UD to jointly headquarter new USDA research center for agri-environmental policy

canr_APEClab_kentMesser-48Professors Kent Messer of the University of Delaware and Paul Ferraro of Georgia State University will head the newly created Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-environmental Policy Research (CBEAR), which was created with an award from the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

CBEAR will be housed in the new Center for Experimental and Applied Economics at UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) in Newark.

UD President Patrick Harker will cut the ribbon to the new center during a ceremony to be held from 10-11:30 a.m., Monday, Nov. 24, at Townsend Hall. The ceremony will feature five interactive projects currently being studied.

CBEAR-affiliated faculty will use behavioral and experimental economics research to improve the design and implementation of USDA programs that support farmers in their efforts to feed the world and provide valuable environmental stewardship of the nation’s agricultural lands. A $750,000, three-year USDA seed grant will fund the new center.

“Government programs related to agriculture and the environment need to be based on strong science and economics. Evidence based policy, insights from the behavioral sciences, and randomized controlled trials are the norm in medicine, education, and other policy fields. CBEAR will bring this approach to U.S. agri-environmental policy,” said Messer, the Unidel H. Cosgrove Chair for the Environment in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics and a globally recognized expert in evidence-based environmental policy and the applications of behavioral economics to policy design.

In 2013, the USDA spent over $5 billion on conservation programs to minimize soil erosion, enhance water quality, and create wildlife habitat.

“Better understanding how we invest our limited federal resources so they accomplish the desired goal should be a top priority,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Coons. “It’s imperative we have a positive and communicative relationship with farmers and land owners to ensure the programs in place are working as planned. This center will strengthen science-based decisions that go into agriculture and environmental policy, and I look forward to the work that will be done by the Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-environmental Policy Research.”

Along with UD and Georgia State University, the CBEAR consortium includes Cornell University. The new center will:

  • Lead and coordinate innovative behavioral research programs related to the design and implementation of policies and programs that provide ecosystem services and lead to greater satisfaction for participating farmers and landowners;
  • Broaden the network of social scientists who participate in policy-relevant research on agricultural ecosystem services, policies and programs; and
  • Disseminate information obtained via its research program to a diverse stakeholder audience, including USDA and other federal program agencies, farmers and the general public.

“We are quite pleased to be able to house CBEAR in our new Center for Experimental and Applied Economics and contribute in a significant way to helping USDA improve the performance of agricultural and environmental programs,” said CANR Dean Mark Rieger. “It is our intent to facilitate innovative research that will have positive effects nationwide.”