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President Column

August 2017

As applied economists, AAEA members aim to pair relevance with rigor.  My goal as your new president is for our Association to enable us all to do that even better. I’ll use this column to keep you abreast of what’s afoot.  But please let me and our board of directors know what you see and what you think.

Our annual meeting last month in Chicago reflected the diversity of agricultural and applied economics.  Outside the plenary sessions, the five most popular ones covered Big Data, the cult of statistical significance, food labeling, Washington policy update, and crop insurance.  We heard plenary speakers on experimental markets for public services (Charles Plott), (dis)honesty in behavioral economics (Dan Ariely), and returns to agricultural research (Julian Alston).  Breaking new ground in stylistic diversity, the Beer vs. Wine track session featured presentations via both limericks and song.

As an association, AAEA maintains strong finances and a steady membership.  Our journal revenues allow us to keep member dues under $100 annually; a strong stock market has helped as well.  Membership numbers have been holding steady at about 2,500 for the past decade.  Just fewer than 1,500 attended the Chicago meeting.  We returned to two nights of reunions, and we expanded the number of posters; both changes were well received.

How can we do better? Our Association has long offered its members two main services: professional meetings and journals. AAEA’s 2014 strategic plan committed to maintaining these while strengthening professional support to members in the forms of mentoring, communicating our work outside AAEA, and making our government relations more effective.


The AAEA Mentorship Committee is looking to find more broadly accessible mentoring approaches to complement the highly successful mentoring workshop held in Vail, Colorado, in June. Stay tuned for details or contact committee chair Diogo Souza-Monteiro with suggestions.  For tips from the Vail workshop, check out the AAEA Mentorship Portal, reachable from the AAEA Member Resources page.

Communicating out

Since 2015, our media outreach has dramatically expanded.  Guided by the AAEA Communications Committee, Jay Saunders ( connects members to the press, both by directing journalists to knowledgeable members and by preparing press releases. The rising number of people covered by the online AAEA Member in the News feature attests to our members rising public engagement (or our rising efforts to inform each other about what we do!).  If you should be featured as a Member in the News, contact Allison Scheetz ( and let her know why.

Government Relations

We partner with the Council for Food, Agricultural, and Resource Economics (C-FARE) to maintain our presence in Washington, D.C.  C-FARE Executive Director Caron Gala ( organizes public workshops and AAEA member visits to inform federal agencies and Congressional staff about the important activities of agricultural and applied economists.

Should the set of AAEA journals expand to reflect the expansion of our members’ activities?  Past President Jayson Lusk made the case for why expansion could make sense.  In Chicago, the AAEA Board invited members to submit ideas as it considers whether to launch a new, online, open access journal. It’s not too late—send suggestions to me or Kristen McGuire (, before journal strategy meetings next month.

Relevance and rigor opened this column and featured in my presidential address.  They were epitomized by the work of Hans Binswanger-Mkhize, who passed away on August 4. Hans focused on policy-relevant research in his long career with the World Bank.  A pioneer of economic experiments conducted in the field, his path-breaking 1980 AJAE article has been more heavily cited in the past decade than in its first quarter century.  May we all aspire to make a difference as effectively as he did.

Scott Swinton
AAEA President