area, so that the percentage share of total support in GDP (the %TSE) has been stable at 1.4%.

Farm support back at mid-1908s levels

“Support to producers has mounted steadily over the last three years: rising from 31% of total gross farm receipts in 1997 to 40% in 1999 — and is now, in percentage terms, back to where it was in the mid-1980s,” the OECD reports. “Falling world prices for the main agricultural commodities, which were only partially matched by reductions in domestic prices, explain most of the increase, although direct payments also increased somewhat. On average across the OECD, total farm gross receipts were 66% higher than they would have been had all producers sold their produce at world market prices and received no budgetary support.”

The form of agriculture policies in the European Union, the United States and most other developed countries may have changed as a result of the ‘reforms’ of the 1990s, but the effect has not. Farm incomes of the most advantaged agricultural households (the largest farms on the best land) are consistently maintained at levels above national average by government support and intervention in markets.

Consumers, or consumers qua taxpayers, this latest reports confirms, continue to carry as large a burden for supporting agriculture in the late 1990s as they did in the 1980s. The commodity slump of the last three years has clearly revealed that the generous safety-net to agricultural incomes is still very much in existence: as the returns to the market decline so the proportion of incomes resulting from market manipulation and subsidies from the taxpayer rises.

“The upward movement in support to agriculture, first evident in 1998, continued in 1999, with support reaching the high levels of a decade earlier,” says the report. But the situation has in fact been made worse by the inability of governments to resist the pressures from the agricultural interest for increased handouts from the public purse.

Policies “inconsistent with reform”

“Low world commodity prices, and the resulting pressure they put on farm incomes, led many OECD countries to introduce new measures or to provide additional support to farmers. The ways in which these measures were implemented were, in many cases, inconsistent with the longer-term principles of agricultural policy reform.”

As commodity prices continued to fall, the level of support to agriculture increased again in 1999: total support to agriculture in the OECD countries rose by almost 3% compared with the previous year, to an estimated US$361 billion in 1999 – equivalent to 1.4% of GDP on average over the OECD area. Of this total, 80% went to agricultural producers individually.

Most of the burden of support continues to be carried by consumers: “Despite consumer subsidies being provided in a few countries, OECD consumers of primary farm commodities were implicitly taxed, through the surcharge created by market price support policies. Two-thirds of total support to agriculture was financed by consumers, with taxpayers picking up the remainder of the bill.”

Traditional subsidies still dominate

tasmAccording to the OECD’s analysis the traditional agricultural support mechanisms are still the key forms of protection. “Market price support and output-related payments still dominated: around two-thirds of support to producers was provided via market price support in 1999; budgetary payments based on output provided another 6%. Together, these two forms of support, which are among the most production-and trade-distorting, accounted for almost three-quarters of producer support. Payments triggered by a farm income criterion increased in absolute terms, but still accounted for a small fraction of total support to producers.”

Despite the 1994 Uruguay Round Agreement, trade barriers have had to be modified to protect these still highly expensive and market distorting domestic policies. “Trade barriers are falling, but agricultural markets are still distorted,” says the OECD. “The URA, with its disciplines on market access, export subsidies and domestic support, provided a framework for opening up trade in agricultural products. Implementation of these commitments in 1999 — as in every year since the URAA went into effect in 1995 — has helped further integrate agriculture into the multilateral trading system. But many trade distortions remain. As well, some countries raised applied tariffs for some commodities in 1999, and several made greater use of export subsidies, export credits or other export-enhancing policies to encourage the disposal of domestic supplies on foreign markets, thereby further distorting trade.”

There has been little or no reduction in the distortionary impact of agriculture policies. “Production-linked support is not cost-effective or equitable as a means of maintaining or enhancing farm household income,” the Organisation points out. “In particular, the transfer efficiency of market price support with respect to income is relatively low, much of it being used to purchase inputs, or capitalised into asset values (thus raising production costs over time). Similar conclusions could be drawn for support that has a significant impact on production. In addition, providing support, the bulk of which goes to the largest farms, in order to limit the incidence of low incomes in the sector, is much more expensive than providing income supplements only to those households that do not attain a certain minimum income level.”

The OECD’s analysis show that in some cases income will be transferred from lower-income consumers and taxpayers to higher-income farm households. It argues that in order to reduce income disparities in the agricultural sector itself, measures targeting farms with low incomes would be more cost-effective. “Targeted social policies would be much more appropriate as a way of limiting the incidence of low incomes among farm households.”

EU PSE shoots up

As far as the European Union is concerned, support to producers, as measured by the % PSE, was at about the same level in 1997-99 as in 1986-88. The % PSE had fallen sharply in 1996 and 1997 not because of the effects of the 1992 CAP reforms — as claimed by the European Commission — but because of the reduction in actual market price support due to high world prices.

In 1999, according to provisional estimates, the EU’s total percentage PSE increased by 4 percentage points to 49%. This is some nine percentage points higher than the OECD average.

The EU’s support system is particularly demonstrative of the principle that in highly protectionist policies the proportion of consumer and taxpayer transfers in total income rises as world prices fall. In 1999 there was a sharp fall in both domestic producer prices and world prices. Market price support consequently continued to account for about 63 % of total support. Gross farm receipts (including support) were 95% greater than what they would have been without any support, the OECD calculates.

Some relief for consumers

At least the move towards area and headage payments, and away from market price support as a result of the 1992 CAP reform, has led to a significant decline over time in the effective tax on consumers, as measured by the consumer subsidy estimate (CSE). This has however been more than replaced by taxpayer transfers.

Nonetheless the consumer burden of the CAP remains high. According to the OECD’s figures consumers paid on average 57 % more than they would have in the absence of market price support to producers.

Food Safety, The WTO And Europe: A Good Ol’ Party

fsThe European Union’s recent submission to the World Trade Organisation negotiations on farm trade liberalisation dealing with the issue of animal welfare (see AE1907, 30.6.00, EP/4) is symptomatic of the growing concern in the European agriculture industry that the increasing burden of animal welfare and environmental costs on the livestock industry is not being reflected in international trade regulations. The animal welfare issue is only part of the non-trade – but trade related – objections to complete liberalisation which the EU can be expected to raise during the course of the negotiation.

There is little doubt that the European livestock industry now feels seriously threatened by what it regards as ‘unfair competition’ from producers outside the EU whom it believes are not carrying the same levels of production standard and marketing costs. The European Commission’s submissions to the WTO can be expected to reflect these fears.

The livestock industry feels particularly threatened by the growing demands from consumers and the food trade for tougher animal welfare rules; the resulting legislation is undoubtedly a source of increased costs. It is for this reason that the Commission has compiled and is about to publish a report on animal welfare legislation in non-EU exporters who supply the EU with animal products.

Consumers demanding to be informed

In its WTO submission, the Commission points out that: “There is an increasing awareness among consumers and producers about the effects that breeding and farming techniques may have on animals, on their health and welfare and, not least, on the environment. More and more, consumers claim their right to make informed choice between products, including products produced to different welfare standards. To enable them to make such a choice they want to be informed about how farm animals are kept, transported and slaughtered. The producers, on whom such demands are made, want a stable and coherent basis on which to provide such information.”

The Commission argues that “There is a growing concern along consumers, producers, as well as welfare organisations, that while the WTO is working to enhance the framework for the liberalisation of international trade, which is the primary purpose of the WTO, the WTO does not provide a framework within which to address animal welfare issues. They particularly fear that in the absence of such a framework, animal welfare standards, notably those concerning farm animal welfare, could be undermined if there is no way of ensuring that agricultural and food products produced to domestic animal welfare standards are not simply replaced by imports produced to lower standards.”

This concern with the way livestock-based foods are produced extends not only to the welfare of the animals but also of course to the safeness, or otherwise, of the meat and dairy products which are supplied to the market.

Traceability is key issue

The long list of food safety ‘scares’ in Europe during the 1990s have fuelled increasing consumer concern and therefore stimulated the increasing need to ensure that all contributors to the delivery of food to the consumer are made responsible for their role in production, processing and handling of food. This has inevitably meant that the source of any consignment and the hands through which it passes must be traceable, with increasing costs to the producer.

Even before the BSE, salmonella, listeria and food contamination scares of the past decade, traceability was already pre-occupying the retail food trade, with major supermarket chains in Europe insisting that their supplies should be traceable right back to the farm.

Increasingly, supermarkets want to be able to refer back to the slaughterhouse, the dairy, the processing and packing plant via product codes, which could then allow them to trace the product back to the day on which the animal was slaughtered, the livestock handler, and the farm of origin, or a product processed or packed. This allows supermarkets to pass on responsibility for any food scare or quality complaint.

With between 50 and 70% of the European Union’s s food trade now controlled by the supermarkets (depending on member state), farmers have been increasingly forced to participate in costly traceability schemes.

This has serious implications for overseas suppliers of the European market. As their costs of marketing increase as a result of these demands from the food marketing chain, EU farmers are insisting that the same restrictions and conditions should be imposed on all food imports.

White Paper objectives

fswThis aspect of food safety is a major feature of the recent White Paper on future food safety legislation published by the Commission. Control of food quality and purity ‘from plough to plate’, or from ‘stable to table’, is a major objective of this legislative programme.

The objective of the White Paper on food safety, in the Commission’s words, “is to achieve the highest possible level of consumer health protection in the food sector throughout Europe. The guiding principle is that food safety must be underpinned by a comprehensive, integrated approach.” Inevitably, this loads increased costs onto the producer.

The White Paper promises an intensification of this process. Besides the establishment of a European Food Authority, as a cornerstone of the proposed strategy, the Commission envisages a programme of more than 24 legislative measures being approved over the next three years, “consolidating the principles of food safety such as the responsibility of feed manufacturers, the traceability of products, risk analysis and application of the precautionary principle.”

In addition to the disease and contamination aspects of food safety, consumer pressures are increasingly demanding that such aspects as standards on animal welfare, pesticide use, and environmental acceptability should form important parts of food retailers’ requirements from their producer suppliers. In the battle for market share supermarkets want to be able to reassure their customers about the way in which the food they sell is produced and how animals used in food production are treated.

As the supermarkets’ need to meet consumers concerns grows, so the requirement for influence and control over food production methods grows. This has stimulated the proliferation of farm assurance schemes and protocols throughout the EU.

The pre-occupation with the need for traceability is most noticeable in the European livestock industry, with rapid growth of farm assurance schemes throughout the 1990s. These schemes lay down conditions on such all-encompassing factors as origin of stock, feed composition and storage, housing and handling facilities and medicines and veterinary treatments. In Germany, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK, such schemes now cover almost all the food supplied to major retail chains. Farmers are not convinced that the same standards are being applied to exporting countries supplying the European market.

WTO recognition for qualitative issues

Hence the Commission’s complaint in its WTO submission: “When a country provides for animal welfare standards that go beyond those applied by other trading partners, this can have a number of effects. Consumers may not be provided with coherent information on the welfare standards to which imported products are produced, and domestic producers may be economically disadvantaged.”

The Commission suggests to the WTO a number of ways in which animal welfare considerations could be incorporated in trade agreements. These could include the development of multilateral agreements dealing with the protection of animal welfare; appropriate labelling, showing that products have been produced in compliance with agreed animal welfare standards; and the legitimising of the payment of compensation for meeting animal welfare standards which cannot be recovered from the market.

On this latter point, the Commission says: “High animal welfare standards can increase costs to producers over and above any possible increased returns from the market. Trade liberalisation can exacerbate this effect and lead to unequal conditions of competition, and even to drive down welfare standards in exporting countries. This could fuel opposition to trade liberalisation and the WTO. It may therefore be necessary to consider whether it would be legitimate to provide for some sort of compensation to contribute to the additional costs where it can be clearly shown that these additional costs stem directly from the higher standards in question.”

While there are undoubtedly elements of traditional European protectionism in its position on the animal welfare issue, it does also contain important strands which reflect the genuine concerns of European consumers about animal welfare and which also echo the broader international concerns of many of the pressure groups present at Seattle last November. Food health and safety, biotechnology and environmental safeguards are all related issues which, while being treated sceptically by official negotiators, can be expected to receive wide general public approval.