Skip to Main Content

Purdue agricultural economics faculty awarded USDA NIFA grants

Four agricultural economics faculty at Purdue University’s College of Agriculture recently received research grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The grants’ principal investigators (PIs) are Tor Tolhurst, assistant professor of agricultural economics and agricultural policy; Steven Wu, associate professor of agricultural economics; Meilin Ma, assistant professor of agricultural economics; and Dominique van der Mensbrugghe, research professor of agricultural economics and director of the Purdue Center for Global Trade Analysis, which coordinates the Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP).

Tolhurst and his collaborators’ research explores the use of alternative data — credit and debit card spending — from external partners to measure food-away-from-home, or FAFH, markets. Consumer spending at fast-food restaurants, sit-down restaurants, hotels and cafeterias all fall under the FAFH umbrella. 

“In August 2023, 56% of U.S. dollars spent on food were spent at FAFH markets, a lot more than at grocery stores that month. However, this is an industry that requires more research,” Tolhurst says. “Using alternative data will help fill this research gap.”

Looking at behavioral economics in food and environmental policy, Wu and his co-PI will dive deeper into the feasibility of behavioral nudges. Behavioral nudging works on the principle that small, low-cost interventions can have significant impacts on a person’s behavior and can encourage people to make one decision over another.

Wu and his team will build a systematic framework for predicting the outcomes of behavioral nudges. He explains, “We hope to better understand how robust behavioral nudges are in reaction to minor alterations in environment and context, and to better target the use of nudges so that they can be more effective.”

Ma and her team will utilize economic modeling to explore the interaction of government policies and industry programs related to the adoption of sustainable farming practices, such as cover crops, nutrient management and conservation tillage. This project is fueled by an increase in U.S. interest to stimulate economic growth and curtail the negative environmental impacts of food production.

Ma says that despite government policies aiming to promote the adoption of these practices, this area requires more research, particularly on the outcomes of industry-funded incentives.

“Our research will address the fact that there has been little guidance on how to jointly maximize public and private incentives,” she says. “By understanding this, we’ll be able to figure out what the welfare implications of the incentives are on farmers, consumers and industry.”

Van der Mensbrugghe and his GTAP colleagues will use economic modeling to focus on livestock production and its impact on greenhouse gas emissions and strain on the planet’s natural resources. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the livestock production industry contributed to 10% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2021.

“As the population continues to grow and as incomes increase, the demand for meat inevitably rises, putting more pressure on the world’s natural resources, resulting in water-quality issues and air pollution, among other consequences,” says van der Mensbrugghe.

Van der Mensbrugghe’s team also intends to apply the principles of circular economy, or the reusing of key resources and their application back into the livestock industry, in its modeling research. In the future, the researchers hope to offer alternative policy solutions.

Featured Stories

Julia Peterson in the mesas of Arizona.
Finding beauty in the mess—the perspective of a botany and art double major

A low, whirring hum fills your ears as you step into the building. As your eyes adjust to the...

Read More
Ismail Olaniyi flies a UAV up above the trees.
The crossroads between lemon trees and technology

In warmer southern and western states, citrus orchards are important for feeding and bringing...

Read More
Piglets
Combined microbiome datasets yield accurate prediction of animal ages

An analysis combining the results of 14 studies from around the globe has uncovered some common...

Read More
A hand holding two eggs
Rehabilitation through agricultural skills with Purdue Farmer-to-Farmer Trinidad and Tobago

Gardening and poultry care are sometimes seen as trendy hobbies in the U.S., but in Trinidad and...

Read More
Claire King waters her quinoa in the greenhouse.
Claire King named a Golden Opportunity Scholar

It’s easy to imagine the whole of agriculture as a giant feast sprawled out on an equally...

Read More
Logos for the American Fisheries Society, Society of American Forestry and The Wildlife Society conventions/conferences
FNR Research Was Well-Represented at Fall Organizational Conferences

Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources and the cutting-edge research being performed by its...

Read More
To Top