David Schweikhardt, professor and agricultural policy analyst at Michigan State University, passed away on June 2, 2017, aged 58. Schweikhardt was involved in the analysis and Extension outreach of every Farm Bill from 1990 to 2014. He expressed his love for institutional economics through a signature graduate course that emphasized how economic outcomes are shaped by laws and regulations. Schweikhardt put his affinity for institutional economics to work in analyzing and interpreting for Michigan farmers and agribusinesses not only a quarter century of farm bills, but also the effects on farmers of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Energy Independence and Security Act (2007), and the Affordable Care Act (2010).
“What I remember about Dave was his passion for all things farm and trade policy,” Bob Boehm, manager of Michigan Farm Bureau’s Center for Commodity, Farm and Industry Relations, in an interview with Michigan Farm News (June 5, 2017). “He was in Ag Hall [at Michigan State University] the New Year’s Eve  when the place was firebombed. He saved the building by calling 911. Working away as always. So sad. What a huge loss for agriculture.”
David Schweikhardt’s passion for the welfare of the broader community was legendary among his students, Extension audiences, and professional colleagues. He had a gift for framing the key facts of a case, and then building the ethical argument with evangelical fervor. Whether advocating better teaching, fairer laws, or kinder treatment of tenure candidates, David spoke out for his fellow citizens. His MSU colleague, Professor Chris Peterson, called him, the “embodiment and conscience of our department.”
An enthusiastic educator, Schweikhardt taught agricultural policy at both undergraduate and graduate levels. During 1997-2005, he directed the undergraduate program in MSUs Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics (AFRE). Committed to serving his community, he was the Department’s first representative on the college tenure committee and a frequent chairperson of the departmental awards Committee. Schweikhardt himself received AFRE awards for Outstanding Teaching (2008) and Outstanding Extension (2017), as well as the 2015 Institute Team Award from MSU Extension. The AAEA awarded him for the Outstanding Journal article of 1998 in the Review of Agricultural Economics.
A native of Indiana, David Schweikhardt earned his BS in Agricultural Economics with High Honors from Purdue University in 1980, followed by MS (1983) and PhD (1989) degrees from Michigan State University. He joined the Agricultural Economics faculty at Mississippi State University until 1992, when he took an assistant professor position at Michigan State. After gaining tenure, Schweikhardt enrolled in the MSU Detroit College of Law, where in 2004 he earned a law degree and became a member of the State Bar of Michigan. Testimonials by David Schweikhardt’s colleagues provide further details.