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Keith J. Collins

  • Chief Economist, 1994-present
  • Acting Assistant Secretary for Economics, 1993-94
  • Director, Economic Analysis Staff, 1986-93
  • Economist, Branch Chief, and Deputy Division Director, Economic Research Service, 1977-86, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Ph. D., 1977, Economics and Statistics, North Carolina State University
  • M.A. Economics, 1973, University of Connecticut
  • B.S. Mathematics,1969, Villanova University
  • Presidential Rank Award, 1990, 1992, 1996, 2002
  • Chair, Board of Directors, Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, 2001-present
  • Vice Chair, 2002-present, and Chair, 2001, General Administrative Board, USDA Graduate School
  • Co-chair, USDA 2002 Farm Bill Implementation Working Group, 2002-present
  • Chair, Commission on the Application of Payment Limitations for Agriculture, 2003-present
  • Chair, USDA Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting Review Team, 2001
  • USDA representative, President's National Energy Policy Development Working Group, 2001
  • Co-chair, USDA Response Team to Concentration in Agriculture
  • Co-chair, USDA Farm Bill Task Force, 1995-96

Keith Collins has spent his career at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. His tenure as the senior civil servant advising the Secretary on economic issues has spanned four presidents, both political parties, and seven secretaries of agriculture. In highly charged environments of politics and ideology, Keith has remained the honest, competent, and influential civil servant whose advice has been repeatedly sought by executive branch and congressional members in agricultural policy debates.

After receiving a Ph.D. in economics and statistics at North Carolina State University in 1977, Keith joined USDA's Economic Research Service. His analytical work on farm programs and commodity markets attracted the attention of USDA policy officials, and in 1986, he was asked to lead the Economic Analysis Staff, attached to the Assistant Secretary for Economics. In 1992, Keith was made Acting Assistant Secretary of Economics, and in 1994, following the creation of the Office of the Chief Economist, was made Chief Economist of USDA.

Over the past 20 years, Keith has been the one of the most visible and influential agricultural economists in agricultural policy and commodity market analysis. He has played an important role in the development of almost every piece of national agricultural legislation since the mid-1980s, serving on the Secretary's task forces for the 1985 and 1990 Farm Bills; leading the analytical effort to develop USDA proposals for the 1996 and 2002 Farm Bills; serving as a key author of the Administration's proposals in 1990, the so-called Green Book, and again in 1996, the so-called Blue Book. After passage of the 2002 Farm Bill, Keith was named by the Secretary to co-chair the Farm Bill Implementation Team that coordinated the bill's implementation.
Congress and the Secretary have regularly called on Keith to articulate USDA positions on a wide range of issues. He has been the principal USDA witness at scores of Congressional hearings and numerous Congressional briefings, explaining with expertise the economic implications of a vast range of issues affecting USDA and its constituents. His efforts in dealing with Congress have helped Secretaries of Agriculture clearly explain their policy positions in a credible manner. In his frequent interactions with Congress, Keith has brought the best of the profession's analysis to bear on economic policy decisions.

Keith is also a widely recognized analyst of agricultural markets. As Chief Economist, he oversees USDA's official estimates and forecasts of supply, demand and price for major commodities. Under his direction, major improvements have been made in the process of how the 10 interagency committees with over 100 representatives from five USDA agencies come together and make forecasts.

Keith has led improvements in USDA's capacities in a number of other key areas. In the mid 1990s, responding to legislation and concern over the role of risk in program decisions, he created USDA's first Office of Risk Assessment and Cost-Benefit Analysis. In the late 1990s, he created a Global Change Program Office, addressing the need for better analysis of global change issues. At the start of 2001, Keith was elected Chair of the Board of Directors of the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC), which regulates the nation=s crop insurance providers, a responsibility fundamentally changed by the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000. Under his leadership, the Board has implemented the Act, addressing many difficult issues, ranging from rate reforms to new product development. Keith has also served as Chair of the General Administrative Board of The USDA Graduate School, and led a management change, which helped turn the School's budget from an operating loss to profit.

During his tenure at USDA, Keith has received four Presidential Rank Awards, two for Meritorious Executive and two for Distinguished Executive. These are the highest forms of recognition for executive excellence in Federal service.