In order to give decision makers in this Hemisphere a consensual reference document,the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the UnitedNations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the Inter-American Institutefor Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) decided to join forces to prepare this report ontrends in the agricultural sector and rural areas. It is based on a common data base and aseries of indicators available to all interested parties at www.agriruralc.org.These three institutions intend to make this document the first of a regular series ofpublications, which will be the result of their continued combined efforts to collaborateand coordinate their work. In this way, they hope to respond to the wishes repeatedlyvoiced by member governments of the three organizations to avoid duplications andinefficiencies and improve inter-agency cooperation.The current global economic crisis has led to volatility in commodity prices and a declinein remittances from abroad, foreign investment, tourism and exports in Latin Americaand the Caribbean (LAC), aggravating food security problems and heightening concernsover the possibility of meeting the Millennium Development Goals of reducing extreme poverty and malnutrition. In this context, the goverments of the region have formulatedsome effective policies. However, this report is of the view that the current developmentmodel needs to be rethought and the role and importance of agriculture and rural areasneed to be re-examined.From the analysis performed, we have learned that the Americas, and especially the SouthernCone, United States, and Canada, have major natural comparative advantages due to thefact that their land, fresh water and climate are well-suited to agricultural production,especially the production of basic foods. In a world with a growing population and changingconsumer habits, with projections for continued growth in the demand for food and othernonfood products derived from the fisheries, agriculture and forestry sectors, and in viewof the increasing scarcity of natural resources, the region has advantages.But the Americas also have a responsibility to use these resources as efficiently andsustainably as possible, which will require continuous research and adaptation, especiallyin view of the vicissitudes of climate change. Its effects (and costs) are already beingseen, especially the increased frequency and intensity of extreme climatic events such asdroughts, floods, and storms.