DP287 The National Security Argument for Agricultural Protection

Author(s): L. Alan Winters
Publication Date: November 1988
Keyword(s): Agricultural Policy, Agricultural Trade, Embargoes, National Security
JEL(s): 114, 421, 713
Programme Areas: International Trade and Regional Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=287

Agricultural support is often advocated as a means to national security. This is misguided. At current levels of consumption there is considerable scope for substitution away from food without catastrophic welfare losses, and even in the total absence of imports the United Kingdom could feed itself. Oil and chemical inputs into agriculture are probably more vulnerable to embargo than food, there having been virtually no past instances of successful food embargoes. If a food embargo is felt likely, the correct policy response would be to store food for the short run and agricultural inputs -- especially natural fertility -- to allow a rapid expansion of output in the longer run. Current 'high price, high output' agricultural policies increase dependence on vulnerable inputs (energy) and exhaust the soil. They probably reduce national security.