Sustainable agriculture

Context of OECD Work on Agri-Environmental Indicators


OECD work on Agri-Environmental Indicators (AEIs) is primarily aimed at policy makers and the wider public interested in the development, trends and the use of agri-environmental indicators for policy purposes. The focus of the work is in particular related to indicator definitions, methodologies and calculation of indicators.

Many of the agri-environmental indicators being developed are of importance beyond OECD Member countries, for example, on issues covering soil and water quality, and the use of nutrients, pesticides and water by agriculture.

The general objectives of OECD work on AEIs are intended to:

  • Provide information on the current state and changes in the conditions of the environment in agriculture.

  • Assist policy makers to better understand the linkages between the causes and impacts of agriculture, agricultural policy reform, trade liberalisation and environmental measures on the environment, and help to guide their responses to changes in environmental conditions.

  • Contribute to monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of policies addressing agri-environmental concerns and promoting sustainable agriculture, including future looking perspectives of agri-environmental linkages.

OECD work on AEIs covers four main areas:

  1. Agriculture in the broader economic, social and environmental context, setting the AEIs in a broader context by considering contextual information and indicators, that is the influence on agri-environmental relationships of: economic forces (e.g. farm production, employment), societal preferences (e.g. rural viability), environmental processes (e.g. interaction of agriculture with biophysical conditions) and land use changes (e.g. agricultural land use). One of the key contextual issues concerns farm financial resources and their relation to environmental outcomes in terms of farm level income and public and private agri-environmental expenditure.

  2. Farm management and the environment, examining the relationship between different farming practices and systems and their impact on the environment, covering whole farm management practices that encompass overall trends in farming methods, including organic farming, as well as nutrient, pest, soil and irrigation management practices.

  3. Use of farm inputs and natural resources, tracking trends in the use of farm inputs, covering nutrients (e.g. fertilisers, manure), pesticides (including risks), and water use intensity, efficiency, stress and the price of water paid by farmers relative to other users in the economy.

  4. Environmental impacts of agriculture, monitoring the extent of agriculture's impact on the environment covering: soil quality, water quality, land conservation, greenhouse gases, biodiversity, wildlife habitats and landscape.

Click here for the complete list of the OECD AEIs included in the latest publication, OECD (2001) Environmental Indicators for Agriculture Volume 3: Methods and Results.

The OECD, through its various studies and activities, is exploring a range of applications for better using indicators for policy purposes, as summarised below.

The Use of Agri-environmental Indicators in Recent OECD Studies and Activities

Agri-environmental indicators (AEIs) have been used as supporting information across a range of recent OECD studies and activities, as outlined below.

  • Agricultural Policies in OECD Countries Monitoring and Evaluation Report, an annual report which includes information and data on the policies and effects of agriculture on the environment, visit

  • Agri-environmental related policy studies, an irregular series of reports which examine different agri-environmental related policy issues. For further information see

  • Review of Agricultural Policies, are country policy reviews of non-member OECD countries, such as the reviews of Romania and Slovenia, which have used the AEIs in the sections covering agri-environmental issues, see

  • Environmental Performance Review country series examine the environmental performance of OECD countries and some non-OECD countries, including in certain reviews a special feature on agriculture drawing on the AEIs, for example, Denmark, see

  • Economic Working Papers, with special focus in some papers on sustainable development, including reference to agriculture, see for example Finland and Norway, at

  • Agricultural and Environmental Outlook Reports, these include forecasting studies of agricultural trends, including recently a focus on greenhouse gases, and the Environmental Outlook and Strategy to the year 2020, including a section on agriculture. For further information on the OECD Environmental Outlook activity see

  • Sustainable development, is a major horizontal activity for the OECD, examining the broader economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, including reference to issues related to sustainable agriculture, natural resources and indicators, see the OECD sustainable development website.


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