Wednesday, June 24, 2015

AAEA Publications now Current on RePEc

AAEA is pleased to announce that the AAEA publications are now up-to-date on RePEc (Research Papers in Economics). RePEc is a collaborative effort of hundreds of volunteers in 84 countries to enhance the dissemination of research in Economics and related sciences. The heart of the project is a decentralized bibliographic database of working papers, journal articles, books, books chapters and software components, all maintained by volunteers. The collected data are then used in various services that serve the collected metadata to users or enhance it.

RePEc has become an important metric of research output and contributions in economics. The service is particularly important in its tracking of citations and other metrics of academic output such as page counts. It has also become an important repository for research, including working papers and reporting on research in progress.

Until recently, AAEA content was not getting uploaded to RePEc and the archives of AJAE were not available on the site. This was due in part to a technical issue with the way data was transferred between AAEA’s publisher, Oxford University Press (OUP). Through the diligent work of the AAEA Executive Board, technical staff at OUP, and technical staff at RePEc, the data issue was corrected and content is now available for AJAE and AEPP. We are grateful to the significant effort that our partners at OUP put into achieving this important recognition for our membership. We owe a special thanks to Byron Bonparth for his efforts.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Senior Section: Invited Paper Session

Hunger Relief Programs: Improving Food Access

The food bank network in the United States plays a key role in meeting food needs of persons who are food insecure, but how do we improve the efficiency of the hunger relief programs and address their nutritional content?  This Invited Paper Session at the 2015 AAEA & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting in San Francisco California, will review ongoing research and emphasize the future research needs of the food banks and their agencies to accomplish these objectives.  The session is co-sponsored by the Food Safety and Nutrition Section and the Senior Section. 

Feeding America (FA) is the largest hunger relief provider in the United States with 200 food banks, the organizations that collect and distribute food to their agencies. These agencies support 58,000 feeding programs providing food assistance to 46.5 million people including 12 million children and 7 million seniors (Hunger in America Report 2014). Moreover, many of these households are facing significant diet-related health challenges. For example, 1 in 3 households have someone with diabetes and 58% report someone with hypertension (Hunger in America Report 2014).

Although distributing healthy food is a primary goal for food banks and their agencies, they face many challenges in meeting this goal. Budgets for purchasing food are always limited, and hunger relief agencies often have little influence over the nutritional quality of food they receive through donations.

The presentation of ongoing research in this area illustrates the potential for more work. (1) The first paper is an overview of food banking and will illustrate the application of behavioral economics to the challenge of improving the nutrition of program beneficiaries at food pantries. (2) Another two year-long study calculates monthly Healthy Eating Index (HEI) scores using electronic invoice data for 273 food pantries served by two major food banks in Minnesota. This involved capturing transaction data in electronic form and mapping the food items in the regular inventory to the Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies (FNDDS). However, more than 30% by weight of the food moving through food banks to food pantries is free “miscellaneous” food donated by food stores and food distributors and is not part of the regular food bank inventory. This required the development of another method for characterizing the healthfulness of the food distributed. (3) An analytical model developed in New York helps food banks improve their gleaning operations, particularly for fruits and vegetables. In the model, gleaning opportunities arrive randomly to the food bank, and are processed with stochastic processing times that depend on the location of the farm, the volume of the harvest, and the availability of labor for gleaning. Consequently, the capacity levels and operating policies that maximize service level for a given operating budget can be determined.

This session offers valuable insights on the nutritional quality of hunger relief food and provides three examples of research studies to evaluate and improve the operations of this important segment of our food system.  Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about the applied research opportunities related to this high-priority societal need.  Join this session, Monday, July 27, at 1:00 PM in Salon 1 of the Marriott Marquis.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Member in the News: John Newton

Bird flu sends egg prices soaring

June 17, 2015
By owner Peter Bovis' estimate, Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe goes through more than 14,000 eggs a week at its Randolph Street location just north of Millennium Park.

But in the past month or so, Bovis and other restaurateurs have watched the price of this humblest of proteins increase.

A case of 12 dozen eggs ran Bovis between $15 and $20 about a month ago.

Now, Bovis said, he pays $40 to $45 for the same case.

His cooks downtown and at his suburban locations use eggs not just for omelets and scrambles, but as a key ingredient in a variety of other dishes.

He can't do business without them, no matter the cost.

"We're just biting the bullet right now," he said of the price hike. "You can't fake an egg."

Egg prices have soared in the past month, the result of a devastating bird flu outbreak that has laid waste to America's chicken flock in unprecedented numbers.

As a result, Chicago-area restaurants, grocery stores and their patrons have been paying much more for eggs as part of a market swing that analysts say is beyond the norm.

A dozen eggs rose at one point to $2.62 earlier this month, according to Randy Pesciotta, vice president of the egg division at industry analyst group Urner Barry.

Egg prices fluctuate, he said, but not to this extent.

"It takes an act of God," Pesciotta said. "And that's basically what we've experienced here."

The wholesale price of a dozen large Midwest eggs rocketed from just more than a dollar in late April to about $2.40 as of June 10, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's weekly shell egg report.

Nationally, a dozen Grade A or better eggs rose from an average of $1.22 for the week of May 15 to $1.95 this week, according to another USDA national egg retail report released Friday.

Restaurant owners interviewed by the Tribune lamented the increased cost but said they see it as a temporary hike they must grit through.

Analysts said this week that egg prices are expected to stabilize, but that above average prices could persist through the rest of the year.

Teresa Zepeda has served up signature chilaquiles and other breakfast items at Tiztal Cafe in Sheridan Park for the past seven years.

While restaurateurs are used to the occasional ingredient price fluctuation, Zepeda said the egg hike of the past month was "the biggest jump I've ever seen, in the product I use most."

She said her egg costs went from about $19 for a case of 180 a few weeks ago to about $42 for the same case this week.

Zepeda said she goes through about eight cases a week.

Still, Zepeda said she has not considered passing on the costs to customers or changing specials with the hopes of saving eggs because she doesn't want to alienate her clientele.

"I don't want my customers to see any difference because of the price," she said.

Debbie Edick, general manager at Glenn's Diner in Ravenswood, said the restaurant's egg costs have gone from $50 to $78 for 30 dozen eggs from March to June.

Edick said the higher costs have been more manageable because the diner's outdoor seating has opened, which means more customers.

Consumers are also seeing higher prices in the grocery aisle.

A dozen large eggs sold for $1.99 in mid-May at Mariano's, according to spokesman James Hyland.

This week, a dozen sells for $2.49.

Hyland said the supermarket hasn't seen any supply shortage but that they have discontinued egg promotions for now.

Checking a dozen large eggs for cracks on Tuesday morning at the Mariano's in Ravenswood, Dominick Manella said the increased cost was not affecting his purchases.

"I need to have breakfast every morning," the 66-year-old retiree said.

While paying more for regular eggs didn't hurt his pocketbook, Manella dismissively waved away the organic eggs one cooler door over.

"Those ones that are $4?" he said. "Come on."

Grocery stores and their customers are more used to shifting prices for commodities like eggs or milk, but restaurants have less flexibility, said John Newton, an agricultural commodity markets professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"It's much easier to increase those prices than to see an increase in Egg McMuffin prices," Newton said.

The latest eruption of highly pathogenic bird flu first popped up in December and is poised to "depopulate" 50 million birds, making it the worst outbreak in U.S. history.

Newton, who said he has seen an 18-pack of eggs retailing for $5 in Champaign recently, wrote in the university's "farmdoc daily" that this outbreak dwarfs a 1983 incident that led to the loss of 17 million chickens, turkey and guinea fowl.

Pre-Conference Workshop

Rapid Agrifood System Transformation, Globalization, and International Development

Saturday, July 25, 2015, 8:30 am - 6:30 pm
Full Agenda Available Online

Description of the Topic:

In 1999 there was an AAEA pre-conference on “Agro-industrialization, Globalization, and International Development;” that started a ball rolling of integrating agribusiness and development work among agricultural economists. The emphasis in 1999 was on the “midstream” of food supply chains, specifically on the rapid rise of large-scale agri-processing firms in developing countries especially Latin America, parts of Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe, induced by the then relatively recent liberalization of trade and foreign direct investment (FDI) and the recent surge in incomes and the start of urbanization. Attendant on that theme were developments in the economics of institutional change, an “upstream” theme of agri-processing links with contract farming, and the theme of the emergence of private quality and safety standards required of suppliers by large processors. Intensification, diversification, and commercialization of agriculture was surging on the heels of the relatively recent (1970s/1980s) Green Revolution, public sector induced change in food systems (such as wholesale market investments) had been important over the several decades before the 1999 pre-conference.

As of 1999, however, very little to no work had been done by agricultural economics on a number of themes but a body of research pertaining to agrifood system transformation in developing countries would rise to prominence over the 15 years since the 1999 pre-conference leading to our pre-conference in 2014 for a stocktaking of changes over the past several decades. The themes below were not really “gaps” in the 1999 preconference – rather, they were not much treated then because much of the change noted in the themes below was only emerging in the mid to late 1990s and “took off” in the 2000s. This rush of new themes and real world changes drew much more attention to our general theme, inducing research on these themes and deepening and extension of the work on the prior themes. The new themes include: (1) downstream segment transformation, the “supermarket revolution” in Asia, Africa, Latin America; (2) further midstream segment transformation, with a “Quiet Revolution” along value chains in Asia and Africa of small and medium enterprise activity in processing, logistics, wholesale, cold storage, with concomitant rise of processed food and fresh produce consumption; (3) upstream segment transformation, both of inputs as products (such as the rise of Monsanto and Syngenta’s activities in developing countries), and of inputs as services (such as the development of outsourcing services of combine harvesting teams in China); (4) cross-cutting themes linking transformation of agrifood markets with - rapidly increasing urbanization, with nutritional challenges such as obesity, with institutional change in food quality, safety, and environmental sustainability, with rural nutrition, with labor and credit markets; (5) impacts of the transformation of agrifood systems cum globalization on the rural poor and on farm technology modernization; this theme has included work on “poverty traps” and on the issues of inclusion and exclusion of small farmers in transforming markets.

The Pre-Conference Workshop July 25, 2015 on agrifood system transformation, globalization, and international development, will take stock of the emergence of this new field in agricultural economics - research and new thinking on the five new themes and the deepening that has taken place on the earlier themes, and to assess the implications for policy and for agricultural economics research going forward.

Workshop Organizers: 

Thomas Reardon, Bart Minten, David Zilberman, and Jo Swinnen 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Senior Section Track Sessions at 2015 AAEA & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting

Examine the Implications of “Big Data” for Farm Risk Management

In recent years, the term “Big Data” has marched boldly into our vocabulary. Many economists know about big data but most are still learning about the full meaning of the advent of big data for the agricultural industry. The rapid expansion of more integrated input, output, and climate data has the potential to change many aspects of farm management, especially risk management.

This track session, planned by the Extension and Senior Sections for the 2015 AAEA & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting in San Francisco, will explore some of the issues that arise from this emerging scenario. The session will focus on how these new data, and analyses of these data, can influence risk management decisions and programs. An excellent line-up of knowledgeable speakers, chosen to reflect varied perspectives on this rapidly evolving topic, will share their perspectives. What can geo-spatial information add to crop insurance rating? How do farm organizations view this issue? What are the implications for USDA agencies and university researchers? Ines Kapphan, Product Manager at the Climate Corporation, will address how industry sees the implications for risk management. The Climate Corporation aims to help farmers around the world with software, hardware and insurance products. Participants will have the opportunity to address and discuss these and other questions, gaining an increased appreciation for the challenges in this area.

It is expected that this session will be of great interest to many applied economists. The session will take place Monday afternoon, July 27, 2:45 pm, Room Sierra F in the Marriott.

Incorporating Ethics into Economic Analysis

What do ethics have to do with economic analysis? Ethical issues are created when there is a conflict of interest and/or values between or among economic entities. Such conflicts are pervasive among the types of problems examined in economics. Examples include the principal-agent model, the externality problem and the design of economic policy that impacts diverse stakeholders. Sometimes, mainstream economists are reluctant to consider ethics as a viable facet of economic thought and analysis, in part because of the belief that economic analysis can remain value neutral. However, the maintenance of value neutrality is not possible when interests and/or values conflict, since judgements have to be made about which interests or values take precedence and because such conflicts often affect the behavior of economic actors. This creates an opportunity, if not an expectation, for a consideration of ethics in economic analysis.

In this session, co-sponsored by the Institutional and Behavioral Economics Section and the Senior Section, the presenters will consider both conceptual and empirical approaches to incorporating ethics into economics analysis, with particular attention to the kinds of problems of interest to agricultural and applied economists. Noted speakers will discuss how contemporary ethics can provide promising modes of engagement with economists, how surveys and experimental economics can inform on the ethical motivations of consumers, how behavioral economics can be used to illustrate the ethical ramifications of nudging, and how specific economic models can be modified to include explicit references to ethical considerations.

This promises to be a powerful session, with an increasingly relevant topic addressed by presenters noted for their work in ethics and behavioral economics. Put it on your meeting calendar: Tuesday, July 28, 1:00 pm, Room Sierra E. Seating may be limited.

Track Session on Prospects for GMO Labeling

The rapid adoption of GMO varieties of corn, soybeans, and cotton has precipitated consumer concerns about labeling food products containing GMO ingredients. Bills to require GMO labeling, or otherwise regulate genetically engineered foods, have been introduced in over 30 states and more initiatives are in process. Connecticut’s and Maine’s legislatures have passed bills mandating the labeling of foods containing GMOs, but for both enactment is contingent upon passage of similar legislation in nearby states. Vermont’s law to require labeling delayed enactment for two years and in the meantime is being challenged in the courts. Last November, Colorado and Oregon voters rejected ballot measures that would have made GMO labeling mandatory. Similar measures were defeated in California in 2012, and in Washington in 2013. Congress also will be considering legislation, which would likely preempt state efforts.

This issue has significant international implications with the planted acreage of GMO crops in developing countries exceeding that of industrial nations, and many other countries, including the entire European Union, requiring labeling of genetically modified foods.

What are the prospects for GMO food labeling and for GMO foods, in general? That’s the question for this track session, co-sponsored by the Senior and Extension Sessions at the 2015 AAEA & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The presenters will discuss the factors that are involved in answering this question, including consumer reactions to GMOs, the costs of mandatory GMO labeling, and the potential for new developments. Two “outside” presenters will be Alison Van Eenennaam, Animal Scientist, University of California, Davis, and Michael K. Hansen, Senior Staff Scientist with Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.

Don’t miss this session at 2:45 pm on Tuesday, July 28 in the Pacific H Room of the San Francisco Marriott Marquis. Come early if you want a seat!