88211 - Agricultural Policy Evaluation

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in International Horticultural Science (cod. 8883)

Course contents

Agricultural policy evaluation (3 ECTS): public policy is the action taken by government to address specific societal challenges. Local, regional, national, and international government organizations all craft and implement public policy to protect and benefit their populations addressing particular issues with a common long-term goal.

Agricultural and food systems remain key sectors in any society (post-industrial societies, newly industrialized countries, emerging economies, low income countries) and they are strongly shaped by government actions in response to human needs, domestic and international pressures, social changes, climatic events. This module is aimed at analyzing public policies in agricultural and food systems.

The course will:

  • define public policy and agricultural and food policy;
  • discuss the role of agricultural and food policies;
  • outline the policy process and the policy analysis evaluation framework;
  • define the critical elements to conduct sound policy analysis (and design/implement sound policies);
  • present a set of methodologies to conduct policy analysis;
  • provide knowledge to organize and develop a short policy paper.

Unit 1 Setting the context

Agricultural and food economics: basic elements. What is public policy; The role of governments in food and agriculture; The policy process: problem identification, agenda setting, policy development, policy implementation; Institutional and non-institutional actors; 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.

Unit 2 The politics of farm subsidies

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

Unit 3 Policy evaluation

Define the problem; Assemble some evidence; Construct the alternatives; Select the criteria; Project the outcomes; Confront the tradeoffs; Decide; Tell your story.

Unit 4 Case studies

Case studies change every year depending also on student’s interests. Some of the cases will be identified jointly with the class. In the previous years case studies included: Food waste: definition, quantification and policy interventions; Life Cycle Costing of horticultural products; Rural crossroads: challenges and opportunities for rural development (workshop); The food-water-energy nexus: what policy can do (workshop); Agricultural and rural development policies in Moldova; Migrations, climate change and agriculture; CRFS for more resilient and sustainable food systems; Development evaluation practices and approaches: the case of the World Food Programme; Agricultural and environmental policy challenges in Costarica.


Eugene Bardach (2012), A Practical Guide to Policy Analysis: The Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem Solving, Chatham House Publishers, Seven Bridges Press.

Robert Paarlberg (2013), Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Other material will be indicated during classes.

Teaching methods

The module is divided in 4 units and is based on face to face lectures, assignments and group discussions. Group projects areused extensively. Specific case studies will be presented and discussed during the classes in order to enhance participation. An active learning approach is utilized also to evaluate and discuss papers, reports, strategies and policy briefs. Participants are requested to prepare a final policy paper (approximately 4000 words). More information regarding assignments will be provided during classes.

Assessment methods

Attending students who attended at least 70% of the lectures will be required to produce a policy paper of around 4000 words. A concept note of the 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 before the date of the exam.

The final grade for the module will be calculated thusly:

  • In class grade (max 10 points): policy brief and article revision and discussion (max 3 points), concept note discussion (max 5 points), other class activities (max 4 points)
  • Policy paper preparation and discussion (max 20 points)

Non attending students will be requested to produce a policy paper of around 4000 words and take an oral exam where they should present their paper and answer to two questions focusing on the programme (slides and suggested books). The topic of the policy paper should be agreed with the lecturer.

The final grade for the module will be calculated thusly:

  • Quality of the answers to the two questions about the programme (max 14 points)
  • Policy paper preparation and discussion (max 18 points)

Teaching tools

Teaching materials (slides, scientific articles, and grey literature) made available on-line.

Office hours

See the website of Matteo Vittuari


Zero hunger Affordable and clean energy Responsible consumption and production Climate Action

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