By J. Scott Angle, email@example.com, @IFAS_VP
Eight new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) economists focused on Florida agriculture will help growers get ahead of what happens in board rooms, government hearings and legislative debates.
UF/IFAS provides you with the science to grow the world’s best fruits and vegetables and the knowledge to grow them profitably. That can’t be done just on your farm. Policy and regulation impact your bottom line.
We recruited Suzanne Thornsbury, who has 10 years of experience in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, because of her expertise in specialty crop economics. She intends to make the competitiveness of your industry the focus of her work as a professor in agriculture policy and specialty crops in the UF/IFAS Food and Resource Economics Department (FRED).
Thornsbury will help you by arming your commodity association leaders with data and analysis related to policy issues so Florida ag can more effectively participate in decision-making in Washington, not just react to it.
She’s already sifting through the current 800-plus-page farm bill to identify what’s relevant to you: research funding for specialty crops, trade provisions, and programs in risk management and insurance. That will give her — and you — a jump on next year’s farm bill and what Florida’s voices in Washington can do to make it better.
“Our growers face significant challenges on the trade and labor front right now, and the building blocks of our advocacy for policy that helps us meet these challenges will come from economists like Dr. Thornsbury,” said Mike Joyner, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association and an alumnus of FRED.
Thornsbury most recently served as senior adviser in the USDA Office of the Chief Scientist, focused on agricultural economics and rural communities. Before that, she served in USDA’s Economic Research Service as branch chief for crops. I agree with Joyner that it would have been hard to find a better fit for the needs of the specialty crop industry.
In her three years as FRED chair, Lisa House has increased emphasis on trade and policy work, disaster impact analysis and bringing more research to industry. She also has a goal to increase the number of Extension agents who specialize in agribusiness.
“First as one of her undergraduate students, and now as a program alumnus and industry professional, I’m one of many whom Dr. House has encouraged, mentored and enriched,” said John Walt Boatright, director of national affairs for the Florida Farm Bureau. “She is reshaping a department with significant turnover and deepening industry engagement and collaboration with a new FRED Leadership Council comprised of stakeholders. Dr. House recognizes a link must exist between academia and industry practice. The success of one cannot exist without the other.”
That revived council strengthens FRED’s relationship with industry by getting the feedback that keeps the faculty’s work relevant and focused on making you money. The council includes Joyner, Boatright and others (see “Friends of FRED” sidebar).
House has long been guided by a service-to-industry ethic. She’s director of the Florida Agricultural Market Research Center, which is dedicated to developing and expanding markets for Florida farm and marine products. She even has a Florida Department of Citrus economist embedded in her department.
There are myriad angles to the economics of the specialty crop industry, and House has covered some of those as well with her new hires. Other newly arrived faculty bring with them expertise in teaching and research on food supply chains and alternative markets (such as farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture).
State and local policies also impact Florida farms, so the department has also hired Nathan Palardy as well as others with a policy focus. Here is the rest of the new FRED lineup and their areas of expertise:
- Weizhe Weng, water policy
- Jared Gars, policy in U.S. and developing countries
- James Ji, environmental economics and policy
- Di Fang, health economics and consumer behavior
- Patrick Ward, development and environmental economics
- Angelia Chen, food marketing and supply chains
- Xumin Zhang, general education
Feel free to reach out to any of them, to House (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to me if we can help you.
Even before the new hires, House led one of the largest university ag economics departments in the nation. With a strong team of eight new faculty members, she has grown her department even bigger and better, and they’re getting to work growing your industry.
J. Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of UF/IFAS.