Marc Ribaudo

Last month, the American Agricultural Economics Association recognized Marc Ribaudo with its Distinguished Policy Contribution Award. Marc’s research and economic advice on water quality and policy analysis have shaped national conservation and environmental policy for over 20 years. The Clean Water Act, the Conservation Reserve Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and the National Water Quality Assessment Program are just a few of the policies that are and will continue to be influenced by his contributions to resource economics. More recently, Marc co-led a team effort that resulted in the report, Manure Management for Water Quality: Costs to Animal Feeding Operations of Applying Manure Nutrients to Land.

Charles Barnard

Many factors—urbanization, rural amenities, government payment programs, and others—contribute to the value of land in rural areas. As an expert on these issues, especially the effects of urban influence on farmland values, Charles Barnard was recently recognized as USDA Economist of the Year by the USDA Economists Group for his outstanding leadership in producing significant research on land values issues. Charles’ research has covered all aspects of rural land economics, including farm real estate assets, farm commodity program payments, urban influence, farmland protection programs, and rural amenities. Most recently, he led the team that wrote Farmland Protection: The Role of Public Preferences for Rural Amenities.

Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program

Legislative changes made to USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program as part of the landmark 1996 welfare reform act have succeeded in focusing the benefits of this program on the intended recipients: low-income children. Findings like these—based on objective, rigorous research—help policymakers to make informed decisions.

Policymakers are increasingly interested in the efficacy of the Nation’s food assistance programs—the Food Stamp Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the child nutrition programs—which represent over half of the USDA budget. One in five people in the U.S. uses at least one of the programs during any given year. Seeking to assess and improve the effectiveness of these programs, Congress directed ERS to study various aspects of their design and implementation. In 1998, ERS launched the Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program (FANRP).

The FANRP team, composed of Margaret Andrews, Elizabeth Frazao, Joanne Guthrie, Victor Oliveira, and Tina Terry and led by David Smallwood, a senior economist with over 20 years’ experience in studying food assistance issues, manages an impressive amount of research through a large network of experts. In partnership with USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, the agency that administers the food assistance programs, David and his staff developed a comprehensive research program that addresses such questions as whether benefits are going to the right people, whether the people who should benefit from the programs have access to them, and whether the programs are serving their intended purposes.

To answer these questions, FANRP funds research by public and private research institutions through grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts that are competitively awarded through a tightly run peer review process. It also relies on the expertise of ERS staff. The FANRP team now manages a research portfolio of over 100 projects and makes all the research findings publicly available through the ERS website. David says that the FANRP research “helps policymakers ensure the programs are having a positive effect on the lives of ordinary individuals.”