Monday, September 16, 2019

Members in the News: Schmidt, Zhang, Dodson, Boehm, Gundersen, Lubben, and Countryman

Claudia Schmidt, Penn State University
How Do Farmers Make Money on Corn? By Charging to Shoot It From a Cannon
By: The Wall Street Journal - September 10, 2019
Food cannons alone can’t protect farms from depressed prices. But they are part of the growing field of agritainment—which also includes corn mazes, hayrides and goat yoga—that can serve as a hedge for farmers during tough times. Farm-linked recreation was a nearly $1 billion business in 2017, according to Claudia Schmidt, an assistant professor of agricultural economics at Penn State University.
Read more on: The Wall Street Journal

Wendong Zhang, Iowa State University
China’s Leaders Are Penned In as Citizens Stomach High Pork Prices
By: The Wall Street Journal - September 10, 2019
“There’s a significant reversal in the direction of policy,” said Zhang Wendong, an assistant economics professor at Iowa State University and co-founder of the school’s China Ag Center. “I think the Chinese government originally underestimated the potential magnitude of this outbreak.”
Read more on: The Wall Street Journal

Laura Dodson, USDA Economic Research Service
Rebecca Boehm, Union of Concern Scientist
Critics Of Relocating USDA Research Agencies Point To Brain Drain
By: NPR - September 10, 2019
Both agencies are widely considered the best in the world at what they do, but they have also come in for some rough treatment under the Trump administration, according to Laura Dodson, an ERS economist who is also acting vice president of the union representing that agency's employees. "If you eat, you're involved in agriculture. And this is the government making itself dumber about agriculture," Dodson says.
Rebecca Boehm, an economist with the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, says both agencies are under assault. "This is really about an attack on science and an attack on agencies that produce objective research and information in the public interest," Boehm says.
Read more on: NPR

Craig Gundersen, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Anti-hunger advocates eye latest food insecurity data
By: Marketplace - September 4, 2019
Craig Gundersen, an economics professor at the University of Illinois, said food insecurity is an important economic indicator. “I think it’s a better measure than the unemployment rate, it’s a better measure than the poverty rate, because it really displays those who are really, really struggling,” he said.
Read more on: Marketplace

Bradley Lubben, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
UNL booth offers help for market-weary Nebraskans
By: The Grand Island Independent - September 10, 2019
Brad Lubben, an agricultural economics professor at UNL, was at the risk management strategies booth at HHD Tuesday. Lubben said UNL’s mission is still as relevant today as it was 150 years ago in serving the people of Nebraska. “We are here to provide what information we can to help producers make better decisions,” he said. “Information that will help them maintain their success and viability.”
Read more on: The Grand Island Independent

Amanda Countryman, Colorado State University
China looking to halt all ag purchases from U.S 
By: Farm World Online - September 2019
Retaliation was expected when Trump made his announcement. Amanda Countryman, associate professor of agricultural and resource economics at Colorado State University College of Agricultural Sciences, said the Chinese have focused their retaliatory tariffs on items that would hurt the U.S. the most. Ag products were among the first targeted.
Read more on: Farm World Online

See other Member in the News items
Know another AAEA Member who has made statewide, national, or international news?
Send a link of the article to Sinais Alvarado at
What research and topics are you working on? Want to be an expert source for journalists working on a story? Contact Allison Scheetz at
*Articles in response to the AAEA Communicating Out Strategy Press Releases highlighting: Government Relations, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy, Choices Magazine, General Media, and/or 2019 AAEA Annual Meeting in Atlanta.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Member Blog: David Zilberman

Lessons from the Laureates for Economics, Agriculture, and the Environment

David Zilberman, professor, agriculture and resource economics | September 6, 2019
One immediate benefit of winning the Wolf Prize was receiving an invitation to the World Laureates Sanya Forum in China. This meeting hosted 21 Nobel Prize, Fields Medal, Turing Award, and/or Wolf Prize laureates, as well as leading Chinese scientists. Sanya is China’s Hawaii, with tropical weather, beautiful beaches and splendid resorts, where we enjoyed outstanding seafood, clear skies, and luxurious rooms with individual swimming pools. After the conference, I toured the impressive Guanyin statue, which is in the middle of the beautiful Nanshan Buddhist temple in Sanya.  The Guanyin statue is slightly taller than our Statue of Liberty and it has three sides representing peace, wisdom, and mercy.
Guanyin statue
The conference commemorated the launch of a global center for marine science and technology. Each of the laureates gave a presentation addressing the state of their discipline, which I found to be very educational. We had representatives of major disciplines such as medicine, chemistry, physics, computer science, mathematics and agriculture. It was apparent that while science is diverse, its branches share basic features. It is useful to distinguish between basic science (aiming to understand the world) and applied science (aiming to solve problems). Another important distinction is between theoretical and empirical/experimental research. Both basic and applied research can be both theoretical and empirical. In the last century, it has become useful to distinguish between small science (small in terms of scale, Galileo dropping objects from the Leaning Tower of Pisa showing they have the same acceleration and improving the understanding of gravity) versus big science (large scale projects that may be financed by national governments.  Big science started with Ernest Lawrence at Berkeleyand led to the Large Hadron Colliderat CERN). From the presentations, it became clear to me that scientific disciplines evolve over time as old theories are discarded and new disciplines emerge. There is a co-evolution between experiments and theories. Sometimes, new empirical evidence induces development of new theories, while in other cases, theories devised by geniuses inspire empirical efforts to validate them. As theories become more sophisticated and our knowledge of the universe increases, the proof of theories, especially in physics, requires larger and larger scale science and the only way to do this effectively is to open science to global collaboration.
All branches of science emphasize the discovery of new algorithms, and development of procedures to make scientific research more efficient and precise. Mathematics, which is a form of art is providing the tools and mechanisms that enrich science. New mathematical findings and techniques can lead to theories that push science further.[1]Sometimes unintentional byproducts of small and big science are transformational technologies, such as lasers, LEDs, GPS, and antibiotics. The process of discovery also evolved. In earlier periods, many discoveries were serendipitous. With the development of research capabilities, medicine and chemistry relied on brute force to identify valuable materials and medicine. Currently, research in these areas increasingly relies on the understanding of basic processes and a more efficient search for solutions.[2]
Opening Talk
This framework applies to my disciplines of agricultural economics and environmental science. Developments in economics have been fueled by advances in mathematics. Adam Smith used logical and philosophical arguments to identify conditions under which the “invisible hand” of markets leads to efficient allocations. David Ricardo used basic algebra to establish the theory of comparative advantage. In the 19thcentury, calculus was crucial in developing the basic models of supply and demand, as well as those of tradeoffs and duopoly. In the 20thcentury, Keynes developed macroeconomic theories to explain unemployment and inflation.  Von Neumann and John Nash introduced game theory, which is mostly a mathematical construct, and drastically changed the way we understand social and economic interactions. Developments in statistics and computers led to the introduction of econometrics, which has strengthened our empirical capacity to assess both economic theory and policy. Looking ahead, I expect that new insights from small science experiments and findings using big data will lead to the creation of new economic theories and understanding. These expected developments will more fully illuminate  the roles of heterogeneity, uncertainty, and institutions in the economy and society
Traditional Show
In my talk, I emphasized the importance of sustainable development, which aims to improve human well-being while preserving and enhancing our environment. The means to pursue this dual agenda are diverse.  They include policies and technologies to improve efficiency in resource use, promote recycling, and reduce reliance on non-renewable resources. The development of the bioeconomy is crucial for attaining sustainable development. The bioeconomy consists of activities that utilize advanced knowledge and biological resources to produce goods and services, including food fuels and chemicals, throughout the economy.  Regulations that limit the application of genetic engineering, including transgenics and CRISPR in agriculture and other natural resource applications, constrain the evolution of the bioeconomy. The use of biotechnology will make it easier to reduce greenhouse gas emission, adapt to climate change, address food security problems, without increasing the human footprint(see 1,2). Of course, safety is essential, and regulations that balance benefits and risks are indispensable, but taking the notion of “safety first” to its limit is also dangerous. The only inevitable outcome in life is death itself. The rejection of modern biotechnologies that aim to replace brute force techniques for developing new crop varieties is especially disturbing. They are generally more refined, resource-efficient, and productive than traditional methods.

The widespread and ongoing denial of far-reaching scientific findings was a significant concern among participants at the workshop, applying with equal emphasis on biotechnology and climate change. In the discussion, however, I found some differences. When it comes to climate change, it’s clear that the Earth is going through climatic cycles that are related to increased carbon in the atmosphere. I accept the scientific consensus that human activity is an essential driver of climate change and the conclusion that it is crucial to mitigate GHG emissions as soon as possible. While the magnitude of human contribution to climate change is uncertain, even the doubters should agree that mitigation activities are worthwhile.  The probabilities of major environmental calamities in the future are increasing, and mitigation of these risks is prudent.

When it comes to biotechnology, the evidence leaves very little room for doubt about their social benefits.   Thus far, applications of GMOs has resulted in higher yields, lower toxic chemical use, higher incomes to farmers, and lower greenhouse gas emission.(see 3,4,5).  Some GMO traits (Golden rice)can improve food quality and health.  GMOs can also play a major role in mitigating and adapting to climate change. The evidence leaves very little room for doubt about the social benefit of biotechnology even though there may be some applications that could be mismanaged. Of course, this is why screening of new technologies is very important. The bottom line is that people who rely on scientific evidence for decision-making should respect the quality of evidence on both risks and rewards to society. I find it inconsistent toaccept scientific evidence about climate change and not GMOs and vice versa.

This workshop reaffirmed my appreciation of multidisciplinary engagement and the unity of science despite its diversity. As economists, we have shown many times that the high social rate of return for research directly contributes to human welfare, but this was a rare opportunity to see and feel it. I also realize that, as our technological capacity increases and the global economy grows, we face greater common risks. More than ever, we need a unified global front to deal with the challenges of the future.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Control and Access: Intellectual Property and CRISPR Gene Editing for Innovation in Crop Agriculture

Dates: October 24-25, 2019
Location: Keystone Policy Center and Keystone Lodge in Keystone, Colorado, USA.
Organized by: Colorado State University
Sponsored by: OECD, Co-operative Research Programme on Biological Resource Management for Sustainable Agricultural Systems and USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, program on Social Implications of Food and Agricultural Technologies

Following the breakthrough inventions involving CRISPR in 2012, one of the main stories has centered on patent disputes and complex intellectual property ownership. It is not unusual, of course, for “patent thickets” to form around complex biological research tools like CRISPR; yet, less attention has been drawn to the fact that in at least in one industry—crop agriculture—a solution to this problem has been introduced. The joint licensing framework announced by Pioneer (of DowDuPont) and the Broad Institute brings together all the foundational patent rights over CRISPR-Cas and makes them available to a broad range of potentially competing innovators in crop agriculture. This voluntary pooling of key patent rights has enormous implications for opportunities to advance and democratize genetic innovation. It also presents a compelling collective action model for IP, whether for other fields of use of CRISPR-Cas or for other platform technologies altogether.

The objectives of this conference are:
  1. To provide an accurate and up-to-date understanding of the complex and evolving landscape of CRISPR intellectual property rights and terms of access—including terms for research use and the joint-licensing arrangement for commercial use in crop agriculture;
  2. To compile a range of expert opinion and critical analyses of IP access from different disciplinary perspectives of biological sciences, policy, economics, law, and bioethics, as well as from different stakeholders across industry, governments, and other organizations;
  3. To explore implications of IP access on public perceptions, regulatory politics, and, by extension, the incentives and risks for innovations that seek to use CRISPR to create a more sustainable agriculture.
Draft agenda: A draft agenda is available on the conference website

Confirmed speakers for the conference so far include:
  • Fan Li Chou, Biotechnology Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
  • Joanne Kamens, President, AddGene, USA
  • Matthias Müller, Open Innovation Initiative, Pioneer/Corteva Agrisciences, USA
  • Issi Rozen, Director of Licensing, The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University, USA
  • Robert Cook-Deegan, School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Arizona State University, USA
  • David Zilberman, University of California Berkeley, USA
  • Jake Sherkow, New York University, USA
  • Tania Bubela, Dean, School of Public Health, Simon Fraser University, Canada
  • Yoshiyuki Fujishima, New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, Japan
  • Bo Heiden, Salgrehnska School of Medicine, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
  • Osmat Jefferson, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
  • Emily Marden, University of British Columbia, Canada
  • Dianne Nicol, University of Tasmania, Australia
  • Geertrui Van Overwalle, KU Leuven, Belgium
  • David Winickoff, Secretary, Working Group on Bio, Nano, and Converging Technologies, OECD
  • Dominique Guellec, Head of Science and Technology Policy Division, OECD, and former Chief Economist, European Patent Office
Contact: For more information, please contact Gregory Graff, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University,

Conference registration: Please register for the conference by Wednesday, September 25 at the conference website

Members in the News: Ortega, Mitchell, Tonsor, Schulz, Thilmany, Lusk, Lubben, Torres, Malone, Roe, Baker, Westhoff, Countryman, Zhang, Haab, and Sohngen

David Ortega, Michigan State University
New Import Taxes Underscore China's Role As Growing U.S. Food Supplier
By: NPR - September 2, 2019
Agricultural economist David Ortega of Michigan State University says China has grown into the third-biggest supplier of foreign food to the U.S., behind Canada and Mexico. So when the trade war turns into a food fight, the indigestion cuts both ways.
DAVID ORTEGA: It's not just American farmers that are missing opportunities to send products to China, but then we also have farmers in China whose livelihood depend on products coming here. And likewise, we have, you know, consumers on both ends that are being affected in terms of prices from these tariffs.
Read more on: NPR

James Mitchell, Kansas State University
Glynn Tonsor,
Kansas State University
Lee Schulz, Iowa State University
K-State researchers study incentives needed for animal ID
By: Ag Journal - September 1, 2019
"When we think about traceability, program designers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture are concerned about decreasing our response time to diseases and preventing losses, but those in the cattle industry are concerned about making money,” said James Mitchell, a doctoral student in K-State’s Department of Agricultural Economics. “So you have this conflicting story of trying to make an effective traceability program, but also trying to incentivize people to use this program, because for animal traceability to be effective, you need high enrollment of animals and producers.”
Mitchell, along with K-State agricultural economist Glynn Tonsor and Lee Schulz, of Iowa State University, surveyed producers to further understand what it would take to increase their participation in public or private traceability programs.
Read more on: Ag Journal

Dawn Thilmany McFadden, Colorado State University
Jayson Lusk,
Purdue University
Colorado farmers and ranchers have a beef with Gov. Jared Polis
By: The Denver Post - September 2, 2019
“Colorado has a rich history of innovative producers, ranchers and food startups, so the discussion is relevant and timely,” Dawn Thilmany, a professor at Colorado State University, wrote in an email. “What is most important to remember is that this is not an ‘either-or’ choice, and it is clear the state can lead in cattle and beef, but also, the development of plant-based alternatives.”
Jayson Lusk, an agriculture economist, said it’s tough to convince farmers to make a major shift in their production given the infancy of the market. “I do think it’s a bit of trend, but it’s starting from a fairly low base. The question is how big will the market be. It’s hard to say yet,” he said. “The net impact on most agriculture is potentially negative.”
Read more on: The Denver Post

Glynn Tonsor, Kansas State University
USDA: Probe launched over beef pricing after Kansas fire
By: Wisconsin State Farmer - August 30, 2019
The impact on retail beef prices for consumers since the Aug. 9 fire is not yet known because those figures are only reported monthly, said Glynn Tonsor, an agricultural economics professor at Kansas State University.
In the days after the fire, fed cattle prices fell by $5 per hundredweight to about $105 per hundredweight, Tonsor said. That amounts to about $70 per head for a 1,400-pound animal.
Read more on: Wisconsin State Farmer

Jayson Lusk, Purdue University
Perdue launches investigation into beef pricing margins
By: The Fence Post - August 30, 2019
Jayson Lusk, a distinguished professor and head of the Agricultural Economics Department at Purdue University, said the packers made more money after the price of cattle tumbled and the cost of beef increased following the fire but the “economic effects are exactly what one would expect even in a perfectly competitive market.
Read more on: The Fence Post and Tri-State Livestock News

Bradley Lubben, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Nebraska Rural Poll releases data from immigration impact survey
By: Daily Nebraskan - September 3, 2019
According to Brad Lubben, associate professor of agricultural economics and policy specialist for Extension, Nebraska Rural Poll’s annual topic is decided by a team of analysts with input from stakeholders around the state who look at current events that affect rural Nebraska. McElravy said the team will additionally research if anyone at the University of Nebraska has expertise in polling topics for insights.
Read more on: Daily Nebraskan

Ariana Torres, Purdue University
In the market for good deal
By: Fort Wayne Journal Gazette - September 3, 2019
“There are some things that are expensive, but there are some things that are not,” says Ariana Torres, assistant professor in the departments of horticulture and landscape architecture and agricultural economics at Purdue.
Another example is a bell pepper. The study showed that the lowest price for a bell pepper at a grocery store was 33 cents and the highest at $2.50. At a farmers market, the peppers ranged from as low as 20 cents to as high as $1.50.
Read more on: Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Trey Malone, Michigan State University
This Morning: Learning how to harvest hops in Michigan
By: WLNS - September 4, 2019
According to research from Michigan State University, the craft beer industry generated nearly $500 million in gross state product in 2016, contributing nearly $1 billion and 9,738 jobs in total aggregate economic contributions. “The impact could change the lens in which craft beer is viewed,” said Trey Malone, MSU agricultural economist and the study’s lead author.
Read more on: WLNS

Brian Roe, The Ohio State University
New study shows Americans throw out more refrigerated food than they think
By: WINK News - August 29, 2019
Professor Brian Roe is the study’s senior author and a professor of agricultural, environmental and development economics at The Ohio State University. He says, “This kind of goes to show that even though the best intentions people have of using the refrigerator to try to help reduce food waste by storing it there and using it for later – often times those good intentions are not followed through.”
Read more on: WINK News, Fast Company, and The Columbus Dispatch

Gregory Baker, Santa Clara University
Study Finds Farm-Level Food Waste is Much Worse Than We Thought
By: Civil Eats - August 20, 2019
“We’re very excited for this data to come out,” Greg Baker, the study’s author and executive director of the Center for Food Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University, told Civil Eats. “There is a lack of awareness by consumers about how large of a problem this is at the farm level.” He added that the study corroborated the scenarios that he and his colleagues had been observing the fields for a while.
Read more on: Civil Eats

Patrick Westhoff, University of Missouri
Amanda Countryman, Colorado State University
Trump’s trade war is draining profits for Montana wheat farmers
By: High Country News - August 30, 2019
This year, farmers and ranchers across the country impacted by the tariffs are receiving at least $15 per acre. These payments will make up for soybean growers’ short-term losses, “but that will not be true of all producers everywhere,” said Patrick Westhoff, director of the Food and Agriculture Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri.
Along with the immediate concern of revenue losses, this trade conflict may also provoke more lasting problems. The subsidies are “not a sustainable approach for having a healthy U.S. farm economy,” said Amanda Countryman, an associate professor in agriculture and resource economics at Colorado State University. China is the largest export market for U.S. agricultural products, and payments to farmers can’t compensate for the erosion of that relationship, or the trust that was its foundation, Countryman said; the payments are merely a “Band-Aid on a much deeper wound.”
Read more on: High Country News

Wendong Zhang, Iowa State University
U.S. farmers harvest disappointment as trade war escalates
By: Xinhua News Agency - September 4, 2019
Zhang Wendong, an assistant professor in the Iowa State Department of Economics, said U.S. farmers' potential of tapping into China's pork market is also unpromising in the long run, as China is expected to consolidate its hog industry and boost its overall competitiveness.
Read more on: Xinhua News Agency

Timothy Haab, The Ohio State University
Brent Sohngen,
The Ohio State University
Study estimates Lake Erie region worth $443 billion
By: Toledo Blade - August 14, 2019
But Tim Haab, professor and chair of OSU’s agricultural, environmental, and development economics department, said he believes Key-Log Economics tried to aggregate past studies to some degree, which likely skewed its results.
One of his colleagues, Brent Sohngen, an OSU environmental economics professor who has presented at several Great Lakes conferences, responded by writing an eight-page paper titled “Water Cooler Economics.” In it, Mr. Sohngen claims Key-Log Economics appears to have overestimated potential benefits of phosphorus reduction by several million dollars, including beach visits and recreational fishing.
Read more on: Toledo Blade

See other Member in the News items
Know another AAEA Member who has made statewide, national, or international news?
Send a link of the article to Sinais Alvarado at
What research and topics are you working on? Want to be an expert source for journalists working on a story? Contact Allison Scheetz at
*Articles in response to the AAEA Communicating Out Strategy Press Releases highlighting: Government Relations, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy, Choices Magazine, General Media, and/or 2019 AAEA Annual Meeting in Atlanta.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

USDA Webinar: Household Food Security in the United States in 2018

USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) plays a leading role in Federal research on food security and food security measurement in U.S. households and communities.

In this webinar, ERS Social Science Analyst Alisha Coleman-Jensen provides an overview of USDA’s annual report on the prevalence and severity of food insecurity in U.S. households in 2018. The report includes changes in food insecurity from previous years, the prevalence of food insecurity by selected household characteristics, and food insecurity among children.  

Rescheduled for: September 9, 2019 at 1:00 PM EDT
Alisha Coleman-Jensen