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In today’s market, there are numerous job opportunities for graduate students to enter positions in which they must effectively evaluate policy and communicate with policymakers and non- specialists about how certain issues influence stakeholders in food and agriculture. Communication must be brief, yet powerful, with proper objectivity and inclusion of timely and accurate information. Through this competition, graduate students will have the opportunity to gain experience in both written and verbal policy communication.


Objectives for Participants

  • Evaluate a relevant policy issue
  • Carefully construct rhetoric, both written and oral, to provide objective information needed by decision makers


Participant Eligibility

Eligible applicants are:

  • Graduate students with a graduation date of 2020 or later engaged in agricultural economics, agribusiness, natural resources, community resource economics, or a related field
  • Participants must be active members of the AAEA and the GSS at the time of the competition
  • Attendance to the AAEA 2021 meetings is suggested but not required. The competition will be delivered in virtual format


Competition Information

The first round of the competition will require participants to submit a typed policy briefing, not to exceed two pages (double spaced, 12-point font, including references, figures, and graphics). Policy oriented issues can be based upon the graduate student’s research for a thesis, dissertation, or other academic work. This document should summarize the background and current status of the issue, key facts (i.e. benefits and costs to different groups), findings, and conclusions. The job of the participant is not  to convince the policymaker to take a certain position or vote a certain way, but rather to evaluate, gather, and present the necessary information for the policymaker to make an informed decision regarding the issue.


The final round of the competition will require selected participants to deliver a verbal presentation that accompanies the policy briefing, not to exceed 10 minutes in length (Finalists should be ready to submit a pre-recorded presentation one week before the final round). Within the  presentation, the participant should go into more detail about the specificity of the policy issue as well as include more key facts and findings from outside research surrounding the policy issue. Overall, the presentation and written brief should complement each other and form a well- rounded effort in policy communication.




  • April 23, 2021: Open registration for competition
  • Friday, June 11, 2021: Registration deadline and policy brief due
  • Monday, July 5, 2021: Announcement of the participants selected for the final round
  • Sunday, August 1, 2021: Finalists’ presentations (virtual), concurrent with the 2021 AAEA Annual  Meeting in Austin, TX


Competition Application Information

Applications must  include:

  • Cover page containing the student participant’s name, mentor's name, university,  department, address, and contact information
  • Policy brief (2-page maximum)
  • When submitting your application by email please use this subject: “AAEA GSS 2021 Policy Competition” followed by your name


Submission Deadline for applications

  • Applications must be submitted electronically to Samantha Bilgrien ( with copy to Carlos Fontanilla ( no later than midnight (CST) on June 11, 2021



Selected finalists will be notified by July 5, 2021. They are expected to make a virtual 10-minute presentation on Sunday, August 1, 2021, to a panel of judges. Judges will also ask participants questions. The competition will begin at 8 a.m. (CST). Selection of the finalists will be based on the material submitted and criteria listed below, and those who are selected as finalists will also be evaluated based on the quality of their responses to judges’ questions.


Criteria for Selecting Finalists and Winners

Criteria for judging finalists and winners will include:

  1. Defines the problem, discusses feasibility of the policy ideas and steps, addresses a proper audience, background and supporting research, and addresses government failures or unintended consequences.
  2. Integration of knowledge, persuasiveness of argument, and variety of sources.
  3. Formal language, appropriate tone, grammar and mechanics, and logical organization of thoughts and ideas.
  4. Proper format of policy briefing (proper headings, length no more than two pages, proper citation, ordered appearance).



The top 3 competitors selected will be recognized at the AAEA Awards Ceremony. A plaque, along with a cash award will be granted to the top three finalists. Cash prizes are:

  • First place: $300
  • Second place: $200
  • Third place: $100


Contact information

Please direct any questions regarding the AAEA GSS 2021 Policy Competition to Carlos Fontanilla (


2020 GSS Section Annual Meeting Activities

Wednesday, August 19
Navigating Stress, Diversity, and Inclusion in Agricultural Economics

During the AAEA Annual Meetings several events take place that are similar from year to year. The most common events can be found below.

Pre-conference Workshops

Each year the AAEA has a set of Pre-conference Workshops that are beneficial to graduate students. Occasionally some Pre-conference Workshops offer travel grants for graduate students.

Employment Center

The Employment Center is the perfect opportunity for employers with open positions and job seekers to connect at the annual meeting. Employers can schedule interviews with recent master's and doctoral graduates and individuals already in the workforce. The center attracts numerous universities, government agencies and industry employers who are looking for quality candidates in the agricultural economics field. 

Case Study Competition

The AEM/GSS Case Study Competition allows graduate students to test their communication skills and their ability to apply their knowledge of agricultural economics and agribusiness subjects to practical situations. Prizes are awarded to the first, second, and third place teams. For more information about the rules and format of the competition, please check out the Case Study Competition page. You can also find previous years' case study competition winners and their presentations on the Case Study Competition page.

Student Extension Competition

The AAEA-GSS Student Extension Competition is sponsored jointly by the Extension Section and the Graduate Student Section and provides graduate students and 2012 or later graduates the opportunity to develop extension and outreach programs from their research. Cash awards will be given to the top three competitors. For more information please visit the Graduate Student Extension Competition page of the Extension Section website. The first place will be awarded with $1000 and a plaque.

Track Sessions

The GSS arranges a number of track session presentations at the AAEA Annual Meeting each year. These sessions are targeted toward graduate students and cover topics such as how to successfully get your first job, how to cope the interview process, or how to get published. See the archive page for presentations from previous years' meetings.  

Travel Grants

Each year the AAEA Trust seeks applicants for Early Career Professional and Graduate Student Travel Grants. These grants are to defray housing and transportation costs associated with attending the AAEA Annual Meeting.

Students in an agricultural or applied economics graduate program at a U.S. college or university are eligible.  Applications should be forwarded through the institution's department head, with a limit of two applications per institution. Applications are generally due at the end of April and ask for general information, a proposed budget, and the student's plans for the upcoming meetings.