DAFRE.3 green  

Advancing Economics, Transforming Lives

Fall 2014
In This Issue
From the Chairperson
Liverpool-Tasie and Africa
Scholarships Strengthen Intercontinental Ties
Weber Links AFRE Website to Past and pPresent
Alumni News
People and Awards
Quick Links

Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics 




Michigan State University 
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From the Interim Chairperson

On May 9, 2014, Dean Fred Poston, after consulting the Department's Advisory Committee, asked me to serve as the interim chair of the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics (AFRE).  I accepted the assignment because I care about and owe so much to the department, my colleagues and our stakeholders, including our students.  It is a daunting assignment to follow Steve Hanson, whose leadership in this position helped the department gain increased recognition nationally, internationally and among our peers.  Not in my experience have our graduate students been so highly respected and sought after.  Not in my experience have we seen our undergraduate enrollment at 850.  Nor do I recall a time when our international expertise been so highly sought after.  So, part of my assignment during this interim period is not to mess things up-I'll try hard not to do so.  But if we are not moving forward, we are likely to slide backward, so I have three initiatives I want to emphasize to keep us moving forward.

The first initiative is to revitalize the global agri-food area in the department.   During spring 2014, faculty members interested in the global agri-food space met regularly to discuss branding our product, connecting to our stakeholders and responding to undergraduate teaching opportunities.  To that end, we approached the dean to propose new hires in this area.  I am pleased that we have been approved to hire one new faculty member this year.  We are also actively recruiting to fill the Elton R. Smith Chair, which should add faculty expertise in this space.  A committee in our department is also exploring online opportunities to reach out to our stakeholders in the agri-food arena.

The second initiative is to build synergy in the environmental and natural resource program.  Our faculty skill and expertise in this area, including joint appointments with the economics department, may be the best available.  We need first to communicate more effectively our strengths in environmental, energy and resource economics, and second to capitalize on more research opportunities that use those strengths.  We also need to cooperate in our recruitment and funding of graduate students in this area.  In this effort, we will look for opportunities to cooperate with partners locally, nationally and internationally.

The third initiative is to establish a solid financial base for recruiting graduate students.  We now compete for some of the best graduate students in the country.  But sometimes we find that others can make better offers, and we sometimes lose students whom we believe would be best served by a Michigan State University education and who would be ambassadors for our programs when they leave.

So stay tuned for a report on how we're doing in these initiatives during the coming year.  In the meantime, please continue reading about some outstanding educators and researchers who have joined our faculty ranks, how two faculty members were awarded our profession's highest honors - fellow in the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association and the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists - and also remember two eminent colleagues who passed away this past year - Carl Eicher and Robert Stevens.

Lindon J. Robison 


Born and Raised in West Africa, Saweda Liverpool-Tasie is Never Too Far From Home


Though Saweda Liverpool-Tasie makes her home in East Lansing now, the AFRE assistant professor remains well connected to her homeland through her research to improve agricultural practices and the lives of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, especially in Nigeria.
"I feel like being an assistant professor here at this time, with the kinds of projects I'm involved in, is a potentially important way that I can contribute to countries like Nigeria. As an assistant professor, I have been able to engage in research on issues that are important and relevant to the development process.  Apart from good research facilities, I feel fortunate to be surrounded by outstanding faculty in a college like CANR and in a university with such a strong international focus. I really don't know if I could do what I do if I was in Nigeria right now," Liverpool-Tasie said.
Some of her current research projects focus on modern technologies that have the potential to improve farmer incomes and productivity. She is very interested in understanding the process of technology adoption among rural farmers, particularly those geared to promote "sustainable intensification" practices.  The targeted use of fertilizer is one example, she noted, in discussing two ongoing projects in Nigeria and Niger.
She's also interested in how farmers in places such as Nigeria learn about new technologies.
"Extension services in developing countries are often weak," she said, "so farmers often get information from their peers-their neighbors and friends. Can we better understand these networks so we can leverage on their structures to disseminate information about new technologies?"
As a Norman Borlaug Fellow in 2007, Liverpool-Tasie studied the lives of farmers in Ethiopia by examining ways in which their poverty status was measured. She concluded that, in rural Ethiopia, asset-based poverty measures were a more useful way of predicting someone's future income and economic well-being than income alone. She then used poverty classifications based on assets to test for heterogeneous social network effects on farmer adoption of new technologies. She found evidence that social learning was more evident for households not in persistent poverty, for more complex technologies and within networks based on intentional relationships rather than proximity.
Liverpool-Tasie was born in Sierra Leone and grew up in Jos, Nigeria. She graduated from the University of Jos with a degree in economics. During her last year at university, she was an intern for a Fulbright scholar from the University of Iowa who also was interested in technology and development in Africa. That led her to Iowa City, where she received two master's degrees, one in urban and regional planning, and one in Third World development. From there she went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and received a doctorate in agriculture and consumer economics.
Before coming to MSU in 2012, Liverpool-Tasie was a postdoctoral fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C., posted to Abuja, Nigeria.  She finds academia interesting because it allows her both to research and to teach.
"That's ideal," even though it means fewer hours of sleep, she said, smiling. For the fall semester, she is teaching an undergraduate course, World Food Population and Poverty, and co-teaching a graduate-level class, Agriculture in Economic Development.
Liverpool-Tasie is involved in a new multi-country AFRE project, Guiding Investment in Sustainable Agricultural Intensification in Africa (GISAIA). She is leading a two-pronged study in Nigeria. One part looks at understanding how fertilizer use correlates with crop profitability across Nigeria's diverse agro-ecological and market conditions. Her team also is working with the private sector on an innovative approach to improve farmer knowledge and access to new sustainable intensification practices that could increase rice productivity. Here as well, the role of social networks in this process is being explored.
"I am very happy to be here and able to do all these kinds of things," Liverpool-Tasie said. "I am always happy to work in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa."


   -- Christine Meyer  

Scholarships strengthen Intercontinental Ties      


The strong ties established decades ago between Michigan State University, the continent of Africa and the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics (AFRE) are being reinforced with two recent scholarship programs: the MasterCard Foundation (MCF) Scholars is exclusively for Africans, and the Borlaug Higher Education for Agricultural Research and Development (BHEARD) Program is for academics from around the developing world.
AFRE has welcomed two African students who are part of the MasterCard Foundation Scholars program. Launched in 2012 by the independent MasterCard Foundation, the MCF Scholars program provides all-expenses-paid scholarships to academically gifted African undergraduate or master's degree students. Eligible students must come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and plan on returning to their home countries to work in their chosen fields, such as agriculture, government or engineering. Other participating universities are Duke, Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley.
Thelma Namonje was a member of the inaugural class of MCF Scholars at MSU.  In July, she defended her master's thesis on how late fertilizer delivery affects smallholder maize production in Zambia.  She has headed home to Zambia to start a new job as a research associate at the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute.
She said that gaining the opportunity to study in the United States was "a dream come true. I look at it as a steppingstone to what I want to achieve in life."  Namonje's research interests include agricultural policy research focusing specifically on farm input subsidy programs and maize marketing in Zambia.

Roland Ofori of Ghana, AFRE's second MCF Scholar, is about to begin the second year of his master's degree program. When he returns home, he will continue to work for the Ministry of Finance.
Achieving an advanced degree from MSU "will go a long way to reshape my view on Africa's development, and it will equip me with the requisite knowledge and skills needed to be an economist," Ofori wrote in an email from Ghana, where he was spending the summer. "This will enable me to contribute more effectively to Ghana's efforts at achieving accelerated development."
The Borlaug Higher Education fellowship - named after Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug - began as a project of the U.S. Agency for International Development, which selected MSU to implement the program. Currently one AFRE student from Bangladesh is working toward his Ph.D. in agricultural economics. The aim of this scholarship is to increase the number of agricultural scientists in the developing world while strengthening their home universities, where they will return to support the training of more agricultural researchers at the master's and doctoral levels. The first participating countries were Ghana, Uganda, Mozambique, Bangladesh and Cambodia. This year, it will expand to include Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Malawi and South Sudan. All of these countries participate in USAID's Feed the Future initiative.

"During the scholarship interviews, we tell the students that this scholarship is not for them as individuals," said AFRE's Anne Schneller. "It's really for the strengthening of the agricultural research capacity of the home institution." Schneller is a co-director of BHEARD, along with AFRE's Eric Crawford and Frederik Derksen from Food Science, Health and Nutrition.
For Nahid Sattar, AFRE's first BHEARD scholar, it has been a long-cherished dream to earn his Ph.D. from an American university. After three years of coursework in AFRE at MSU, Sattar will return to his home institution - Bangladesh Agricultural University - where he will begin his research. (BHEARD requires that research must be conducted in the scholar's home country and must focus on an issue related to agricultural development.)  He said he hopes to study the transformation of postharvest practices in Bangladesh with AFRE professor Tom Riordan as his adviser.
This is Sattar's first time in the United States, although he's no stranger to foreign study, having received his master's degree from the University of East Anglia in England. The academic rigor of a Ph.D. program at an American university is a challenge, but one that he's meeting head-on, he said.
"For me it's a great academic opportunity and a challenge to meet these standards. If I can get through, it will take me to a different level," said Sattar, who works as a lecturer at Bangladesh Agricultural University. "A lot of agriculture students from Bangladesh don't come to the U.S., and it would have been unlikely for me to be here without BHEARD."
 "Of course, the scholars will go back with technical skills, but we also want them to be leaders at their institutions and maintain research projects with their U.S. professors," Schneller said, adding that BHEARD also encourages its students to take advantage of many opportunities for leadership training on their U.S. campuses.

All three scholars said they are deeply impressed by the level of education attained by their professors and pleasantly surprised by how accessible the professors are to their students.  In addition to class and research work, Ofori wrote that he likes the calm environment of life on an American university campus, and Sattar said that he has enjoyed learning about American football.
For Michigan State, becoming involved in these two scholarship programs was a natural, given its history on the African continent, which dates back to the 1960s and the days of MSU president John Hannah, who became administrator of USAID after leaving Michigan State in 1969.
"MSU is an excellent place to study for those interested in Africa, not only in the field of agriculture but because of MSU's long-standing number one position in many fields of study related to Africa," Schneller said.
It was that expertise that led USAID to select Michigan State as the institution to administer the BHEARD program. Schneller noted that MSU has had the largest number of MasterCard Foundation Scholars of any participating university-33 MasterCard Scholars since 2012-and another 32 scholars will begin their studies on campus this fall.

-Christine Meyer
Mike Weber 

Weber Links AFRE Website to Past and Present     


Look at the AFRE website, and you will find far richer information on the department's people and history than you would have found just two years ago. Thank Mike Weber, professor emeritus, who saw a need and tackled it with energy.  The improved website gives details on faculty activities, it brings back the accomplishments of retired faculty members, and it chronicles the history of international programs in the department.


Weber's revitalization project began with a passion to bring to light accomplishments of such great antecedents as Karl T. Wright, who published more than 500 titles on farm practices, agricultural development, and domestic and international agriculture. Internet content has a clear bias toward materials developed since 1990, and AFRE's website was no exception.  In fact, it had recently gotten worse.  Lacking a plan to maintain and add archival material to the websites of faculty members as they retired, the department dropped them from its website entirely during the 2012 upgrade to a new platform.

"Let's face it, once your full-time work was done, you basically didn't exist in the [AFRE website] world. That wasn't right, and it wasn't smart," said Weber, who served for two decades as co-director and director of a flagship program in international agricultural and food system development. "As I approached retirement, I proposed that we reinstate the emeritus section and bring to light - and to the Internet - the great work of the pioneers who came before us."
With that in mind, Weber embarked on an ambitious project in his final year before retirement. His goals were to resurrect and enhance the emeritus faculty section of the AFRE website and to expand information about current faculty members. Perhaps most importantly, this project would dramatically increase the department's digital p­resence and accessibility.
Weber's project stretched from one year to nearly four.  His foray into the past, present and future of agricultural economics on the Web has resulted in a rich historical archive of international work dating back to the 1940s,  as well as a robust sample of ongoing work by current AFRE staff members. The AFRE website now has an enhanced "tabs" format for displaying and navigating content for both current and emeritus faculty members.  Among the new features are these:
  • Faculty listings with a Students tab, which lists theses and dissertations written by the staff member's advisees. To accomplish this, Weber spent two to three months pulling doctoral and master's theses off library shelves to read the acknowledgment page and note the major professor to update this database.
  • Under the Faculty/Projects tab, a compendium of past and present funded research work. "Grants should be given visibility," Weber said. "Short digital summaries work very well. We've also been posting Power Point presentations and video when possible.  The faculty has really responded in a positive way. Members like seeing their work online."
  • Memorable video of Karl Wright being interviewed by MSU extension specialist Laurie Wink in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the American Agricultural Economics Association.
Weber is pleased with how the project has evolved to help spotlight the continuing great outputs from multiple scholarship missions of the department. More recently, the website work has also helped him stay focused while combating to remission status an aggressive form of blood cancer that was diagnosed in 2013.
"One of the more satisfying parts of this whole project has been the times when I've been able to show some of our pioneers a digital snapshot of their careers," Weber said. "For example, I was able to spend time with Carl (before he died in July), and he was very excited to see his career work all in one place. And this is a man who helped produce projects full of information.
"It's been a lot of work, but it needed to be done," Weber said. "We had to embrace the technology and make this stuff accessible. You never know when someone might be looking for a piece of information from a department project or publication."  
Case in point: the recent email from a farm management teacher in India who wanted access to a text from Glenn Johnson. Weber knew just where to look.
"When I sent him the URL from Glenn's online profile [to the publication "Decision-Making Principles in Farm Management" within days, he couldn't believe it," Weber said. "Little things like that keep you going."

 -Mark Meyer


Carl K. Eicher (1930-2014), University Distinguished Professor Emeritus, at Michigan State University (MSU) from 1961 to 1999, passed away on July 5, 2014.  Dr. Eicher's lifelong passion was enabling agricultural development and ending hunger in Africa. At Michigan State University from 1961 to 1999, he was a visionary leader and prominent voice for global food security. He worked in several African universities and organizations to build the capacity to make the continent self-sufficient in food production.  Over his career, he mentored hundreds of students committed to Africa, both from the continent and from elsewhere.

"The fruits of his contributions of building a generation of African researchers, educators and policy makers will be harvested for decades to come," said Peter Matlon, former Managing Director-Africa, Rockefeller Foundation.

Eicher was born April 3, 1930, and grew up on a farm near Newberry in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in agricultural economics at MSU, then a doctorate in economics at Harvard University. He returned to MSU as a faculty member in 1961. Eicher always was a strong advocate of the land grant mission in U.S. higher education.

Eicher served as a visiting professor at the University of Nigeria from 1963-66, at Stanford University in 1968 and at the University of Zimbabwe from 1983-87, where he was co-director with Mandi Rukuni of the University of Zimbabwe/MSU Food Security program. He also worked there with SADCC, an organization created to reduce the economic dependence of neighboring countries on South Africa during the era of apartheid.

Eicher wrote or edited eight books on agricultural development, including the widely used International Agricultural Development (ed. with John Staatz; Johns Hopkins U, 3rd ed. 1998).  Among his publications, his article in Foreign Affairs, "Facing Up to Africa's Food Crisis" (1982) drew the attention of global policy makers to hunger in Africa.  For those in the agricultural development community, his encyclopedic literature review with Doyle Baker was a classic: "Agricultural Development in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Critical Survey," (in A Survey of Agricultural Economics Literature,  Vol. 4: Agriculture in Economic Development 1940s to 1990s, U. of Minnesota, 1992; pages 3-328).

After retirement, his dedication to African development persisted through his work with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Bank, the Kellogg Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and African organizations such the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

Fuller details on his career may be found at http://www.afre.msu.edu/people/eicher_c.

Robert D. Stevens, Professor Emeritus, passed away July 10, 2014, in Reading, Massachusetts.  Dr. Stevens taught and conducted research at MSU on agricultural development and health economics from 1964 to 1990, including overseas assignments in Lebanon, South Vietnam, and East Pakistan.   

Fuller details on his career may be found at  http://www.afre.msu.edu/people/stevens_robert.

AFRE Alumni News     



Robert P. King (Ph.D., 1979; M.S., 1977), professor of applied economics at the University of Minnesota, was named an AAEA Fellow at the Minneapolis AAEA meeting, July 27-28, 2014.



June C. Grabemeyer (M.S., 1987), who retired at the end of 2013 as the Natural Resources Conservation Service agricultural economist for Michigan, was honored by the USDA Economists Group as the USDA Economist of the Year in February 2014 for her work in conservation economics.


Rudy Ooijen (M.S., 1985) is living in the Netherlands and working as a freelancer after 17 years with Netherlands Economic Institute (NEI; now called ECORYS Netherlands).  As a staff economist for NEI, he led missions in public finance and debt management in Africa and Latin America.  His current focus is mainly on evaluating agricultural and rural development programs financed by the EU. Many of the missions are in sub-Saharan Africa, and quite a few of them are on sugar cane production and processing.  He also did a sugar mission in Belize two years ago and more recently evaluated the EU's integrated rural development program there.  Contact Rudy at rudy.ooijen@gmail.com



Cheryl J. Wachenheim (Ph.D., 1994; M.S., 1991), professor of agribusiness and applied economics at North Dakota State University, received the AAEA Distinguished Teaching Award for Undergraduate Teaching, Ten or More Years' Experience, at the Minneapolis AAEA meeting, July 27-28, 2014.



Domenico Dentonihas taken the position of assistant professor in the Management Studies Group of Wageningen University.    He worked previously at the University of Adelaide in the Australian Seafood Cooperative Research Centre.


David Gebben (M.S., 2008) took an economist position with RTI International Health Solutions in Research Triangle Park, N.C., starting Aug. 25, 2014.


Blessing Maumbe (Ph.D., 2001) took a position as associate professor of agribusiness in the Institute of Agriculture and the Environment at Massey University in New Zealand, effective July 2013.  He had previously taught at West Virginia University.



Tim Komarek (Ph.D., 2012; M.S., 2010) took the position of assistant professor of economics in the Strome College of Business at Old Dominion University, effective July 2014. During 2012-14, he worked as assistant professor at Valdosta State University in Georgia.


Ty Lawson (M.S., 2012) has been named a Presidential Management Fellow in the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The PMF program is a two-year leadership development program in the U.S. government for recent advanced degree graduates.


Nathalie Me-Nsope (Ph.D., 2014) was named specialist responsible for the gender team of the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation (GCFSI) at MSU.


Alexandra Peralta (Ph.D., 2014) took aposition as university lecturer at the University of Adelaide in South Australia.


Paige van Poppelen (M.S., 2014) joined the NPD Group in Rosemont, Illinois, as an account associate on June 30, 2014.  She works on market research in the food services industry.  


Aleksan Shanoyan (Ph.D., 2011), assistant professor at Kansas State University, advised K-State's AAEA grad case study at the summer meetings in Minneapolis, July 27-28, 2014.


Helder Zavale (Ph.D., 2014) took a position as assistant professor at Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo, Mozambique.



People and Awards     


Faculty and Staff News

Joseph Herriges joined MSU July as Professor, jointly appointed in AFRE and Economics.  His research spans environmental and resource economics and applied econometrics, with a focus developing techniques for improved estimation of recreational demand.

Stephen B. Lovejoy joined his AFRE tenure home as professor and extension specialist, after eight years as Associate Director of  MSU Extension.

Corey C. Risch joined the AFRE faculty as assistant professor, after a stint on the faculty at Eastern Kentucky University.  Her teaching and research focuses on agribusiness management, including human and financial resource management.

Lindon Robison was appointed Interim Chair for the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, effective May 9, 2014.

DaveWeatherspoon is spending Fall 2014 on sabbatical at the USDA Economic Research Service in Washington, DC.


Faculty Awards

Joseph Herriges was named Fellow of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (AERE) at the World Conference of Environmental and Resource Economists in Istanbul on June 29, 2014. 


At the AFRE Annual Faculty Meeting on May 9, 2014, the following awards were made:

·       Excellence in Teaching Award (2014): J. Roy Black

·       Excellence in Research Award (2014): Songqing Jin

·       Excellence in Outreach Award (2013): Eric Scorsone

·       Excellence in Service Award (2013):  Michael T. Weber


Student Awards and Honors

Carson Reeling was elected president of the AFRE Graduate Student Organization for 2013-14.


Marie Steele was elected vice-president of the AFRE Graduate Student Organization for 2013-14.


New students for Fall 2014: During orientation August 25-26, the Department welcomed 79 new students. The 15 new grad students include 6 PhD and 9 MS students who jointly hail from 6 countries. The 64 incoming undergrads included 42 freshmen and 22 transfer students. The group includes 33 majoring in Agribusiness Management, 18 in Food Industry Management, and 13 in Environmental Economics and Policy.  Most come from Michigan, but members of the incoming undergrad group also come from Illinois, California, China, Rwanda and Kenya.



Advancing Economics, Transforming Lives is the quarterly newsletter of the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics at Michigan State University (http://www.afre.msu.edu/).

Editor:                       Scott M. Swinton

Writers:                     Mark J. Meyer and
Christine Meyer

Assistant Editor:     Debbie Conway

Editing Assistance: ANR Communications