Cynthia Nickerson

Cynthia Nickerson



Cindy is the Director of ERS’ Market and Trade Economics Division (MTED). In this role, Cindy leads a comprehensive program of research that anticipates the demand for economic information on agricultural commodity market and trade related issues. MTED research focuses on farm policy and program alternatives, domestic and foreign factors affecting global agricultural markets, commodity analysis and forecasts, international food security, and development of analytical tools and data. In addition, Cindy serves on the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association Communications Committee, which works to enhance members’ ability to communicate the value of their research to a variety of audiences.


Cindy has 20 years of experience working on or overseeing research that anticipates and informs on emerging issues in agriculture, trade, the environment, and rural America that are relevant to public and private decision making. Prior to her current role, Cindy served in other management roles at ERS: as MTED’s Associate Director (since September 2018), in which she oversaw MTED’s program of research and recruitment, and as Deputy Director for Research & Communications in the Resource and Rural Economics Division (2015-18), in which she oversaw the production of division research and briefings. During two years at the White House Council of Economic Advisers (2013-15), Cindy provided economic advice and expertise to other policy councils, and collaborated on policy priorities related to evidence-building, agriculture, transportation and the environment. Earlier in her career, Cindy conducted research primarily on U.S. agricultural policy and farmland markets. She also served as a Board member of the Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association and several non-profit organizations. Prior to her federal career, Cindy was the Controller for a publicly traded company and served as a CPA for a national public accounting firm.

Significant Federal committees chaired/co-chaired:

  • Co-chair, CEA/OMB cross-departmental working group on Evaluating Business Technical Assistance Programs. Developed the first set of best data practices to facilitate the re-use of already collected data to analyze the impact of Federal business assistance programs.
  • Chair, cross-departmental Informed Consent Working Group, formed under the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology’s Subcommittee on Administrative Records. Developed the first comprehensive analysis of the barriers related to informed consent that constrain the use and linking of administrative data for statistical research and studies of program impacts.
  • Chair, the Interagency Council on Agriculture and Rural Statistics Land Use Working Group. Developed the first assessment of the comparability of land use/cover data produced by different Federal agencies.



Cindy received her Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of Maryland in 2000 and 1998, respectively. She received an M.S. in Environmental Studies from California State University in 1995 and a B.S. in Accounting from Towson University in 1986. She earned her license to practice as a Certified Public Accountant in 1987.

Selected Publications

Invited talks and workshops:

Invited Keynote Policy Panelist, “Economics in Environmental and Agricultural Policy” NAREA Annual Meetings, 2017.

Briefings to CEA Members on economic impacts of various issues, including the 2014 and 2015 droughts, food price inflation, and potential network slowdowns and other issues with a DOT rule governing rail shipments of ethanol and crude, 2013-2015.

Invited Panelist Remarks on Data Sharing Problems, HHS/Arnold Foundation conference on Reproducibility in Federal Evaluations, Washington, DC, April 2015.

Invited to present opening remarks to Small Business Administration’s launch of their internal evaluation group, July 2014.

Invited Panelist Remarks, "Practical Evaluation Strategies for Building a Body of Proven-Effective Employment and Training Programs," Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy workshop, Department of Labor, Washington, DC, April 2014.

Co-developed a workshop on "Using Individual-Level Administrative Data to Build Evidence about Policies and Programs, while Protecting Privacy," Washington, DC, January 2014 (with Shelly Martinez).

Invited Presentation, "Trends in U.S. Farmland Values," Informa Economics roundtable, Crystal City, VA, June 2012.

Invited Panelist Remarks, "Sharing and Linking Data amongst Federal Agencies: Jumping The Informed Consent Hurdle," NORC Conference on Microdata Access, Washington, DC, February 2011.

Invited Presentation, "Addressing the Informed Consent ‘Barrier’ to Sharing and Linking Data," FCSM/Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics Statistical Policy Seminar, Washington, DC, December 2010.

Invited speaker, "Effectiveness of Land Management Strategies in Peri-Urban Areas: What Economic Studies Have to Say" and "Land Use and Management in Peri-urban Areas: Experiences in the U.S." Workshop on Research and Policy frontiers for the Management of Peri-Urban Lands. Brisbane, Australia, July 2009.

Two invited talks on "Environmental Benefits Index: a Lever for Balancing Multiple Objectives in the U.S. CRP," CSIRO, Canberra and Brisbane Australia, June-July 2009.


Journal articles, reports and other publications:

Zhang, W., and C. Nickerson. 2015. "Housing Market Bust and Farmland Values: Identifying the Changing Influence of Proximity to Urban Centers," Land Economics 91(4):605-26, November.

Nickerson, C., et al. 2014. “Evaluation as a Tool for Improving Federal Programs,” in Economic Report of the President, 2014, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Nickerson, C. 2014. Highlights of Recent Farm Sector and Rural Economy Performance, Council of Economic Advisers.

Nickerson, C., and W. Zhang. 2014. "Modeling the Determinants of Farmland Values in the U.S.," in The Oxford Handbook of Land Economics, J.M. Duke, and J. Wu, eds., pp. 111-138.

Borchers, A., E. Truex-Powell, S. Wallander, C. Nickerson. 2014. Multi-Cropping Practices: Recent Trends in Double Cropping, EIB-125, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, May.

Jones, C., C. Nickerson, and N. Cavallaro. 2013. "U.S. Agricultural Policies and GHG Emissions," in Land Use and the Carbon Cycle, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Nickerson, C., S. Cornman, M. Denbaly, M. Frazier, M. Hawes, S. Martinez, D. Miller, M. Moien, C. Puckett, M. Risha, M. Seastrom, K. Styles, and M. Toland. 2012. "Informed Consent: Requirements and Practices for Statistical Uses of Administrative Data," Working Paper prepared for the Federal Interagency Council on Statistical Policy.

Ifft, J., C. Nickerson, T. Kuethe, and C. You. 2012. Potential Farm-Level Effects of Eliminating Direct Payments, EIB-103, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, November.

Nickerson, C., M. Morehart, T. Kuethe, J. Beckman, J. Ifft, and R. Williams. 2012. Trends in Farmland Values and Ownership, EIB-92, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, February.

Nickerson, C., R. Ebel, A. Borchers, and F. Carriazo. 2011. Major Uses of Land in the United States, 2007, EIB-89, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, December.

O’Donoghue, E., R. Hoppe, D. Banker, R. Ebel, K. Fuglie, P. Korb, M. Livingston, C. Nickerson, and C. Sandretto. 2011. The Changing Organization of U.S. Farming, EIB-88, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, December.

Wallander, S., R. Claassen, and C. Nickerson. 2011. The Ethanol Decade: An Expansion of U.S. Corn Production, 2000-09, EIB-79, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, August.

Nickerson, C., and A. Borchers. 2011. "U.S. Farmland Tenure Patterns: Overview," presented at the Agricultural Outlook Forum, Today’s Strategies and Tomorrow’s Opportunities, Washington, DC, February.

Marshall, E., M. Caswell, S. Malcolm, M. Motamed, J. Hrubovcak, C. Jones, C. Nickerson. 2011. Measuring the Indirect Land-Use Change Associated With Increased Biofuel Feedstock Production: A Review of Modeling Efforts: Report to Congress, AP-54, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, February.

Nickerson, C. 2010. "Integrating Agriculture and Other Land Use Statistics: the U.S. Experience," Presentation at the International Conference on Agricultural Statistics, Kampala, Uganda, October.

Nickerson, C., M. Ribaudo, and N. Higgins. 2010. The Farm Act’s Regional Equity Provision: Impacts on Conservation Program Outcomes, ERR-98, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, June.

Nickerson, C., R. Claassen, R. Durst, L. Hansen, and D. Hellerstein. 2009. "Cash or Credit? Tax Credits and Conservation Outcomes," Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 64(1):22A-26A.

Ribaudo, M., and C. Nickerson. 2009. "Agriculture and water quality trading: exploring the possibilities," Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 64(1):1-7.

Nickerson, C., and M. Hand. 2009. Participation in Conservation Programs by Beginning, Limited Resource, and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers, EIB-62, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, December.

Towe, C., C. Nickerson, and N. Bockstael. 2008. "An Empirical Examination of the Timing of Land Conversions in the Presence of Farmland Preservation Programs," American Journal of Agricultural Economics 90(3):613-626, August.

Hardie, I., E. Lichtenberg, and C. Nickerson. 2007. "Regulation, Open Space and the Value of Land Undergoing Residential Subdivision," Land Economics 83(4):458-474.

Claassen, R., M. Aillery, and C. Nickerson. 2007. Integrating Commodity and Conservation Programs: Design Options and Outcomes, ERR-44, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, October.

Cattaneo, A., D. Hellerstein, C. Nickerson, and C. Myers. 2006. Balancing the Multiple Objectives in Conservation Programs, ERR-19, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.

Nickerson, C., and D. Hellerstein. 2006. "Farmland Preservation Programs and the Importance of Rural Amenities," in Economics and Contemporary Land Use Policy: Development and Conservation at the Rural-Urban Fringe, R. Johnston, and S. Swallow, eds. Washington, DC: Resources for the Future.

Nickerson, C., and C. Barnard. 2006. "Farmland Protection Programs," Agricultural and Resource Economics Indicators, EIB-16, K. Wiebe, and N. Gollehon, eds., U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.

Nickerson, C. 2004. "Effectiveness of Farm and Ranch Land Protection Programs: What Economic Studies Have to Say," Chapter 3 in What the Public Values about Farm and Ranch Land. Conference proceedings, Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, State College, PA.

Nickerson, C., and D. Hellerstein. 2003. "Protecting Rural Amenities through Farmland Preservation Programs," Agricultural and Resource Economics Review 32(1):129-44.

Irwin, E., C. Nickerson, and L. Libby. 2003. "Rural Amenities: What Farmland Amenities are Worth," Choices, August.

Hellerstein, D., C. Nickerson, P. Feather, D. Mullarkey, A. Tegene, J. Cooper, D. Gadsby, and C. Barnard. 2002. Farmland Protection: the Role of Public Preferences for Rural Amenities, AER-815, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.

Nickerson, C., and L. Lynch. 2001. "The Effect of Farmland Preservation Programs on Farmland Prices," American Journal of Agricultural Economics 83(2):341-351.

Heimlich, R., and W. Anderson (contributing authors include C. Nickerson). 2001. Development at the Urban Fringe and Beyond: Impacts on Agriculture and Rural Land, AER-803, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, June.