82248 - Agricultural and Food Policy

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The course reviews the political landscape of food and farming development in developed and developing countries. Policy initiatives by national governments can operate in coordination or conflict with private companies and corporations, international organizations, NGOs. At the end of the integrated course the student is able to: - identify the different stakeholders operating the food and farming sectors; - understand and evaluate objectives, policy instruments and strategies that characterize an agricultural policy; - identify public policies that address food waste prevention and reduction in developing and developed countries; - to outline sustainable food and farming policy options, the implications of these policies for institutions, and their potential impacts on the food system; - to analyze the policy formation and implementation processes in different countries, and evaluate costs and benefits of sustainable food and agricultural policies.

Course contents

Setting the context (4 hours)

Agricultural, food and rural economics: basic elements. The role of governments in food and agriculture; Governments, versus corporations, versus non-governmental organizations; Policy objectives: from addressing market failures to food security to rent seeking; Agriculture and natural resources; Sustainability and circular economy.

The politics of farm subsidies (2 hours)

Why do farm subsidies persist? How agricultural subsidies changed over the years? Who is helped by farm subsidies, and who is hurt?

EU farm and food policies: a brief history (2 hours)

The evolution of the Common Agricultural Policy; Current EU farm commodity programs: policies and implications.

From supermarkets to alternative food networks

Do food companies control food policy? The raise of supermarkets. Alternative food networks and city-region food systems. The role of urban food policies.

The food we eat (2 hours)

Fast food: fast food taxation and regulations in US and EU. Organic, local, and slow food: consumer preferences, business decisions and government policies. Agriculture, food and nutrition.

Trade policies (8 hours)

Measures for protection and trade distortions; Analysing markets: what to look for; Importer and exporter policies: basic analytical tools; WTO: Uruguay round, boxes of support, Doha and other trade negotiations.

US farm and food policies: a brief history (2 hours)

The evolution of the Farm Bill; Current US farm commodity programs: policies and implications.

Food security, nutrition and food waste (6 hours)

Food security: definitions, the 2008 World Food Crisis, international responses to hunger; Food and nutrition programmes; Food waste: definition and quantification, Economic, technical, social and institutional drivers of food waste, economic behaviour of businesses and consumers with respect to food waste, innovation addressing food loss and waste reduction, policy interventions addressing food loss and waste reduction.

Emerging food and agricultural policies (2 hours)

How to feed the world in 2050?

NB: IMPORTANT: The students from the Laurea Magistrale in Sviluppo locale e globale and the students from the Laurea Magistrale in Scienze e gestione della natura should contact the lecturer before the beginning of the Integrated Course (september)



James P. Houck. Elements of Agricultural Trade Policies. Prospect Heights, Illinois: Waveland Press, 1986 (selected chapters).

Bruce L. Gardner. The Economics of Agricultural Policies. New York: Macmillan, 1988 (selected chapters).

Robert Paarlberg. Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013 (Chapters 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 11, 14, 15).

Additional readings:

Patrick Westhoff. The Economics of Food. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: FT Press/Pearson Education, 2010.

Tim Lang. Food Wars: the Global Battle for Mouths, Minds and Markets. Routledge, 2015 (selected chapters).

The first two of these books may seem dated, but they are the work of two late, great agricultural economists and provide solid, succinct explanations of the economics underlying agricultural, trade and rural policies. The latter three are more recent and are written for a general audience.

To provide a more current view of policy issues, we will assign readings from other publications, including academic journals, government and international agency publications, and even clippings from the popular press.

Specific reading will be provided by the lectuers during class.

Teaching methods

Front loaded and active learning methodologies; group and individual exercises; seminars and case studies.

Assessment methods

Students who attended at least 70% of the lectures will be required to produce a review/policy paper of around 4000 words. A concept note of the review/policy paper will be presented and discussed during the class. The final version of the policy paper will be presented and discussed during the exam after the end of the class. The paper should be submitted at least three working days in advance.

The final grade for the module will be calculated thusly:

  • In class grade: policy brief, case analysis, articles revision and discussion, and other class activities (40% approximately)
  • Policy paper preparation and discussion (60% approximately)

Non attending students will be requested to take an oral exam and to produce a review/policy paper of around 4000 words. The review/policy paper will be presented and discussed with the lecturer. The oral exam will start from the discussion on the paper and it will consist of questions related to the course material. The topic of the policy paper should be agreed with the lecturer.

The final grade will be calculated thusly:

  • Policy paper preparation and discussion (40% approximately)
  • Oral (60% approximately)

Teaching tools

Laptop, beamer, flipchart, others.

Office hours

See the website of Matteo Vittuari

See the website of William Henry Meyers


No poverty Zero hunger Sustainable cities Responsible consumption and production

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.