Fertile soil is one of the basic building blocks of agricultural productivity. In order for crops to grow properly, soils need to contain the proper nutrients; unfortunately in many areas of the world, soils have become depleted of their nutrients, leading to decreased productivity.

Concerns have been growing over how the ongoing political turmoil in the Ukraine, the world's third largest maize exporter, could impact global grain prices and reserves in the coming year. While Ukraine has delivered the majority of its current export obligations, continuing conflict could pose problems for next season's planting and harvest, and thus future export shipments.

With less than two years to go to meet the Millennium Development Goals, how has the world done on its goal of halving hunger? According to the IFPRI 2013 Global Food Policy Report, released this week, much work remains. While the number of chronically hungry people has declined from 1 billion to around 842 million over the last 30 years, this number is still unacceptably high. One in eight people around the world suffers from hunger on a daily basis.

Extreme poverty and gender inequality are two of the most daunting challenges faced by the developing world. To tackle these challenges, many policymakers are turning to public works programs. Such programs can help governments provide stable, balanced wages to households in need, while at the same time investing in important infrastructure, like roads and irrigation systems, that can promote economic development in the future. But these programs are not without controversy.

In the sharpest rise seen since mid-2012, the FAO Food Price Index increased by 5.2 points, or 2.6 percent, in February. The rebound was driven by rising prices across all sectors of the Index, with the exception of meat. Despite this rise, however, the February Index remained 2.1 percent lower than one year ago.

The February edition of the FAO Monthly News Report on Grains was released yesterday. The report covers ongoing global and regional trends in grain prices and policies. This month's report includes articles on the new US Farm Bill, the potential impact of the crisis in the Ukraine on grain harvests in the region, falling Indian wheat exports, and China's increasing imports of corn and soybeans.

This article was originally posted as part of Bridges Weekly Trade News Digest from the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development

The EU’s trade-distorting domestic farm subsidies were lower in the 2010-11 marketing year than in any previous year, according to new figures that the 28-member bloc has reported to the WTO.

This article was originally posted as part of Bridges Weekly Trade News Digest from the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development

With the Bali ministerial now behind them, the process to develop a Doha “work programme” by year’s end is beginning to gear up in Geneva, with WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo urging members last week to use 2014 to get the struggling negotiations “back on track.”

The latest FAO Food Price Index was released on January 9, citing a slight drop from December. At 203.4 points, the Index was 4.4 percent lower than its January 2013 level.

The Cereal Price Index also dropped by 3 points in January, down a full 56 points from its January 2013 level. This decline can be attributed largely to bumper cereal crops and subsequent large export supplies, which helped reduce prices from the highs seen in 2012 and 2013.

More Protection Against Low Prices, While Fixed Payments Ended
Decade-Long Shift to Subsidized Crop Insurance Reinforced

By David Orden, IFPRI

After more than three years of oft-times tumultuous positioning, posturing, and negotiations, the U.S. Congress has passed a new five-year Farm Bill: the Agricultural Act of 2014. The bill, which the President will sign into law on February 7, reaffirms the government’s longstanding support to farmers through 2018.