Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Members in the News: Brandon McFadden and Jayson Lusk

80 Percent of Americans Want to Label Food That Contains DNA

You might have heard that Americans overwhelmingly favor mandatory labeling for foods containing genetically modified ingredients. That's true, according to a new study: 84 percent of respondents said they support the labels.
Brandon McFadden and Jayson Lusk

But a nearly identical percentage—80 percent—in the same survey said they'd also like to see labels on food containing DNA.
Brandon McFadden and Jayson Lusk


The study, published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal last week, also found that 33 percent of respondents thought that non-GM tomatoes "did not contain genes" and 32 percent thought that "vegetables did not have DNA." So there's that.
University of Florida food economist Brandon R. McFadden and his co-author Jayson L. Lusk surveyed 1,000 American consumers and discovered that "consumers think they know more than they actually do about GM food." In fact, the authors say, "the findings question the usefulness of results from opinion polls as motivation for public policy surrounding GM food."

Read the entire article online:

Monday, May 23, 2016

Webinar Series- Agricultural and Applied Economics Priorities and Solutions Provocateur

Priorities and Solutions Project
Provocateur Webinars

As part of the agricultural and applied economic priorities and solutions project, we are going to host webinars to encourage greater engagement in the ideas presented at the workshop. Please consider attending to hear more about these innovative and forward-thinking ideas!

All webinars will be recorded and made available on the C-FARE YouTube Channel.

Keith Coble, A W.L. Giles Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Economics, Mississippi State University
Keith Coble will discuss his vision for how our profession can contribute to solving important problems relating to agricultural production and policy questions associated with those problems. He will suggest that long-standing risks such as market volatility and weather and climate change will continue to pose new challenges while environmental and resource constraints will grow. However, the data used to answer important empirical questions appears be changing dramatically and big data is opening many new doors for research. Ultimately policy makers will still value quality scientific research from objective sources. The challenge is for our profession to provide it.

James Vercammen, Professor of Food and Resource Economics, University of British Columbia
Academic work in agricultural economics is increasingly driven by the availability of high-quality data sets. While this is good in that important policy questions can be answered more carefully, it does mean, however, that subject areas such as agribusiness and food supply chains that are not well endowed with data are not receiving the research attention they deserve. Graduate students must be shown the value of strong conceptual frameworks, case studies and structural econometric methods of empirical analysis to ensure that they are well equipped to effectively tackle a broad array of topics in their professional careers.

Jayson Lusk, Regents Professor and Willard Sparks Endowed Chair, Oklahoma State University
The presentation will discuss emerging issues and priority areas related to food policy and consumer concerns about the the food.

Madhu Khanna, Professor of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Sustainably growing the food needed to feed 9 billion people by mid-century in the face of climate change and growing policy interest in bioenergy is a grand societal challenge. Integrated approaches that link natural systems with human decisions and that improve our understanding of the effects of climate change on human and natural systems and the potential for adaptation are critical to finding innovative solutions. The potential to use big data to improve private and societal decision-making, the challenges of designing effective policies to address the multiple ecosystem services affected by agricultural systems and the importance of understanding the multi-dimensional spillover effects of agricultural, energy and environmental policies will be discussed.

Mike Woods, Chair of the Department of Agricultural Economics, Oklahoma State University
The talk will briefly assess contributions made by agricultural economists to enhance the well-being of rural residents through research and outreach. Many models and approaches have been utilized to address issues of economic growth, wealth creation, poverty, and many quality of life factors. Emerging needs related to technology, health care and education will be reviewed. Agricultural economists have much to offer through applied research, extension programming and classroom instruction.

International economics

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Webinar: Understanding the Rise in Rural Child Poverty, 2003-2014

Monday, May 23, 2016 at 1:00 pm EDT
Hosted by: Thomas Hertz

Rural child poverty fell during the 1990s, but trended upward from 2003 to 2012, rising during the economic expansion of 2003-07, the recession of 2007-2009, and in the first few years of economic recovery. The share of rural children living in poverty peaked in 2012 at 26.7 percent, the highest rate since at least 1968. The rural child poverty rate has since declined, but it remains significantly higher than in 2003. 

ERS economist Thomas Hertz will present findings from his recent report co-authored by ERS geographer Tracey Farrigan, Understanding the Rise in Rural Child Poverty, 2003-2014, on the causes of rising rural child poverty since 2003. Their analysis seeks to explain the relative importance of changes in average rural incomes, changes in income inequality, and changes in rural demographics.

Register for this webinar HERE
Streaming audio available through your computer 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Member in the News: Marc Bellemare

Is quinoa California's next niche crop?  

Geoffrey Mohan 
May 11, 2016 

Bryce Lundberg is elated, which is saying a lot for a California farmer these days.
"Hop on in," he says, wading into eight acres of ragged stalks, their seed tassels turning russet in the desert sun.

Lundberg, 54, soon is chest-high in quinoa, a crop that is thriving in an unexpected place: on a patch of mediocre soil that lies below sea level in the scorching-hot Imperial Valley, more than 4,500 miles removed and some 10,000 feet down in elevation from its native range in South America's Andes Mountains.

If the harvest proves profitable here, California could dominate yet another niche crop, as the grain-like seed graduates from health-craze fad to a popular ingredient in energy bars, cereals and even drinks. Acreage dedicated to quinoa may reach into the thousands in the next two years in California, a state that already is a hub for quinoa imported from South America. That's about where kale was in 2007 before it took off.

It has not been easy. Then again, nothing has been easy about quinoa. The mispronounced and misunderstood miracle food has acquired a lot of political baggage for such a small seed.

All Lundberg wanted to do was find a crop to rotate with the 19 varieties of organic rice his family already grows on about 6,000 acres in the Sacramento River Valley.

Lundberg decapitates a tassel of oro del valle quinoa and rolls it between his broad palms. "It looks so healthy. It's really robust," he says. "You can see it's full of nice, white seed."

Anthony Stiff, who manages the acreage, stands aloof. He hasn't tried quinoa and isn't eager to change that. But he already knows more about it than the average foodie.

"It's a weed," he says, his humor as dry as the soil. "I fight all day long to get rid of it; now I plant it. What the heck's up with that?"

Stiff's homegrown botany isn't far off. Chenopodium quinoa is not a grain, but a pseudo-cereal, an herbaceous annual that's a cousin to beets, chard and spinach and offers a balanced suite 10 amino acids. Its leaves make a sweet pesto, but it's the seeds that land on consumers' plates.

There are at least 120 varieties of quinoa, and plant scientists have sifted through most of them trying to figure out which can grow well outside the high and dry altiplano that sprawls across Peru and Bolivia. In the U.S., quinoa has taken root in Colorado, the Pacific Northwest, Idaho, Northern California, and now, Brawley, just 20 miles from Mexico in the heart of the Sonoran Desert. Lundberg already dominates U.S. West Coast production of organic quinoa, with 800 acres contracted out on small farms scattered from the Washington's Olympic Peninsula through northern California.

What worries Stiff is that quinoa also is nearly identical to lambs quarters (Chenopodium album), an invasive weed that can be toxic to livestock and hosts a virus that can ruin alfalfa, which is planted on more acreage in Imperial Valley than any other crop, and ranks second in sales value only to the cattle that eat it. The acreage Lundberg visited harbored both plants, though the quinoa had the upper hand. Still, quinoa seeds won't last to next year. Lambs quarters will sprout again in spring.

That makes Stiff much less enthusiastic than Lundberg or even his employer, Benson Farms, which agreed to try out quinoa on Lundberg's behalf, on a forsaken plot they rented from a hay baler who hadn't grown anything on it for nearly a decade.

When the crop began to show in early winter, a neighbor came up to Stiff and said, "Can I ask you why you're growing a weed?"

If all he has to abide is some ribbing, Stiff will be getting off lightly. Quinoa's history in North America has been so checkered that some early adapters came to believe it might carry an Incan curse.

One researcher was shot to death in 1986 while visiting a ruin in Bolivia, where he had gone seeking seed to bring back to Colorado's San Luis Valley. Bolivia accused Colorado State University of "biopiracy" after its researchers patented a hybrid derived from Bolivian seed in 1994. Bolivia since has enshrined "food sovereignty" — the right to protect culturally important food from the economic pressures of international corporations — in its 2009 constitution. The university has let the patent expire.

U.S. growers, meanwhile, watched their crops produce seed that crumbled into powder. Even when quinoa thrived, buyers were few, particularly before growers found a way to remove the seed's soapy coating.

With a reputation for ruin and not much of a market, quinoa was a miracle food in need of a miracle until the mid-2000s, when food shows, social media and Oprah's diets pushed it into the mainstream.

That's when California transplant Sergio Nuñez de Arco became the king of quinoa. A former development worker at the United Nations, Nuñez de Arco returned to Bolivia, where a few exporters were packaging quinoa in retail-sized bags under their own labels. Nuñez de Arco had more ambitious plans. He would pool the crops of subsistence farmers and create a reliable supply chain for big bulk shipments of quinoa, stretching from the Andes to California and beyond.

In 2005, he sold only $25,000 worth of quinoa through his company, Andean Naturals. Today, the Yuba City importer sells $26 million from its facilities in Bolivia and about $40 million from other facilities, and recently partnered with agro-industrial giant ADM.

"That's how you ended up seeing it in Trader Joe's, Costco," he said. "Now, it's in Quaker bars and Kellogg Special-K cereals."

Andean nations now export more than 40,000 tons of quinoa, valued at $111 million — a nearly 40-fold increase since 2002, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Program. More than half of that goes to the United States, according to the program.

If the story of quinoa ended there, Americans would be healthier and impoverished subsistence farmers would be better off.

But major media soon questioned that story line, suggesting the new diet obsession was stealing food from the mouths of the indigenous Aymara and Quechua who had cultivated it for centuries and could no longer afford the inflated prices, which had nearly tripled, to about $3 a pound.

Guilt-ridden foodies began pointing fingers.

"I get that a lot — hey, don't you feel crappy doing what you're doing?" Nuñez de Arco said. "I say: well, what is it I'm doing? … Basically what we did was prove the small-holder farm didn't have to sit back and be part of just the farmers' markets and sell on the weekends. It could be part of the industrial food supply, just like the mega-large factories that you see here in the U.S."
About two years ago, Lundberg said, Whole Foods suggested it might be more politically palatable to market home-grown quinoa. Lundberg was ready. After three years of failed experiments in the Sacramento Valley, Lundberg Farms produced its first 40 acres of commercial product, a tri-colored quinoa, in 2014, in Northern California. That swelled last year to about 250 acres. The Richvale-based company now cultivates close to 800 acres on farms from the Canadian border to Brawley, where the Bensons say they may add as many as 500 acres next year.

Consumers worried about the plight of Andean cultures now can feel better buying U.S.-grown quinoa.
"Isn't that noble?" said Marc Bellemare, an agricultural economist at University of Minnesota. "It's mighty compelling. It tells a nice story."

Unfortunately, the data don't support it, Bellemare found. Overall household consumption in Peru, a common proxy economists use to gauge well-being, improved during the price spiral, even for those not making money on exports. "The rising tide lifted all boats, however modestly," he said.

Read the full article on the LA Times website:

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Member in the News: David Just

Food and Nutrition Economics: Fundamentals for Health Sciences

Oxford University Press has recently published a textbook by George Davis and Elena Serrano, entitled, “Food and Nutrition Economics: Fundamentals for Health Sciences.”  This book is intended for upper level undergraduates, graduate students, and health professionals.   Though the title indicates it is for the health sciences (it is being published by the Medical Division of OUP), you may find it a useful reference for an economist as well.  It is effectively an intermediate micro-economics textbook with all the applications being food but modifying the standard consumer and producer treatment to incorporate food and nutrition targets or constraints within our standard models.  There are individual chapters on income, prices, convenience, behavioral economics, neuroeconomics, food systems, cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis, among others.
Attached you will find a brief description of the book and below is the link to the Oxford University Press website giving more details, such as the table of contents.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Call for Judges: SS-AAEA Academic Bowl

The Student Section seeks judges for the 2016 SS-AAEA Academic Bowl.  The Academic Bowl is held during the AAEA annual meeting; this year’s event runs from July 31-August 2 in Boston, MA.  The actual competition will run from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM on Monday, August, 1.  The highest demand for judges takes place early in the day when we are operating in three rooms for the competition. Depending on the number of teams competing, we should require just two rooms from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM. Please email if you are able to judge and list your time preferences/availability in the following time slots:
  • 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM
  • 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
  • 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM
  • 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM
If your university is also bringing a registered team or two to compete, please let me know how many students you intend to bring.  Finally, if you cannot judge, but know someone who can who is not a recipient of this email, please pass on the information.

Please consider making this small time commitment; it is a great investment in the future of Applied and Agricultural Economics. Email Timothy Meyer at with your availability at the 2016 AAEA Annual Meeting in Boston, MA.