Agricultural & Applied Economists are trained to address a variety of issues relevant to economic activity, production decisions, consumer choices, & the value chain in between. Below are research initiatives and examples of our work in each area.
Agricultural Policy, Risk and Insurance
The management of risk is central to modern agriculture, finance, and business management. Our scientists are focused on agricultural risk policy and insurance issues.
Counting the Cost
The Farm Bill, dating back more than 90 years, has always tried to make sure farmers aren’t unduly disadvantaged when a seasonal loss hits them. However, the current county-triggered phrasing of the legislation means that some farmers benefit when they aren’t in need while others aren’t compensated for an actual loss. MAFES researchers seek to mitigate these discrepancies by improving yield maps in the era of big data by incorporating geospatial variables including soil, weather and more. With this compilation of data, the researchers are hoping to offer a better way to quantify crop yield risk to better determine when to deliver assistance where it is needed most. Read our full article on Counting the Cost.
Approximately 17.4% of Mississippi's workforce is employed in agriculture. Two of the biggest agricultural commodities are soybean and corn. New issues have emerged due to extreme weather events occurring more frequently including the failure of prevented planting which results in fewer crops. The moisture in soil can cause prevented planning, which is a failure to plant insured crops before the designated final planting date which can result in fewer crops. Prevented planting compensations were estimated to be over $10 billion in the past decade. Dr. Seong Yun and his team are researching the increased rate of planting indemnities. Yun utilizes satellite imagery data across Mississippi to study the effects of the changing climate on agricultural production. Yun's goal is to help the Risk Management Agency accurately plan for prevented planting and remedy the financial loss associated with prevented planting provisions. Read our full article on Risky Business.
Agribusiness Management & Marketing
Our scientists are engaged with input suppliers, producers, and firms along the agricultural value chain with research focused on agricultural marketing, management, and finance.
Room to Graze
Dr. Brett Rushing, associate extension and research professor in plant and social sciences and Dr. Josh Maples, assistant professor and extension economist in agricultural economics, researched if combining cover crops with grazing cattle could improve both the grazing animals’ weight and the producer’s bottom line. Starting with this two-year study, the team established row crops and cover crops that encompassed a variety of species suitable for grazing that led to increased livestock weight gain. Using a no-till management approach and starting with oats, crimson clover, and radish as cover crop treatments, the researchers managed these cover crops along with the livestock that would eventually graze the crops. The team assessed three treatments to compare a tilled crop with grazed and non-grazed crops. Results showed that grazed crops were more successful with an increase in organic matter, and they found that some single species crops were more beneficial and successful than diverse mixes. The team is starting a new research project that will focus on cereal rye as the cover crop treatment along with evaluating soil benefits through a biological lens. Read our full article on Room to Graze.
Survey of Seafood Products Handled by Mississippi Restaurants
Due to the lack of seafood sales and employment data in the sector, recent economic impact estimates of the seafood industry in Mississippi excluded the seafood restaurant sector. To improve the estimation procedure of the economic impact of the seafood restaurant sector, a survey of a random sample of restaurant establishments operating in Mississippi was conducted in 2011. Read our publication on Survey of Seafood Products Handled by Mississippi Restaurants.
Big Data Economics & Precision Ag Data Analytics
Data produced by sensors, machinery, drones, social media, & other sources are useful for both forecasting & understanding causal relationships. As a partner with the Agricultural Data Coalition, we are using our expertise to unscramble the data.
Agricultural Data Coalition
The Agricultural Data Coalition's mission is to help farmers better control and manage their electronic data and promote innovation and progress in the agricultural marketplace. The goal of Agricultural Data Coalition is a create a neutral, independent, farmer-centric data repository where farmers can securely store and control the information collected every day in the fields by their tractors, harvesters, aerial imaging and other devices. Visit the Agricultural Data Coalition website to read more.
Commercial Agriculture Management & Finance
Our scientists research and deliver cutting-edge and timely analysis of farm management, agricultural marketing, and ag finance information useful to Southern agriculture.
The Experimental Laboratory allows scientists to apply replicable analyses designed to empirically test the predictions of economic theories and identify various human behaviors. Also, it allows scientists to test the impacts of various conditions yet to occur in the real world or those for which sufficient secondary data cannot be identified. Visit the Experimental Economics website to read more.
Economic Development, Entrepreneurship & Financial Education
Economic Development is central to the needs of people living in Mississippi. Our scientists focus on helping people solve their economic development-related problems.
Environmental & Natural Resource Economics
Increasingly society is faced with trade-offs between environmental protection, sustainability, and economic welfare. Our scientists consider economic, ecological, and bioeconomic processes to aid well-informed policy and other decisions that involve the natural environment.
Bioenergy Production and Agroecosystem Sustainability
Increasing bioenergy demand and energy security concerns have driven policy and research on bioenergy production and its link to sustainable agro-ecosystem management. Coupled agricultural production and agro-ecological systems models analyze multi-dimensional and complex processes: bioenergy production changes landuse and thus reallocates ecosystem services. This project, funded by USDA-NIFA [Award No. 2019-67024-29677], aims to model spatially-explicit optimal bioenergy production systems given existing renewable fuel standards (RFS2) and emerging future demand for bioenergy as a jet fuel. We propose to extend modern portfolio theory (MPT) for use in sustainable agro-ecosystem management, agro-ecosystems are modeled as an ecosystem portfolio, landuse changes are investments, and bioenergy production and other ecosystem services are returns from these investment.
A Household Study on Wind and Flood Insurance
Living close to the ocean has many perks—until storm clouds loom on the horizon. Hurricanes pose severe threats to homes along the coast, as they can cause both flood and wind damage. And while there are preventive measures that homeowners can take in the forms of mitigation and insurance, not everyone is likely to do so. Researchers in the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station study homeowners’ decisions to purchase insurance in the hopes that their conclusions will help create a more transparent, easier to use system. Read our article on Protection from the Storm.
Think Outside the Sandbox
Loss of sand from the nation's beaches, dunes, and barrier islands is a serious problem that affects both the coastal environment and the economy. In order to address this need, beach nourishment, shore protection, and wetlands restoration projects are becoming increasingly routine. MAFES scientists, partnering with researchers at Louisiana State University and the University of New Orleans, are comparing the economic cost of using sand from the outer continental shelf versus near-shore sand in coastal restoration projects. Read our full article Think Outside the Sandbox.
Hog Heaven in the Delta
MAFES researchers are studying the movement, impact, and knowledge of invasive feral swine. Wild hogs are a destructive pest within Mississippi, but the research being done by MAFES scientists indicates that they may be more intelligent than originally thought, even going so far as avoiding locations where swine had previously been killed. With this intelligence in mind, researchers are creating a bio-economic model that includes the hog’s population growth, ability to learn, and a method of population management, as well as a thorough analysis of the economic gains and losses presented by various population management methods. Read our full article Hog Heaven in the Delta.
Food Systems & Specialty Crop Economics
Our scientists conduct research to build capacity within communities and assist stakeholders to improve the viability and profitability of Mississippi's food system.
Measuring Marketability, Economic and Environmental Benefits of Gulf Oysters
From scallops in Steinhatchee, Florida to lobster off the mid-coast of Maine, coastal communities are often defined by the shellfish harvested there. The same can be said for oysters, from Blue Pool oysters in Washington State to the Moon Shoals of Massachusetts to the gulf oysters of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, locals and connoisseurs alike seek out select shellfish from certain regions. One MAFES researcher is honing in on gulf oysters, in order to discover more about consumer perception and preference as well as the economic and environmental benefits of the much-sought-after mollusks. Read our full article Finding the Pearls.
Catch of the Day
As environmental factors threaten the population size of blue crabs, their tendency to hide for the annual molting process becomes an increasingly frustrating hurdle for Mississippi fishermen hoping to sell the soft-shelled delicacy. MAFES researchers and economists at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory have been developing a method of raising blue crabs inland in hopes of helping Mississippi's economy remain profitable from the challenging soft-shell crab market. Read our full article Catch of the Day.
Sea of Debris
Drs. Benedict "Ben" Posadas and Mark Woodrey, MAFES scientists stationed at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi, are researching how the marine debris affects ecosystems along the Mississippi Sound. Posadas, associate extension and research professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics, documented the impacts of marine debris on the shrimpers' hauls. Shrimpers lost a total of about 17% of what would have been the total shrimp catch. Further studies must be conducted before scientists have a clear picture of the large-scale effects of marine debris on the fishing industry. Dr. Mark Woodrey, assistant research professor in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture, has been investigating the effects of microplastics on marsh birds that live in estuarine environments along the Mississippi coast. The study detected microplastics in 64% of marsh sediment samples and in 83% of clapper rail and 69% of seaside sparrow stomach content samples. Woodrey aims not only to broaden the scope of the study but also to understand any possible health impacts on birds who ingest these materials. .
Health Economics & Food Policy
Society grapples with the economics and policies associated with rural health, disease, and the relationship of behavior with health. Our scientists conduct research to find economically efficient solutions to health & food policy issues.
How Health Influences Fresh Produce Purchases
Diet is a huge component of staying healthy, and when illness strikes, it can change our relationship with food. Local food outlets, like farmers markets and farm stands, give consumers more control over exactly what they eat—in terms of knowing how and where their produce is grown, and how fresh it is—and put producers in the role of educator as well as grower. Drs. Matthew Interis, Lurleen Walters, and Alba J. Collart, researchers in the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station’s Department of Agricultural Economics, partnered with former MSU colleague, Dr. Kimberly Morgan to explore the connection between health and local produce. The team surveyed consumers throughout the Southeast to discover whether familial health issues influenced their purchasing decisions. Read our full article An Apple a Day.
Water Resources, Drinking Water, & Irrigation Management
Water resources are subject to competing public & private interests. Our scientists conduct research to address the management, conservation and use of water resources to assist planning and regulatory bodies.
Showing that Wetland Restoration is Worth the Cost
National surveys by environmental economists Daniel Petrolia and Matthew Interis found that Americans are willing to pay to restore Louisiana’s disappearing wetlands. Louisiana has about 40 percent of U.S. wetlands, but the state has suffered about 90 percent of the nation’s wetland losses. Petrolia and Interis examined how much Americans are willing to pay for large-scale restoration projects in the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary in coastal Louisiana, which covers 4.2 million acres between the Mississippi and Atchafalaya River Basins and provides storm protection for more than a million people. Over 80 percent of this area is wetlands, swamps, marshes, and barrier islands. More than 500,000 people, along with 735 species of birds, fin-fish, shellfish, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals, live in the estuary. In one survey, more than 60 percent of respondents said they were willing to pay for coastal restoration to protect wildlife habitat, maintain storm protection, ensure continued fisheries production, and prevent further land loss. Respondents said they were willing to pay between $909 and $1,751 per household, representing a total project value between $105 billion and $201 billion. This amount exceeds a recent restoration cost estimate of $100 billion.
Determining Best Management Practices in Big Sunflower River Watershed
The Big Sunflower River watershed is an important part of the Mississippi Delta's ecosystem. MAFES researchers are working to determine how best to keep the watershed's integrity intact. They are using a Soil and Water Assessment Tool model that replicates the tributary's reactions to various management practices in order to determine effective ways to maintain water quality for the important watershed. Read our full article Determining Best Management Practices in Big Sunflower River Watershed.
Learning from Lakes
As the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality develops numeric nutrient criteria for Mississippi's waters, MAFES researchers are interested in the benefits and costs of MDEQ's proposed policy as measured in dollars. One piece of the benefit-cost puzzle includes determining if the benefits of the policy outweigh the program's cost when it comes to recreational lakes. Along with surveys from lake-goers, the researchers are using water quality data to build an economic model that estimates a dollar amount recreational lake visitors are willing to pay for better water quality. Read our full article Learning from Lakes.