INTRODUCTION AND CURRENT STATUS
The Department, currently known as Agricultural Economics engaged in a visioning process to set its course for the future. We started this process by thinking about the future and the issues and challenges we will be facing. For example:
- The interests of our undergraduates are changing. We are facing unprecedented demand from majors and non-majors for management and economics training. New career opportunities are opening for our students requiring new skills and expertise. Employers are paying premiums for internships and international experiences.
- The emphasis in our graduate programs is changing to agribusiness management and economics with our new Master of Agribusiness degree program. Also, the focus of our PhD program is changing with the potential demand for our graduates to add value to the huge amounts of data that are being collected in this new information-technology world.
- Research is increasingly driven by the availability of grant and contract funding from federal, state, private, and international sources. The potential for significant changes in technology and industry structure calls for forward-looking analyses of policy implications.
- Our extension programs are responding to the needs for training in marketing and management skills and evaluation of risk management strategies. This work has been expanded with additional funding from the state legislature. As we look to the future, we are being challenged to make more effective use of the Internet and distance education technology.
We need a clearer vision of how we should adjust our programs to respond to these future challenges and maintain a high standard of excellence. The source of creativity and innovation is our students, faculty, and staff. To take full advantage of this potential, however, we must convince them that they have permission to change, that they must look further into the future, that they must not become complacent, and that we must make change a habit.Overview of Programs
The Department’s 63 faculty members work in the areas of agribusiness management, marketing, finance, policy, economic development, natural resource economics, and production economics. Faculty appointments are divided among teaching (30%), extension (46%), and research (24%). Significant emphasis is given to the international dimensions of these programs.
Centers. The Department has a number of related centers, programs, and offices. These entities are used to organize and focus particular activities and provide effective linkages to programs, collaborators, and customers.
- Texas Agribusiness Market Research Center (Gary Williams, Director)
- Agriculture and Food Policy Center (Ron Knutson, Director)
- Center for North American Studies (Parr Rosson, Director)
- Center for Consumer and Food Marketing Issues (John Nichols, Director)
- Agribusiness Education in Americas Program (Lonnie Jones, Director)
- International Agribusiness Management Association (Russell Garrett, Manager)
Research. Research programs in the Department are partially funded through the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station. External grants and contracts provide a major source of research program support. New research grant and contract awards are approximately $2.0 million per year. Faculty publications in all refereed journals have established the Department among the top five in the country in research output. Major research programs are conducted in several areas: resource and environmental impacts, marketing and transportation, production economics and risk management, public policy, and agricultural finance. Many research projects also emphasize extensive multidisciplinary collaboration.
Undergraduate Teaching. The Department’s undergraduate program includes traditional emphasis on Agricultural Economics and a rapidly growing program in Agribusiness. The undergraduate degree in Agribusiness is jointly offered by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the College of Business, the first of its kind in the country. Undergraduate enrollment for Fall 2000 is expected to be over 800 students. Increasing emphasis is being given to service courses in agricultural marketing, management, and finance for students in other College majors.
Graduate Teaching. Graduate programs of the Department are well established and closely linked to research and extension education activities. Enrollment in the graduate program stands at about 110 students and there are over 65 in the masters programs. The Master of Agribusiness (MAB) program, which is jointly administered with the College and Graduate School of Business, has grown significantly in its first two years of existence (current enrollment is over 40 students). The Master of Science degree provides professional training for students seeking the skills in marketing, policy analysis, and decision-making needed in today's business world. The PhD degree in Agricultural Economics is tailored to produce highly skilled applied economists focused on quantitatively-based economic research and analyses of managerial and policy questions.
Extension Education. Extension education programs within the Department respond to the increasing complexity of the issues facing agriculture, agribusiness, and rural communities. This complexity arises, in part, from the increase industrialization and globalization of the agricultural sector. On-going, in-depth programs to address needs of farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses, and communities, are nationally recognized in agricultural policy, financial and risk management assistance, marketing education, computer applications, and economic development. Success in obtaining external grants, contracts, and user fees have contributed to the development of these highly innovative programs. Extension faculty contribute measurably to the competitiveness of Texas agriculture through economic evaluation of technology, adoption policy alternatives, and risk management strategies at the farm and agribusiness levels.
International Programs. The Department’s complement of international programs is rapidly expanding thanks to the increasing reputation of its faculty. Recently, international activities and involvement of the faculty have reflected growing global economic interdependence in agriculture, agribusiness, and natural resource management. International dimensions are reflected in as much as 25 percent of the Department's overall teaching, research and extension activities. Examples of current international efforts include a collaborative support program with the Armenian Agricultural Academy, an assessment of South American inland transportation systems, a partnership with the Russian Ministry of Agriculture and Food, a project with the Ministry of Agriculture, Land, and Marine Resources of Trinidad and Tobago, and technical assistance to the Ecuador Ministry of Agriculture.
Nature of discipline
The discipline of agricultural economics is concerned with improving the economic rationality of decisions made within the agriculture, food, fiber, natural resource, and public sectors of the economy. This includes both group decision making and individual firm decision making. Policy analysis provides input into group decision making processes at the federal, state, and community levels. Work in management, marketing, and finance, for example, provide input to the decisions of individuals and business firms. In today's information-based economy, one of the Department's most important roles is to create, apply, interpret and communicate new knowledge for the well-being of all Texans.
Economics also plays a key role in enhancing the value of publicly funded research. Economists provide research institutions with the tools and analysis they need to be accountable to society and better able to set research priorities and design research programs that are consistent with public policy objectives while meeting the standards of good science.[ John M. Antle and Robert J. Wagenet, Why Scientists Should Talk to Economists: the Role of Economics in Enhancing the Value of Publicly Funded Agricultural Research, American Agricultural Economics Association and Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ames, Iowa, March 1995.]