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Michigan agriculture lost a great oneMichigan agriculture lost a great one

Renowned MSU ag economist David Schweikhardt died June 2.

June 14, 2017

3 Min Read
POWERHOUSE: David Schweikhardt was known throughout the state and the U.S. for his work with agricultural trade, policy and law.MSU

Ag economist Dave Schweikhardt could break down hundreds of pages of legislative policy and spit out “what it really means to me and the industry.”

He was concise, yet complete. He was incredibly knowledgeable, yet humble. And if you were a member of his audience, his lively, witty and often fiery commentary was sure to keep you engaged.

I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear of his passing. At 58, Dave passed away unexpectedly at his home in East Lansing on June 2. He was a professor at Michigan State University in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics. He was appointed in the tenure system at MSU and was an Extension agricultural economist.

Since 1990, his research and Extension work was focused on the tough stuff: agricultural policy, law and trade policy. That included things like the North American Free Trade Agreement, the World Trade Organization, the Affordable Care Act and U.S. farm bills.

He was a great source of many Michigan Farmer articles. I remember talking to him quite extensively about Obamacare, as both farm employees and employers were wondering what this gargantuan piece of legislation really meant. Haven gotten his law degree in 2004 from MSU, Dave said he spent a good six months studying the law, and after a few off-the-record comments, he summed it up for me and farm employers by saying, “If you have less than 50 employees, you don’t need to do anything.” In just one sentence, he eliminated a lot of farm employee concerns.

Words from his colleagues

From Adam Kantrovich, who is an MSU Extension educator specializing in farm management. He worked with Dave regularly to create educational programs to ensure farmers understood the implications of ag policy and were able to make decisions right for their farm.

“Dave was a fiery minister of policy. He was very passionate in delivery of his talks, and people would flock to him just to enjoy his fervor. Orally, he was able to sum it up quickly, to get to the concept, situation and challenges with a topic. He was incredibly knowledgeable, but when Dave hosted workshops or talks or even in simple discussion, he always asked for others' opinions — like your opinion was of great value. He made people feel comfortable, regardless of your stance on a subject. He was there to bring out the facts. And even though policy is very political, he took an analytical  tone. He was a powerhouse that will be missed nationally.”

From Ken Nye, retired horticulture specialist with Michigan Farm Bureau.

“I first met Dave at a meeting to discuss sugar policy under NAFTA. This ‘new guy Dave’ from MSU was the only true voice of reason willing to say a few right things. From that time on, I knew Dave would be a valuable resource to Farm Bureau and Michigan agriculture, and he certainly was. He will be missed.” 

From Titus O. Awokuse, professor and chairman of the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics at MSU.

“David was an indispensable, well-loved and greatly admired member of AFRE faculty since 1992. His passing is a great loss to AFRE and MSU. He was a true servant-leader over the years. He gave selflessly of his skills and time and served in various capacities to support and promote our department and university.”

From Bob Boehm, manager of Michigan Farm Bureau’s Center for Commodity, Farm and Industry Relations.

“What I remember about Dave was his passion for all things farm and trade policy. He was in Ag Hall the News Year’s Eve when the place was fire-bombed. He saved the building by calling 911 — working away as always, so sad. What a huge loss for agriculture.”

From Beth Stuever, communications manager for MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“Dave’s passing was a shock to all of us. I’m just beside myself. This building seems emptier without him. And it always will. He was a great colleague, a respected scholar and just one heck of a guy. I can’t begin to tell you how much he will be missed.”


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