May 13, 2013 by Phil Pardey

The Collaborative Masters of Agricultural and Applied Economics (CMAAE) program brings together students from 7 African universities. As part of this program, the University of Minnesota, Department of Applied Economics is offering a course on the economics of science and technology policy joint with the Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

L-R: Liebenberg, Beddow, UP Dept. Head Johann Kirsten, and Pardey

Last month I was honored to visit Stanford as a featured speaker at their Global Food Policy and Food Security Symposium Series. I shared the bill with Prabhu Pingali, Deputy Director for Agriculture Development at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who has been critical to helping guide and advance our work at HarvestChoice.

Recent spikes in global food prices have garnered much attention, as they did when prices spiked in the early 1970s. But much less policy attention has been placed on the longer-run trends in commodity prices.

Federal and state investments in agricultural research have consistently generated very high social rates of return. Surveys of the hundreds of studies quantifying the returns from agricultural research suggest rates of return in the range of 40–60 percent per year. Our recent work reconfirms that US public investment in agricultural research and development (R&D) has paid off handsomely, with benefit-cost ratios of 20:1 and higher. Nevertheless, for many reasons funding for research targeted at agricultural productivity has stagnated since the early 1980s.