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July 2018
Letter from the President
Combatting Reputational Damage to the Economics Profession

In my previous letter I shared my concerns about the reputational damage inflicted on the economics profession in recent years. I suggested that public perception of our profession, especially in the policy community, could be significantly improved by adopting more effective models of communication. In this context, let me focus on some of the big challenges we face in seeking to inform and improve policy and practice in the agri-food and rural sectors. First, the loss of trust in experts, particularly economists: there was a perception that society had been let down by the profession’s inability to foresee the Great Recession. This feeling was reinforced during febrile Brexit debates in which prominent politicians at the heart of UK government, particularly Michael Gove – now Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – who compared the social sciences unfavourably with the “hard” sciences.  Second, the role of emotions in decision making: there has been a collective failure within economic research to learn from core insights around the links between emotion and fact; firmly held beliefs can be incredibly resilient in the face of conflicting “facts” or “evidence”. Facts in themselves are insufficient; they need to be grounded in a narrative that has traction in the emotive sphere of politicians, policy advisers or the public. Third, competition from other disciplines: in policy circles the relatively abstract views of economists can take second or third place to the more grounded messages of say veterinarians or environmentalists. In my next letter I will turn to the specific measures that I feel we need to put in place to improve matters, essentially the practical building blocks of effective communications. Let me end, however, on a positive note. When the reality and potential consequences of Brexit began to dawn on UK policymakers – and despite some reservations – the economics profession was one of the first they turned to for analysis and advice; our branch of the profession rose to the challenges through its rigorous agri-food impact research, communicated in a timely manner. I feel that history will show that, on this momentous issue, society was very well informed about the economic impacts on the agri-food sector of a range of possible Brexit scenarios. This has been a real plus for our profession, and on which we should continue to capitalise as Brexit unfolds.
John Davis AES President 2018-19 (eurochoices@aes.ac.uk)
AES Annual Conference 2018

The Society’s 92nd Annual Conference at Warwick University provided a varied, interesting and topical programme in a convivial atmosphere for the 130 participants. Food and health, a topic of increasing importance, was featured in the keynote address (presented by Sue Davies MBE from Which?), while food consumption and its environmental consequences were also addressed in parallel sessions. Among other topics, productivity and efficiency, environmental management, and rural development were also popular sessions. The implications of Brexit were discussed by academics (in a plenary session with Fiona Smith, University of Leeds, Alan Winters, University of Sussex and Stefan Tangermann, University of Göttingen) as well as stakeholders addressing environmental, farm financial viability, and animal care (during a discussion session with Tom Lancaster, RSPB, Chris Tufnell, of The Royal Agricultural Society of England, and Alick Simmons). Workshop topics included lessons from the reform of agricultural policies in New Zealand, global challenges for agricultural and food policy, and novel approaches to agro-environmental provision. PhD students and early career researchers were catered for with workshops on publishing (with Wiley), and a methodology master class on Baysian econometrics.

The guest speaker at the Conference dinner was Sir Peter Kendall, Chair of the AHDB and former President of the NFU, reflecting on policy developments from a farmer perspective. Presentations were made to the winner of the Prize Essay competition, Alaya Spencer-Cotton (University of Western Australia) for her paper, Scope effects when valuing coastal management in the remote Kimberley region of Australia, Olivia Placzek (Bournemouth University) for her was Ph.D presentation on Supermarket promotions, food demand and obesity, and to Mary Brennan (Teagasc) for the best poster on The development of social sustainability indicators using the Teagasc National Farm Survey. AES Awards for Excellence were presented to Keith Howe (Outstanding Contribution to Teaching and Public Policy) and Nick Hanley (Lifetime Research Achievement).

Carmen Hubbard, Grant Davies and Caroline Saunders retired from the Executive, but Caroline (Lincoln, New Zealand) remains on the Executive as President-elect and Grant will act in the new ex officio position of Defra-AES Liaison Officer. New members of the Executive are Frederic Ang (Wageningen), who takes over as Programme Secretary, Brendan Bayley (HM Treasury), Myles Patton (AFBI Belfast), Stephen Ramsden (Nottingham) and Deb Roberts (Aberdeen). Neil Chalmers, who co-organises the Ph.D event at the Conference, has been co-opted on to the Executive.  Professor John Davis’ Presidential Address was on Communicating Economic Concepts and Research in a Challenging Environment.
Visit the AES website for the detailed conference programme and papers (http://www.aes.ac.uk/). We hope you’ll join us next year from 15-17 April 2019 for a fantastic 93rd Annual Conference, including discussions of topical issues – and featuring more social events!

Vera Eory, Programme Secretary (Vera.Eory@sruc.ac.uk)
Journal of Agricultural Economics

Submissions to the Journal have increased by almost 50% since 2013 and continue a strong international pattern. Response times in processing submissions generally continue to meet targets. The JAE’s citation impact factor has steadily improved; from below 1 in 2013 it recovered to 1.8 in 2016 and reached 2 in 2017 – the highest score on record for the Journal. Wiley continue to provide a strong publishing platform with the Journal’s full archive generating a continuing increase in the number of downloads. Full details can be found in the Editor’s Report in the June 2018 Journal.

Flagship OECD publications

Two annual publications from the OECD have just been published. They contain a wealth of data, analysis and policy recommendations for governments, and provide a valuable resource for agricultural economists. http://www.oecd.org/tad/agricultural-policies/monitoring-and-evaluation.htm

Agricultural Policy Monitoring and Evaluation 2018
is the 31st in the series of annual OECD reports that monitor and evaluate agricultural policies across countries. This year’s report includes all 37 OECD countries (Columbia joined in May 2018), as well as ten emerging economies: Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Russian Federation, South Africa, Ukraine and Viet Nam.

The 14th edition of the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2018-27 provides market projections for major agricultural commodities, biofuels and fish, as well as a special feature on the prospects and challenges of agriculture and fisheries in the Middle East and North Africa where a scarcity of arable land and water constrains agricultural production. http://www.agri-outlook.org

Conferences of Agricultural Economists – in 2018 and beyond

Final preparations are underway for the 30th ICAE of the IAAE in Vancouver 2018. The preliminary programme of the conference is available at http://www.icae2018.com/ All those planning to go are reminded of the need to register at the Conference website as soon as possible.  The AES Travel Grant Scheme is supporting the attendance of twelve AES members, all of whom are presenting poster or contributed papers. The ICAE is always a highlight of the conference calendar and I am sure that Vancouver will be a stunning location for the event. I look forward to seeing you there!

Tim Lloyd, AES-IAAE Liaison Officer (tlloyd@bournemouth.ac.uk)
In 2026, the AES will celebrate its 100th anniversary. A comprehensive history of the AES in the context of the developments in agricultural economics book is being prepared by Dr David Stead, an agricultural historian at University College Dublin, working with a small AES team coordinated by Professor Richard Tranter (Reading). The book, and other commemorative events, will be launched at an AES conference in Wadham College Oxford (in Spring 2026), where the first meeting of the society took place in 1926.

The 31st ICAE of the IAAE in 2021 will be in Delhi, India. The Board of Directors of the IAAE is inviting proposals to host the 32nd International Conference in 2024. The IAAE was launched with its first conference in Dartington Hall, Devon in 1929, so its centenary will fall between the 2027 and 2030 ICAEs, assuming that the triennial cycle of conferences is retained. In any event, marking the centenary of the IAAE will need to be addressed in the near future, including by the AES Executive, as there is a long lead time in organising histories, special events and so on!

The 15th European Association of Agricultural Economists took place in Parma, Italy from 29 August to 1 September 2017. The 16th Congress will be held in Prague, Czech Republic in 2020. The first Congress was in 1975 in Uppsala, Sweden, so its 50th anniversary is also approaching, in 2025!  

EAAE Seminars

EAAE Seminars (www.eaae.org)

30-31 August, Sustainability in the Agri-Food Sector, Galway, Ireland

5-7 September, Preserving ecosystem services via sustainable agro-food chains, Chania, Crete, Greece

24-26 September
, European agriculture and transition to bio-economy, Pulawy, Poland

4-8 February 2019
, Behavioural Perspectives in Agricultural Economics and Management, Uppsala, Sweden

4-5 April 2019, Agricultural Land Markets – Recent Developments, Efficiency and Regulation, Berlin, Germany

The deadline for the receipt of material for the next issue is 3 December 2018, to wilfrid_legg@hotmail.com

Agricultural Economics Society Annual Conference 2019
The Agricultural Economics Society's 93rd annual conference will be held at The University of Warwick, UK on 15th - 17th April 2019...more

ICAE Vancouver

Researching Brexit Conference
25/02/2019 - 26/02/2019, Queen's University Belfast
Call for Abstracts...more

Harper Adams
An economic assessment of swarm robotics for field crops...more

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ANNUAL SUBSCRIPTION to the Society includes:The Journal of Agricultural Economics an academic journal which is published (hard copy and electronic) three times a year.

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