In January 2016, a Priorities and Solutions Project was initiated to identify the most pressing issues facing society with input from a broad spectrum of the agricultural and applied economics profession. This consensus-building endeavor was facilitated by the Council on Food, Agriculture and Resource Economics (C-FARE), working in partnership with the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA). The Economic Research Service (ERS) of the USDA provided expertise and logistical support.1 The Priorities and Solutions Project is intended to provide the profession with the opportunity to shape its own future by identifying and communicating research opportunities to our profession, our stakeholders, policymakers, and the public. Agricultural and applied economists can work to provide solutions to some of society’s most difficult problems or challenges. This special issue is based on the findings of the project. The Priorities and Solutions Project aims to describe the most pressing societal challenges and suggest the research, education, and data needed to overcome those challenges. The overall goal is to encourage the application of economic analysis to the high-priority issues facing society. The objectives of the Priorities and Solutions Project are to accomplish the following: Identify overarching priorities for agricultural and applied economics research and education to address society’s challenges over the next decade. Promote communication among agricultural and applied economists about the priorities for developing new research projects, research methods, and curricula to meet the future needs of society. Communicate to policy makers in Congress and federal agencies about the key needs and priorities for research and education in agriculture and applied economics. Articulate the role of agricultural and applied economists in working with other disciplines to respond to the challenges facing society. Identify the educational needs for future agricultural and applied economists and develop new and innovative curricula to meet those needs. The Priority-Setting Process As challenges change, updating the priorities for agricultural and applied economics is an ongoing process. In 1997, priorities were outlined in Economics Research and Education Priorities for an Efficient and Sustainable Food System (C-FARE 1997) and discussed in Ahearn et al. (1998). These priorities were designed to reflect important economic problems and opportunities, while setting targets toward which limited resources for research and education could be applied. As with the 1997 report, the Priorities and Solutions Project is intended to guide the planning and development of research and education programs in many venues. The process of priority identification is designed to complement efforts by the USDA, other government agencies, and land grant and state universities to establish priorities through strategic planning and assessment. An online survey was administered to AAEA members in 2016. The survey’s objectives were to identify ideas that will inspire support of agricultural and applied economics; encourage multidisciplinary collaboration; and guide research, teaching, extension, and outreach toward strategic problem solving. This survey asked respondents to: consider the critical problems facing society worldwide; list the questions that agricultural and applied economists can help answer to solve these problems; and identify the barriers faced in answering these big questions. A total of 177 responses were received. A 23-member steering committee led the development of the research and education priorities by providing overall governance of the Priorities and Solutions Project and representing their colleagues in developing consensus around the various agricultural and applied economics priority areas.2 The committee assisted in interpreting the results of the AAEA member survey, and also participated in the Priorities Workshop held May 2016, in Washington DC, joining representatives from academia, government, non-governmental organizations, and industry. Further, the Steering Committee helped identify the workgroups to develop the priority statements and reviewed and approved the draft report. The May 2016 workshop provided a face-to-face forum for a thorough discussion of the issues and priorities. Workshop participants represented their colleagues in developing consensus regarding the most important research questions, educational approaches, and anticipated outcomes. The workshop participants heard from national research, education, and extension leadership about their views of the context for priority-setting in Washington DC. At the workshop, the Steering Committee engaged six provocateurs to talk about the issues in these areas and related research, education, and extension needs associated with the categories that came out of the survey. These provocateurs provided perspectives and analyses of the challenges facing society and the role of the profession in advancing solutions to these problems. Then, the participants considered the survey responses and exchanged ideas and strategies in breakout sessions, and reported back to the overall group. Results A draft report was discussed and AAEA members provided feedback at a C-FARE Special Session at the 2016 AAEA Annual Meetings in Boston. Work on the initial development phase of the project ended with a release of the agricultural and applied economics Priorities and Solutions Report at the National Press Club on May 6, 2017, titled Tackling the Challenges of Innovative Trade, Maintaining Robust Markets, Capitalizing on Big Data, and Advancing Consumer Health. This special issue reflects on these societal challenges at a more in-depth level than the publicly-released Priorities and Solutions Project report would allow. The specific articles include the following: Jayson Lusk and Jill McCluskey discuss the impacts of consumer choice and food policy on health, environment, and hedonic outcomes (Lusk and McCluskey 2018). David Zilberman, Ben Gordon, Gal Hochman, and Justus Wesseler analyze the economics of sustainable development and the bioeconomy (Zilberman et al. 2018). Madhu Khanna, Scott Swinton, and Kent Messer reflect on the research that is needed to sustain our natural resources in the face of increasing societal demands on agriculture (Khanna, Swinton, and Messer 2018). Bruce McCarl and Thomas Hertel examine climate change research from an agricultural economics perspective (McCarl and Hertel 2018). Keith Coble, Ashok Mishra, Shannon Ferrell, and Terry Griffin write about the challenges of optimally utilizing big data in agriculture (Coble et al. 2018). Stephan Goetz, Mark Partridge, and Heather Stephens provide an assessment of the economic status of rural America in the Trump era (Goetz, Partridge, and Stephens 2018). Craig Gundersen and James Ziliak review food insecurity research and discuss the needs for the future in this underserved area (Gundersen and Ziliak 2018). Allen Featherstone analyzes issues in the farm economy with a focus on future research and education priorities (Featherstone 2018). Will Martin offers a research agenda for international agricultural trade and development (Martin 2018). Wallace Tyner and Nisal Herath close the special issue with an examination of the research needs in energy economics (Tyner and Herath 2018). We are hopeful that the project will have an impact on future research and analysis, the dissemination of agricultural and applied economics knowledge, and its incorporation into curricula. The agricultural and applied economics profession now embarks upon the next phase of the Priorities and Solutions Project, where intellectual dialogue will cultivate new ideas, new research, and new robust partnerships. Footnotes 1 The project leadership included Jill McCluskey, AAEA Past President, Washington State University, Project Chair; Gene Nelson, Texas A&M University, Project Director; and Caron Gala, C-FARE, Project Manager. 2 The steering committee membership included Mike Adjemian, USDA ERS; Mary Ahearn, USDA ERS (Retired); Walt Armbruster, Farm Foundation (Retired); Titus Awokuse, Michigan State University; Joshua Berning, University of Georgia; Susan Capalbo, Oregon State University; Roger Coupal, University of Wyoming; Tim Dalton, Kansas State University; Ken Foster, Purdue University; Craig Gundersen, University of Illinois; Neal Hooker, Ohio State University; Leif Jensen, Pennsylvania State University; Eluned Jones, South Dakota State University; David Just, Cornell University; Nigel Key, USDA ERS; Dan Lass, University of Massachusetts; Jayson Lusk, Purdue University; Kent Messer, University of Delaware; Kimberly Morgan, Virginia Tech University; Abby Okrent, USDA ERS; Marco Palma, Texas A&M University; and Norbert Wilson, Tufts University. References Ahearn M.C., Bahn H.M., Barry P.J., Cordes S.M., Hewitt T.I., Norton G.W., Smith K.R., Thurow A.P. 1998. Doing Good by Choosing Well: Priorities for Agricultural Economics. Review of Agricultural Economics 20 ( 2): 332– 46. Council on Food Agricultural and Resource Economics (C-FARE). 1997. Economics Research and Education Priorities for an Efficient and Sustainable Food System: An Economics Perspective. Washington DC: C-FARE. Coble K.H., Mishra A.K., Ferrell S., Griffin T. 2018. Big Data in Agriculture: A Challenge for the Future. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy 40 ( 1): 79– 96. Featherstone A. 2018. The Farm Economy: Future Research and Education Priorities. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy 40 ( 1): 136– 54. Goetz S.J., Partridge M.D., Stephens H.M. 2018. The Economic Status of Rural America in the President Trump Era and beyond. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy 40 ( 1): 97– 118. Gundersen C., Ziliak J.P. 2018. Food Insecurity Research in the United States: Where We Have Been and Where We Need to Go. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy 40 ( 1): 119– 35. Khanna M., Swinton S.M., Messer K.D. 2018. Sustaining our Natural Resources in the Face of Increasing Societal Demands on Agriculture: Directions for Future Research. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy 40 ( 1): 38– 59. Lusk J.L., McCluskey J. 2018. Understanding the Impacts of Food Consumer Choice and Food Policy Outcomes. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy 40 ( 1): 5– 21. Martin W. 2018. A Research Agenda for International Agricultural Trade. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy 40 ( 1): 155– 73. McCarl B.A., Hertel T.W. 2018. Climate Change as an Agricultural Economics Research Topic. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy 40 ( 1): 60– 78. Tyner W.E., Herath N. 2018. Energy Economics. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy 40 ( 1): 174– 86. Zilberman D., Gordon B., Hochman G., Wesseler J. 2018. Economics of Sustainable Development and the Bioeconomy. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy 40 ( 1): 22– 37. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please e-mail: email@example.com
Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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