The 2014 annual meetings of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA), which were held in Minneapolis this year, ended last night.
This was a busy conference for me given that I was presenting at three different sessions — a session on frontier topics in international development, which I organized and where I presented some preliminary results of the work I have been doing in Ethiopia with former colleagues; a session on agricultural policy, where I presented my work with Nick Carnes on why members of Congress support agricultural protection; and a session for graduate students, where I gave my thoughts about how to publish in academic journals. And if I had the gift of ubiquity, I would’ve presented in a fourth session, but thank God for coauthors.
The high point of the conference for me personally was the awards ceremony, where I received the AAEA’s Quality of Research Discovery award, which is the Association’s highest honor awarded to a piece of research. From the AAEA website:
The Quality of Research Discovery Award is granted to encourage excellence in publications in fields consistent with the AAEA Vision Statement. … The research must be a significant contribution to the field of knowledge in agricultural and applied economics as defined by the AAEA Vision Statement. The work should demonstrate excellence in research methodology and may deal with conceptualization of researchable problems as well as empirical verification.
I received this award along with my coauthors Chris Barrett and David Just for our 2013 article titled “The Welfare Impacts of Commodity Price Volatility: Evidence from Rural Ethiopia.” Here is the abstract:
How does commodity price volatility affect the welfare of rural households in developing countries, for whom hedging and consumption smoothing are often difficult? When governments choose to intervene in order to stabilize commodity prices, as they often do, who gains the most? This article develops an analytical framework and an empirical strategy to answer those questions, along with illustrative empirical results based on panel data from rural Ethiopian households. Contrary to conventional wisdom, we find that the welfare gains from eliminating price volatility are increasing in household income, making food price stabilization a distributionally regressive policy in this context.
Getting this article published was difficult, as it was rejected by at least four journals before the American Journal of Agricultural Economics gave us a chance to revise and resubmit. If anything, this should be a lesson to young researchers to persevere in the face of adversity when they know they are working on something important.
And I should note that for the work done in this article, I truly stood on the shoulders of giants: my coauthors, first and foremost, whose respective areas of expertise helped push a neat idea I had into interesting and highly policy-relevant territory, and from whom I learned so much, but also those who came before us in this literature, whose original contributions we are only too happy to highlight in our own work.
Another high point of the conference for me was to see my University of Minnesota colleague Rob King (with whom I am working on some new research) and Michigan State University’s Tom Reardon (whose research on agricultural value chains has inspired a great deal of my own research), be made fellows of the Association, along with two other outstanding members of our profession.