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Serving: United States

USDA chief economist to leave at end of January

USDA photo by Lance Cheung Meyer OCE USDA.jpg
In 2017, Dr. Seth Meyer served as the World Agricultural Outlook Board (WAOB) chairman. In January, he will return to USDA to assume the position of chief economist from Robert Johansson.
Dr. Seth Meyer to leave his role at FAPRI and return to USDA to assume chief economist position.

USDA Chief Economist Robert Johansson will be leaving USDA to become associate director of economics and policy analysis for the American Sugar Alliance at the end of January. Dr. Seth Meyer will return to USDA to be the new chief economist.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue says during his tenure, Rob has been an upstanding public servant. Specifically, he helped set up and serve as acting deputy undersecretary for the Farm Production and Conservation mission area early in this Administration in 2017. As chief economist, he is responsible for the department's agricultural forecasts and projections and for advising the Secretary on economic implications of alternative programs, regulations and legislative proposals. 

“Rob’s leadership and economic support over the past two years with trade disruptions and COVID-19 relief has helped us make evidenced-based decisions when designing programs to assist American farmers and ranchers during their time of need,” Perdue states.

Prior to his selection as chief economist at USDA in 2015, Johansson served as the deputy chief economist at USDA. Johansson says it has been a real honor to spend more than two decades in public service, working for the Peace Corps, USDA, Office of Management and Budget, Congressional Budget Office and the Council of Economic Advisers. Johansson received his Ph.D. in agricultural and applied economics from the University of Minnesota.

“My 16-plus years with USDA has been most rewarding, and I’ll miss the daily interaction with the fantastic team at OCE as well as the larger USDA family. I look forward to continue supporting America’s farmers in my new role with the American Sugar Alliance,” says Johansson.

His research has spanned a wide range of issues, including biofuels policy, water quality and quantity policies, regulatory economics, food security and regional modeling of agricultural systems.

Meyer returns

Perdue says, “We excited to bring back Dr. Seth Meyer and know that he will do a tremendous job serving the people of American agriculture.”

Meyer is a research professor and the associate director for the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri. FAPRI is well known for is agricultural policy and market analysis, being called on by Congress and USDA to examine how market and policy developments affect farmers, consumers and taxpayers.

Pat Westhoff, director of FAPRI, says Meyer “has the experience and skills to hit the ground running, so I expect he will do well at what is a critical and challenging position.”

Meyer was previously the head of the World Agricultural Outlook Board in the Office of the Chief Economist, the agency at USDA charged bringing together USDA resources in the assessment of crops around the world. The OCE also publishes those findings in the ‘WASDE’ report which is closely watched by agricultural markets here and abroad. Meyer was also an economist with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations and has served as a visiting scholar at several research institutions around the world.

“This is a challenging time for the food and agricultural sector. I’m quite honored to be asked to rejoin USDA as chief economist. I look forward to serving the American public and USDA’s many stakeholders and constituencies,” says Meyer.

Westhoff says Meyer “has been a great public face for our institute, has taken on a wide range of administrative responsibilities, and has shared his profound knowledge of agricultural markets and his good-natured wit.”

Westhoff adds if and when circumstances allow, the institute will look for other talented people to join the FAPRI team.

ASA work 

Johansson will work alongside ASA’s Director of Economics and Policy Analysis Jack Roney to provide domestic and international sugar market analysis and evaluate the farm and trade policies that affect U.S. sugar producers. Roney, who has worked with the industry for more than 30 years, plans to retire in August 2021, at which time Johansson will assume the director role.

“We are thrilled to welcome Rob to the American Sugar Alliance,” says Jack Pettus, ASA’s chairman. “America’s sugar producers are an essential part of our country’s food supply chain, and there are a growing number of complex issues that affect the continued success of the industry. Rob brings a wealth of experience at the highest levels of government that will help us adeptly navigate current and future challenges.”

“I am honored to continue to serve U.S. agriculture by working on behalf of America’s sugar growers and workers,” Johansson says. “Strengthening U.S. sugar policies and eliminating global sugar subsidies are critical to ensuring a level-playing field for U.S. sugarcane and sugarbeet growers and the workers that process America’s sugar.”  


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