Tuesday, April 21, 2020

AAEA GSS | 2020 Policy Communications Competition


In today’s market, there are numerous job opportunities for graduate students to enter positions in which they must effectively evaluate policy and communicate with policymakers and non-specialists about how certain issues influence stakeholders in food and agriculture. Communication must be brief, yet powerful, with proper objectivity and inclusion of timely and accurate information. Through this competition, graduate students will have the opportunity to gain experience in both written and verbal policy communication.

Objectives for Participants

  • Evaluate a given relevant agricultural policy issue.
  • Carefully construct rhetoric, both written and oral, to provide objective information needed by decision makers.

Participant Eligibility

Eligible applicants are:
  • Graduate students with a graduation date of 2019 or later engaged in agricultural economics, agribusiness, natural resources, community resource economics, or a related field.

Competition Information

The first round of the competition will require participants to submit a typed policy briefing, not to exceed two pages (double spaced, 12-point font, including references, figures, and graphics). This document should summarize the background and current status of the issue, key facts (i.e. benefits and costs to different groups), findings, and conclusions. The job of the participant is not to convince the policymaker to take a certain position or vote a certain way, but rather to evaluate, gather and present the necessary information for the policymaker to make an informed decision regarding the issue.

The second round of the competition will require participants to provide a verbal presentation that accompanies the policy briefing, not to exceed 10 minutes in length. Within the presentation, the participant should go into more detail about the specificity of the policy issue as well as include more key facts and findings from outside research surrounding the policy issue. Overall, the presentation and written brief should complement each other and form a well-rounded effort in policy communication.


  • April 2020: Open registration for competition. Selected policy issue prompt sent to participants.
  • Friday, May 15, 2020: Registration and policy briefing due.
  • Sunday, July 26, 2020: Presentations at 2020 AAEA Annual Meeting in Kansas City.

Competition Application Information

Applications should be addressed to Logan Britton at logan.britton@okstate.edu and must include:
  1. Student’s name, university, department, address, and contact information.
  2. Policy briefing (2-page maximum).

Submission Deadline

Applications must be submitted electronically no later than midnight CST on May 15, 2020.

Finalists at AAEA

Finalists will be selected to make a 10-minute presentation at the AAEA meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, on Sunday, July 26, 2020, to a panel of judges. The competition will begin at 8 a.m. Selection of the finalists will be based on the material submitted and criteria listed below. Finalists will be notified by June 1, 2020.

Criteria for Selecting Finalists and Winners

Criteria for judging finalists and winners will include:

  1. Defines the problem, discusses feasibility of the policy ideas and steps, addresses a proper audience, background and supporting research, and addresses government failures or unintended consequences.
  2. Integration of knowledge, persuasiveness of argument, and variety of sources.
  3. Formal language, appropriate tone, grammar and mechanics, and logical organization of thoughts and ideas.
  4. Proper format of policy briefing (proper headings, length no more than two pages, proper citation, ordered appearance)


The top three competitors selected will be recognized at the AAEA Awards Ceremony and the winner will receive a plaque at the awards ceremony.


General Information:
Labor shortages have influenced the U.S. agriculture sector for several decades. Over the past 15 years, the number of U.S. farmworkers has declined by approximately 12 percent2. The U.S. agriculture sector and other industries within the economy have relied on undocumented workers to fill the labor gap1. Due to farm labor scarcity and high wage rates, unauthorized migration from Mexico has been incentivized3. Labor shortages still exist in the farm sector today because of stricter immigration policies and penalties. The H-2A program were created to meet the farm labor scarcity in the United States due to insufficient able and willing supply of local and domestic labor2. Through these programs, U.S. farmers can secure laborers and foreign workers can legally be employed in the United States1. Some farmers plant multiple crops each year to increase revenue and mitigate risk, which may extend beyond the 10-month window allowed through the H-2A program. This creates additional transaction costs for operations producing multiple crops than traditional operations5. Alternative programs to the H-2A have been developed for farm employees but have not successful in the long-run.

Policy Changes:
Suppose the U.S. Congress is introducing legislation to address the issue of labor shortage in the agriculture sector. The legislation includes programs that will modify the H-2A program. The H-AG program allows the same basic package; yet, employers must guarantee workers employment hours equal to at least 95 percent of the workdays in the contract period. This bill redefines agricultural workers to include those involved in livestock and dairy production. This program would allow guest workers employment with a specific employer for 15 months or less. After the H-AG visa expires three years from its issue date, the guest worker must leave the United States for at least 90 days.

What to Address:
With no more than two pages (single-spaced and 1 inch margins with a Serif font), evaluate the costs and benefits of the legislation being proposed by Congress. Does it correct a market failure? You should also address any potential government failures or unintended consequences. Policymakers are your audience when developing your paper. If selected to the second round of the competition, you will be asked to present this information to a panel of judges.

Devadoss, S. and J. Luckstead. 2019. "Theme Overview: The Role of Guest Workers in U.S. Agriculture." Choices. Quarter 1. Available online: http://www.choicesmagazine.org/choices-magazine/theme-articles/the-role-of-guest-workers-in-us-agriculture/theme-overview-the-role-of-guest-workers-in-us-agriculture

Bampasidou, M. and M.E. Salassi. 2019. "Trends in U.S. Farm Labor and H-2A Hired Labor: Policy and Related Issues." Choices. Quarter 1. Available online: http://www.choicesmagazine.org/choices-magazine/theme-articles/the-role-of-guest-workers-in-us-agriculture/trends-in-us-farm-labor-and-h-2a-hired-labor-policy-and-related-issues

Luckstead, J. and S. Devadoss. 2019. "The Importance of H-2A Guest Workers in Agriculture." Choices. Quarter 1. Available online: http://www.choicesmagazine.org/choices-magazine/theme-articles/the-role-of-guest-workers-in-us-agriculture/the-importance-of-h-2a-guest-workers-in-agriculture

Martin P. 2019. "The Role of the H-2A Program in California Agriculture." Choices. Quarter 1. Available online: http://www.choicesmagazine.org/choices-magazine/theme-articles/the-role-of-guest-workers-in-us-agriculture/the-role-of-the-h-2a-program-in-california-agriculture

Osti, S., M. Bampasidou, and J.M. Fannin. 2019. "Labor-Intensive Multiple Cropping Systems and the H-2A Program: Evidence from the Crawfish Industry." Choices. Quarter 1. Available online: http://www.choicesmagazine.org/choices-magazine/theme-articles/the-role-of-guest-workers-in-us-agriculture/labor-intensive-multiple-cropping-systems-and-the-h-2a-program-evidence-from-the-crawfish-industry

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