IPC was founded in 1987 with institutional support from the Rockefeller Foundation. Its first chairman was Lord Henry Plumb, former president of the European Parliament and a highly respected international farm leader. The organization started as a gathering of twenty-one volunteer members in Oxford, England, with a stated purpose of serving as a balanced, non-governmental group of leaders in agriculture that could enhance the policy dialogue by providing advice and counsel to governments and the interested public.
The members were motivated to form the Council by the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations within the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). This round of negotiations was the first to address agricultural trade issues on a multilateral platform.
IPC played an important role developing recommendations and advising negotiators during the Uruguay Round, which achieved substantial trade liberalization in agriculture for the first time.
However, tariffs and other barriers to trade are still more prevalent in agriculture than in other sectors. These obstructions cause economic losses, as they impede producers from participating in a sector in which they have a competitive advantage. Barriers such as agricultural subsidies also place an unnecessary economic drain on taxpayers and consumers in all countries.
Therefore, for more than twenty-five years, IPC advocated for pragmatic trade and development policies in food and agriculture to meet the world's growing needs. By holding seminars on agricultural trade around the world, it has sought to inform all stakeholders involved in the food and agriculture value chain about the gains that can be realized from trade liberalization. IPC has drawn upon the experience and expertise of its members to analyze and explore solutions to trade issues within the World Trade Organization (WTO) as well as outside the multilateral framework in order to achieve an open and equitable global food system.
In late 2015, IPC's members agreed to dissolve the organization but is keeping the website available for some years so that its work can be accessed.