Applied economists have much to offer society in addressing the existing and emerging needs of farmers, agribusiness firms, policy-makers, consumers, and rural populations, while protecting the environment. High quality research, when augmented by excellent classroom teaching and close work with Extension personnel, can improve the economic decision-making capabilities of the Department’s stakeholders. To address their needs and focus attention, the Department adopted five Priority Program Theme Areas during a strategic planning process in 2001. These Priority Program Theme Areas were augmented in 2007 during a more recent strategic planning process to more precisely focus attention on four high-priority issues.
The five Priority Program Theme Areas specified during the 2001 strategic planning process are:
Analyze and provide information on agricultural systems that use integrated production, marketing, and risk management strategies to improve producer decisions.
- Whole -Farm Planning and Decision Tools for Tennessee Producers
- Economics of New and Emerging Technologies
- Strategies for Managing Risks
Improve the profitability and opportunities for expansion of agribusiness in Tennessee through management assistance, identification of value-added potential, and assessment of adjustments to changing market structure.
- Information Assistance to Value-added Product Firms
- Impacts of Structural Changes in Agriculture
- Domestic and International Market Access for Producers
- Markets for Genetically Modified Commodities
- Implications of consumer Preferences for Food Safety and Quality
Provide information on the performance of alternative agricultural and resource policies, given the revealed price responsiveness of agricultural markets.
- Implications of Price and Income Policy Alternatives for Major Crops
- Effects of Policy and Market Structure on Tennessee Tobacco Producers
- Impacts of Environmental Policies on the Agricultural Sector
- Effects of Policy on Risk in the Agricultural Sector
Analyze and provide information on the economic impacts of environmental policies and natural resource management alternatives.
- Best Management Practice Water Quality Alternatives
- Land and Water Use Conflicts
- Benefits and Costs of Alternative Resource Management Strategies
Analyze strategies and provide educational support for economic and human development needed to enhance quality of life for rural Tennesseans.
- Enhance Business Knowledge and Skills of Leaders and Entrepreneurs
- Develop Information to Enhance Rural Community Decision Making
- Identify Key Factors Affecting the Rate of Economic Growth
The four high-priority issues identified in the Department's 2007 Strategic Plan are:
Development of a bioenergy industry is a potential means to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil and to reduce the environmental effects of energy production. Development of a bioenergy industry could have significant economic impacts on rural areas and provide new markets for agricultural producers. As the industry emerges and energy policy decisions are made, economic analysis will be critical to decision making. Areas of particular interest as the industry and associated policies emerge include economic feasibility analysis of bioenergy feedstock production and conversion, energy policy analysis, supply/demand analysis for bioenergy and economic impacts analysis of industry development.
Rapid population and economic growth in Tennessee and the Southeast region of the United States has led to increasing residential demand for land and a sprawling pattern of development. This growth has raised many concerns about potential negative impacts, especially the loss of benefits provided by farmland and open space and higher costs of infrastructure and community services. Various public policy measures have been implemented or are under consideration with a view toward influencing the future patter of land use. Analyses of the economic factors driving the pattern of residential development and the benefits and costs associated with it are needed to provide the basis for sound policy decisions.
While much progress has been made in improving water quality in the United States over recent decades, it is clear that meeting water quality standards in many water bodies will require implementation of best management practices on agricultural land. Economic analysis is critical in assessing options for increasing the cost effectiveness of traditional policy approaches, as well as assessing the feasibility of innovative policy approaches such as water quality trading. While water quantity issues have not been very important historically in Tennessee and the Southeast region, conflicts over water use are predicted to become more widespread and serious over the next few decades.
Traditional employment opportunities in rural areas (agriculture, forestry, mining and low-skill manufacturing) continue to decline as the forces of technology and globalization advance. Rural communities must discover or develop new sources of comparative advantage if they are to survive and hopefully thrive in the 21st century. Economic analysis of factors influencing differential rates of change in population and income is needed to guide rural development policy. A particular high priority is to investigate the potential for natural amenities and increased education levels to foster economic growth in Tennessee and the Southeast region.