Graduate Studies in AEDE Creates Career Path Focus

July 19, 2018

Dr. John Newton credits his time as a graduate student in AEDE, working on decision tools to mitigate agricultural’ risk as the catalyst for his itch to serve the agricultural industry and work on ag policy.  He was recently appointed Chief Economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation, the largest farm organization of independent farmers in the United States.

“The work that I started in AEDE, building a frame work for crop insurance led me to work on innovative tools to help farmers mitigate risk,” said Newton.  “If Mother Nature is your business partner, you face a lot of risk.”

No one knows the risk inherent in farming better than Newton.  He has spent his career analyzing it, mitigating it and communicating about it.  You could even say he wrote the book on modern federal risk management in the dairy industry.  While at Ohio State, his graduate research and resulting dissertation developed a decision tool that brought forth innovative ideas in dairy risk management.  This led to his creation of an award winning decision tool used by extension educators.

Prior to enrolling at Ohio State, and in between classes at AEDE, Newton landed a job at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as an agricultural economist working on issues relating to management, policy analysis and marketing. During his tenure he was detailed to both the Senate Agriculture Committee majority staff and the USDA Office of the Chief Economist to provide policy analysis on the 2014 farm bill.  Following his service to USDA and the Congressional Committee, Dr. Newton was on the faculty at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign working in agricultural commodity markets, risk management and farm programs. It was here that transformed his original decision tool into one the USDA could use to better service the industry

Newton credits the scholarly expertise and advice afforded him by his advisor Dr. Cameron Threan and other AEDE faculty as integral in shaping his career path. 

Professor Emeritus Carl Zulauf said Newton’s inquisitive caught his attention.  “The willingness to engage in searching out what you do not know is a quality that holds people in good stead over their ever-changing lifetime,” said Zulauf. 

Dr. Brian Roe described Newton as  having a great mix of passion, analysis and communication.

“Passion for wanting to attack relevant issues, the analytical chops to get to understand the issue, and then the communication skills to illuminate the issue to others,” said Roe.

All skills Newton uses to advocate for farmers and communicate the many complicated issues facing them when he speaks to policy makers in today’s competitive environment. An environment with an accelerating rate at which consumers, markets and policy change and farmers have to deal with things not dealt with in a long time. 

“In the past, we didn’t have the reliance on the international market that we do today,” said Newton.  “We weren’t exporting 25% of our ag products as we are today.”

Newton said he couldn’t have stepped into his current role without knowing what farmers are up against and having the skills to articulate risk in economic terms. 

Professor Ian Sheldon added, “John took my PhD class in Welfare Economics and Public Policy, and of all the students that year – he was the only one who actually seemed to care about economics and policy!  I’m not at all surprised he is the new Chief Economist at the American Farm Bureau."