Recent Meetings

Uses of Retail Scanner Data

In June 2003, ERS hosted the workshop “Use of Scanner Data in Policy Analysis.” As markets become more segmented and contracts replace spot transactions, market operations become less transparent, and the declining volume of available data associated with those transactions become less representative and therefore less useful for research. As a result, researchers are increasingly turning to retail scanner data to decipher market workings. Not only are such data plentiful (although expensive), but, with links to demographics of individual households, the data also provide a window on distributional issues. The workshop provided a forum in which experts discussed unique ways that scanner data permit researchers to address today’s food policy issues. The voluminous quantity of the data, while an asset, can make working with the data difficult. Participants discussed various strategies of addressing methodological challenges in using scanner data.

Keeping Up with Obesity Research

In April 2003, ERS hosted the workshop “Economics of Obesity,” jointly organized with University of Chicago’s Irving B. Harris School of Public Policy. The workshop brought together leading health economists from around the country along with researchers from ERS and other Federal agencies with the goal of reviewing the current status of economic research on obesity and overweight and discussing areas for future research. Topics covered included the role of technological change in explaining both the long- and short-run trends in obesity, the role of maternal employment in child obesity, the impact of obesity on wages and health insurance, behavioral economics as applied to obesity, and the challenges in measuring energy intakes and physical activity.Jay Variyam

Agricultural Trade and Policy Reform

In June 2003, ERS cosponsored an international conference “Agricultural Policy Reform and the WTO: Where Are We Heading?” The workshop explored how changes in the global food and agricultural sector, in response to new technologies and the evolving consumer demand for food, affect the international trade environment. Related policy dimensions discussed at the workshop include agricultural policy reforms, WTO enlargement, new WTO negotiations on agriculture, and regional integration, including the enlargement of the European Union. The conference was cosponsored by the University of California, University of Calabria (Italy), and the Farm Foundation, and other institutions. Mary Bohman

Effects of Invasive Species on U.S. Agriculture

Increased global commerce has expanded the potential for invasive pests to affect agriculture, prompting ERS to launch a research program on the economics of policies to control invasive species. To review and discuss research priorities for the extramural competitive grants program, ERS, in collaboration with the Farm Foundation, hosted a workshop on the economics of invasive plant pests and animal diseases in May 2003. More than 100 representatives from higher education institutions, USDA, other Federal and State agencies, industry, and nongovernmental organizations participated in the workshop, providing perspectives on bioeconomic risk assessment, links between trade expansion and invasive introductions, and the economics of policies to exclude, monitor, and control plant pests and animal diseases. A summary of the workshop is available at the ERS Invasive Species Management briefing room. Utpal Vasavada