Continuity and Change in Agri-Food Policy: Reform Dynamics, Resilience and Post-Exceptionalist Modes of Governance
Endorsed by the ECPR Research Network on Food Policy and Governance
KEY WORDS: Agri-Food Policy, Environmental Policy, Policy Analysis, Policy Integration, Resilience, Governance
The agri-food sector is a critical component of national economies and a regulatory and policy hotspot. Recent years have seen a dramatic expansion of policies and substantial change of existing policies to meet new political demands in the agri-food domain. The policy changes have resulted in new domestic and global policy actors being mobilized, new alliances being formed, and new ideas being brought into cross-sectoral governance. At the same time, policies have displayed a significant degree of continuity at the level of underlying agricultural policy paradigms (Alons 2019; Daugbjerg et al 2017). While it has been increasingly difficult for farm interests to defend the idea of agricultural exceptionalism and the need for special policy treatment, the exceptionalist legacy still sticks in the form of post-exceptionalism. The concept of post-exceptionalism denotes a “partial transformation in which an exceptionalist policy sector has not been completely ‘normalized’ and in which old and new ideas, institutions, interests and policy instruments coexist” (Daugbjerg & Feindt 2017). While the concept has proved capable of diagnosing agri-food policies in the 21st century, the theoretical challenge remains to explain the reform process dynamics simultaneously resulting in stability and change.
Food and agricultural policies are at the centre of many global sustainability challenges. A defining feature of current food and agricultural policies are cross-sectoral arrangements that constitute new policy inter-linkages between agri-food issues and other policy domains like environment and climate change, energy, water, public health, animal welfare, bio-technology, development, trade, security, international politics, and migration. This has created various challenges for cross-sectoral policy integration and resulted in new governance modes emerging at local, regional and national level as well as at the European and global level. The concept of the bio-economy aims to capture many of these interdependencies. There is an increasing demand for theoretical and empirical research on the relationships among the components of cross-sectoral governance arrangements, their potential for policy integration resulting in coordinated and coherent sets of policies.
The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted vulnerabilities and resilience in the existing food system, not least in relation to global food supply chains. Though agriculture is neither the cause of nor a potential solution to the Covid-19 crisis, the agri-food sector has been portrayed as a victim of the pandemic, and this could potentially be used as political justification for returning to more exceptionalism. Moreover, many food systems face challenges from transboundary threats, ranging from climate change and extreme weather conditions to transboundary diseases, increased migration and urbanization. Agri-food technology change promises benefits for addressing such threats, but simultaneously fuels new sector interlinkages and nexus governance challenges (Schwindenhammer & Gonglach, 2021) and, ultimately, the rise of new and potentially contested modes of governance (Schwindenhammer, 2020).
This section invites papers on three sub-topics:
1. Reform dynamics
Panel Chair(s): Gerry Alons and Carsten Daugbjerg
Existing agricultural and food policies are increasingly scrutinized and considered for reform. This is the result of changed priorities within civil society, increased mobilization of and access for a wider range of interests with respect to food governance, and augmented salience of aspects of agricultural and food policies. Moreover, current reform dynamics have to deal with increasing nationalist sentiments and geo-political considerations, such as international dependencies which make food yet again a strategic product. Under this sub-topic, we welcome papers addressing reform dynamics in past and ongoing reform efforts (e.g. the currently negotiated new CAP reform): How can we explain elements of continuity and change? How can the interplay between old and new regulatory instruments be characterized? How do experiences with previous policies feed back into current reform dynamics?
2. Resilience in agricultural policy and food governance
Panel Chair(s): Peter Feindt and Jale Tosun
A broad range of challenges at various spatial and temporal scales – including climate change, structural changes in economic systems, bio-security issues, demographic change and urbanisation – have pushed concerns about the resilience of agri-food systems to the centre of agri-food policy. This sub-topic addresses the issue of resilience at different levels: resilience of food governance and policy instruments; farming systems and farming practices; and the broader bio-economy. Which dimensions of resilience are at stake and to what extent? Are existing systems robust? Where is adaptation or even transformation required and how is this facilitated or inhibited by the increasing salience of the resilience concept and the ‘bio-economy’ perspective? We invite papers that combine conceptual reflections and empirical insights to address this debate.
3. Technology change and new modes of agri-food governance
Panel Chair(s): Sandra Schwindenhammer and Colette Vogeler
Transboundary food-system threats fuel the development of new agri-food technologies and related new, hybrid and cross-sectional regulatory regimes. Such regimes include new actors (public and private), concepts, and discourses around agricultural sustainability and changing views and conflicts about new policy issues, such as the use of food engineering and novel and digital agricultural technologies (GMO, new molecular breeding technologies, or precision farming technologies). There is a need for innovative analytical approaches to conceptualize and assess the role of new regulatory regimes related to technology change in the agri-food sector. We are particularly interested in contributions that deal with new governance modes that affect both production processes and opportunities, and implementation and control mechanisms. How do opportunities for regulation and monitoring expand? What are potential implications for regulators, implementing agencies and producers? We invite papers that address these new developments and enlighten our understanding of them by means of existing and new analytical approaches.
Alons, G.C. (in press). The advantage of paradigmatic contestation in shaping and selling public policies. Journal of Public Policy. doi: 10.1017/S0143814X19000060
Daugbjerg, C., Farsund, A.A., and Langhelle, O. (2017) The resilience of paradigm mixes: food security in a post-exceptionalist trade regime. Journal of European Public Policy, 24(11): 1698-1715.
Daugbjerg, C., and Feindt, P. (2017) Post-exceptionalism in public policy: transforming food and agricultural policy. Journal of European Public Policy, 24(11): 1565-1584.
Schwindenhammer, S. (2020) The rise, regulation and risks of genetically modified insect technology in global agriculture. Science, Technology and Society, 25(1): 124-141.