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Friday, February 27, 2015

OUP Blog: Are migrant farm workers disappearing?

Migrant farm workers.
Image by Jeffrey M. Perloff.
via OUP Blog
 By Maoyong Fan, Susan Gabbard, Anita Alves Pena, and Jeffrey M. Perloff
Oxford University Press's Blog 

Migrant farmworkers plant and pick most of the fruits and vegetables that you eat. Seasonal crop farmers, who employ workers only a few weeks of the year, rely on workers who migrate from one job to another. However, farmers’ ability to rely on migrants to fill their seasonal labor needs is in danger.

From 1989 through 1988, roughly half of all seasonal crop farmworkers migrated: traveled at least 75 miles for a U.S. job. Since then, the share of workers who migrate has dropped by more than in half, hitting 18% in 2012. Because of this drop in the number of migrants, farmers are increasingly struggling to find workers to pick     their crops before they spoil.... Read full blog post on OUP

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

17th Annual National Value Added Agriculture Conference

Online Registration is Now Open! 

You are invited to attend the 17th Annual National Value Added Agriculture Conference in Austin, Texas on May 18-20, 2015. The conference addresses food security, rural development, and value added agriculture. 
Conference participants will also have the opportunities to visit U.S Foods’s amazing LEED-certified facility in Buda and Whole Foods flagship store in Lamar, and tour two famous urban farms in Austin: Agua Dulce Farm and Springdale farm.  
Deadline for registration
5:00 pm April 27, 2015.
Registration fee for regular attendee is $200 which will
cover meetings, 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 3 coffee breaks,
a reception, and a banquet.

American Farm Bureau Federation, National Food MarketMaker, Southern Rural Development Center, Southern Extension Risk Management Education, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Agricultural Marketing Resource Center are confirmed sponsors for the conference.

For more information about the conference and conference registration, please visit website :

See you in Austin on May 18-20, 2015!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Member in the news: Jayson Lusk "Is meat really ruining the environment?"

Fox News (February 23, 2015) via
Oklahoma State University Professor Jayson Lusk on whether eating meat is ruining our environment.

Jayson's Blog:
"One of the hosts mentioned a Cambridge study showing that vegetarians and vegans have substantially lower environmental impacts than meat-eating diets.  A written piece at about the recommendations also mentions the same study.  [Jayson is unsure] how representative that cited study is.  [His] analysis suggests that vegetarians spend about the same amount on food as do meat eaters.  To the extent prices reflect resource use, that stat would suggest both diets are 'using up' similar levels of 'stuff.'"
Read Jayson Lusk Blog in full HERE

Friday, February 20, 2015

Member Blog: Marc F. Bellemare

Source: WikiMedia Commons
Quinoa Nonsense, or Why the World Still Needs Agricultural Economists

First came this post by Joanna Blythman on The Guardian‘s Comment Is Free blog:
Quinoa was, in marketing speak, the “miracle grain of the Andes,” a healthy, right-on, ethical addition to the meat avoider’s larder (no dead animals, just a crop that doesn’t feel pain). Consequently, the price shot up – it has tripled since 2006 – with more rarefied black, red and “royal” types commanding particularly handsome premiums.

But there is an unpalatable truth to face for those of us with a bag of quinoa in the larder. The appetite of countries such as ours for this grain has pushed up prices to such an extent that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia, for whom it was once a nourishing staple food, can no longer afford to eat it. Imported junk food is cheaper. In Lima, quinoa now costs more than chicken. Outside the cities, and fueled by overseas demand, the pressure is on to turn land that once produced a portfolio of diverse crops into quinoa monoculture.

Then came this contrarian response from The Globe and Mail‘s Doug Saunders: 

Twenty years ago, quinoa was pretty much unknown. Now, it’s in everyone’s cafeteria. Its price is going through the roof.
And that, in the confused minds of Western foodies, is somehow a bad thing. …
There is nothing quite like food to make us lose all sense of perspective and reason. Behind the killer-quinoa meme you’ll find three modern fallacies of food.
First is the idea that success must be bad for the poor. Surely, we think, the quinoa-eating people of the Andes are going to be hurt if they can no longer afford their own crop.
The people of the Altiplano are indeed among the poorest in the Americas. But their economy is almost entirely agrarian. They are sellers – farmers or farm workers seeking the highest price and wage. The quinoa price rise is the greatest thing that has happened to them. And it is a deliberate strategy: Quinoa had all but died out as a staple in Bolivia, replaced by beans and potatoes, until farmers began planting it in the 1980s with exports to North America in mind.

Problem with Western foodies? More like a problem with journalists.
Indeed, it is impossible to know who is right and who is wrong between Blythman and Saunders without knowing the answers to a number of questions:
  1. Are most households in the Altiplano net buyers or net sellers of quinoa, or are they autarkic relative to it? Knowing the answer to that question would be a good first step toward assessing the welfare impacts of a quinoa price increase.
  2. Do net seller households produce under contract, as part of a quinoa value chain, or do they sell to processors on the spot market? Knowing the answer to that question would allow knowing whether producers are insured against price risk.
  3. Is it possible to store quinoa for a relatively long period? Knowing the answer to that question would allow us to tell whether people can avoid the “sell low, buy high” cycle by which many smallholders in developing countries are rendered poorer than they need to be.
Without knowing the answers to those questions, we must necessarily remain ignorant of the welfare effects of changes in the price of quinoa, and hide behind journalistic hubris. And that is why the world still needs agricultural economists who study food policy.

Be sure to let us know what you think by leaving a comment below. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Fourth International Agricultural Risk, Finance, and Insurance Conference (IARFIC)

The Waterloo Research Institute in Insurance, Securities and Quantitative Finance (WatRISQ), University of Waterloo, is pleased to invite you to the 4th International Agricultural Risk, Finance, and Insurance Conference (IARFIC), June 7-9, 2015, in Washington, DC. IARFIC is a non-profit international conference that brings together academia, government, private sector, producer groups, NGOs, and other stakeholders, to discuss critical Issues, global perspectives, best practices, and innovations within the field. The past three conferences were a tremendous success, held in 2012-Beijing, China, 2013-Vancouver, Canada, and 2014-Zurich, Switzerland, with select best papers published in special issues of Agricultural Finance Review by Emerald Group Publishing. 

VENUE: Please join us for a unique reception at the House Committee on Agriculture, Longworth House Office Building. All other conference activities will be hosted at the Park Hyatt Washington, 1201 24th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037 ( , including the keynote addresses, plenary sessions, research presentations, and gala dinner. 
CO-ORGANIERS: IARFIC is co-hosted by the China Institute for Actuarial Science, China, the Central University of Finance and Economics, China, the Warren Centre for Actuarial Studies at the University of Manitoba, Canada, and the Agricultural and Applied Economics Associations, USA. 

Joe Glauber, PhD, Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and former Chief Economist, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), USA.

Brandon Willis, Administrator, Risk Management Agency (RMA) in the USDA's Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services, USA.

Mary Frances Miller, FCAS, MAAA, FCA, Hon FIA, CPCU, Are, AIM, Founder and Senior Consulting Actuary, Select Actuarial Services, USA.

Bruce Sherrick, Professor and Director, TIAA-CREF Centre for Farmland Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA.

Joshua Woodard, Assistant Professor and Zaitz Family Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellow in Agricultural Finance and Business, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University, USA.

  1. Big Data: technical and policy challenges. Moderated by: Barry Barnett, Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Mississippi State University, USA.
  2. Improving agricultural insurance ratemaking: underlying assumptions regarding market volatility, price/yield relationships, etc. Moderated by: Calum Turvey, WI Myers Professor of Agricultural Finance, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University, USA.
  3. China: update and innovations.  Moderated by: Qiao Zhang, Professor, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, China.
  4. Agricultural insurance and the way forward: long-term sustainablility of agricultural insurance programs, including a discussion on program design, role of government, and subsidy.  Moderated by: G. Cornelis van Kooten, Professor of Economics and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Canada.

Sunday, June 7, 2015: Registration (4-6PM), and Reception (7-9PM)
Monday, June 8, 2015: Conference (7AM-9 PM), and Gala Dinner (6:30-10 PM)
Tuesday, June 9, 2015: Conference (7AM-5 PM)

Regular registration fee: $895 USD*

Academic and student registration fee: $395 USD*

*Note: Add $100 USD to registration fee after April 1, 2015. Registration fee will be charged in CAD using an approximate exchange rate of 1.20.