The premiere edition of Choices magazine was published in 1986. Then, Choices was a quarterly, glossy magazine. Lyle Shertz, retired from the Economic Research Service, served as its first editor. That first issue stated that Choices was being launched because "food, farm and resource issues have become more important to everyone." From today's vantage point, it's easy to see just how prescient that observation was 30 years ago! While Choices presentation format has evolved over time, its motivation and mission have remained steady: To serve as the principal outreach vehicle of the AAEA by providing high quality articles exploring the economic implications of current food, farm, resource and rural community issues directed toward a broad policy audience.
The continued existence of Choices is a testament to the value it provides to its readership and the support it has received from AAEA leadership, editorial staffs, and contributing authors. In 1982, AAEA President Ed Schuh raised the question in his presidential report of "whether there is some vehicle by which we can bridge the communications gap to make the results of our research available to a broader audience in a more expeditious manner" (Barkley, 2010, pp. 145-147). In addition to Ed Schuh and Lyle Schertz, senior AAEA members will also recall the names and early contributions to the establishment of Choices by others: Leo Polopolus, Neil Harl, Herb Stoevener, and Neil Shaller.
Choices is online and free to readers. AAEA leaders and members have recognized the importance of extending the work of the profession by addressing important economic issues facing society through production of Choices. The importance of the social sciences, in general, in addressing public policy challenges is well recognized, e.g., see the 2015 World Development Report. The Agricultural Economics profession, in particular, has a rich tradition of producing public policy analysis. Some have even argued that social and behavioral sciences have a unique social responsibility to create an understanding of the value in using all of the sciences in the policy process (Prewitt and Hauser, 2013).
The challenge for the Choices authors and editors is to make sure those who should be aware of the knowledge generated by the profession are provided relevant information in an accessible form. The challenge bears reflection—relevant and accessible. This requires that authors and editors be informed of the current policy dialogue. Choices' close cooperation with the Council on Food, Agriculture & Resource Economics (C-FARE) currently facilitates attaining that goal. A successful outreach program also requires that the profession, and individuals, take ownership of Choices by contributing to the content. To do less, is shirking the responsibilities the profession has to those who provide support to our public and private workplaces.
Incoming co-editors, Kynda Curtis and Janet Perry, will begin posting content in January 2017. Their ability to produce a high quality publication, like editors before them, will depend on the AAEA members sharing in the responsibility to "connect the dots" of agricultural economic knowledge, policy agenda issues and timelines, and the form in which policy makers and others in the Choices audience can access information. It will be interesting to see where AAEA member owners take Choices in the next 30 years—and impactful for members who step up to be contributors.
- Barkley, P. 2010. A Centennial History of the AAEA. AAEA.
- Prewitt, Kenneth, and Robert Hauser. 2013. "Applying the Social and Behavioral Sciences to Policy and Practice." 29, no. 3.
- World Development Report. 2015. Mind, Society, and Behavior. Wash., D.C.: The World Bank.