Category Archives: AgLink e-newsletter

Graduate Students Win International Case Study Competition

A team of agricultural economics graduate students from the earned first place in the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association’s case study competition in Frankfurt, Germany, in June.

The K-State team of Brady Brewer, David Boussios, Cooper Morris, Jessica Johnson and Jaeljattin Jean claimed  first place in the IFAMA graduate student case study competition and executive industry interviews. They were given four hours to analyze a business case and craft an executive summary of the problem and their proposed solution.

“It was all about being ready to knock any business case out of the park,” Morris said.

The team presented their analysis and answered questions during two rounds of judging, including one in front of an audience of hundreds of agribusiness professionals, policy makers, researchers and students from around the world.

The case study focused on Grameen Danone Foods, a Bangladesh dairy marketing yogurt. The company is a joint venture between a bank and a popular yogurt brand sold in the United States.

“The problem was that this joint venture wanted to meet a sales target and net income goal, yet they also wanted to be a social company,” Brewer said. “Our solution not only had to provide value to the parent company, but also to the poverty-stricken areas in Bangladesh.

“We focused on the sales goal, tightening the supply chain and distribution system, and increasing the per-cow productivity of the small farmers.”

“Our team studied case study methods, practiced public speaking, read books, learned about hot topics in agribusiness and argued relentlessly over business solutions,” Morris said. “We won because we worked harder than the competition.”

The team received support in the form of sponsorships from the following: CHS Inc., Koch Industries, Cargill, K-State Department of Agricultural Economics and K-State Graduate Student Council.


University Grants Barton Professor Emeritus Status

Dr. David Barton

K-State president Kirk Schulz has awarded David Barton, retiring director of the Arthur Capper Cooperative Center, the designation of professor emeritus of agricultural economics. Barton’s new title is effective immediately.

Barton has served on the agricultural economics faculty at Kansas State University for 35 years, including 27 years as ACCC director. During his tenure, he published more than 200 articles, papers, proceedings, book chapters, articles and financial planning reports.

He has designed and presented management seminar curricula, led major programs on cooperative issues and developed software for strategic financial planning in agribusiness.

Barton also has held numerous leadership positions with many industry organizations such as the American Institute of Cooperation, Assocation of Cooperative Educators and National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.

Barton continues to work part time for the ACCC.

AgLink E-News: From the Department Head

Dr. David Lambert

by David Lambert

Welcome to the Class of 2015! The Department of Agricultural Economics is welcoming its largest incoming class of undergraduates in recent times.  Although exact numbers won’t be known until after the dust settles, around 120 new students will be entering our program this fall.  Approximately 380 undergraduate students have selected Agricultural Economics or Agribusiness as their majors.  We have had to split our freshman orientation class, AGEC 150, into two sections to accommodate our new majors.  Growth is stretching our resources, but it is a good problem to have!

Program quality and career opportunities available to our graduates fuel the surge in demand.  We strive to provide individual attention both in and outside of the classroom.  We challenge our students with rigorous courses, grounded in real-world applications from farming, agribusiness, and public decision making.  Consistent with President Schulz’s Vision 2025, we will continue and expand the engagement of our students in research and private industry opportunities.  Students are challenged by the research activities of our instructors.  We are providing more opportunities for students to become involved in these research projects.

New instructors and courses are being added to our undergraduate programs.  Nathan Hendricks has just returned to Kansas from completing his Ph.D. at the University of California at Davis.  He is already in the classroom, teaching our newest course (AGEC 315) covering issues important to global agriculture and food production.  This spring, Alex Shanoyan will join the agribusiness faculty. He will teach our capstone course in agribusiness, AGEC 599.  Because so many of our M.S. students wish to pursue careers in agribusiness, Alex will revitalize AGEC 890, a graduate level class on agribusiness management and strategy.

Students will benefit from the agricultural finance background of the new Director of the Arthur Capper Cooperative Center, Brian Briggeman, this spring as he teaches Agricultural Finance (AGEC 513).  One other new instructor, Keith Harris, will bring his 20 years of corporate experience to the classroom after he completes his Ph.D. at the University of Missouri in January.

We are fortunate to be adding new firepower to our current group of excellent teachers and researchers.  We welcome tomorrow’s leaders to the program.  They will have major impacts far into the future in agriculture, agribusiness, resource management, or any fields they choose to pursue.

K-Staters Earn 2nd, 4th Places in AAEA Grad Student Case Study Competition

From left: Brady Brewer, Brian Lauer and Cooper Morris won second place in the 2011 AAEA Graduate Student Case Study Competition. Elizabeth Canales (not pictured), also a K-State agricultural economics graduate student, competed on the fourth-place team with students from the University of Minnesota.

Kansas State University agricultural economics graduate students recently earned second and fourth places in the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association’s Graduate Student Case Study Competition. The national competition took place during the AAEA’s annual meeting July 24-26 in Pittsburg, PA, and is presented by the Agribusiness Economics and Management section of AAEA.

The competition allows graduate students to test their communication skills and apply their knowledge of agricultural economics and agribusiness subjects to practical situations. Teams received a copy of the case study two weeks prior to the annual meeting and prepared a 15-minute oral summary of their solution to the case. Teams also answered questions from a panel during two rounds of judging.

Nine teams competed, including California Polytechnic State University, Texas A&M University, University of Kentucky, Oklahoma State University, University of Arkansas and two teams from the University of Georgia. The second-place team included K-State agricultural economics graduate students Brady Brewer, Cooper Morris and Brian Lauer. In addition, Elizabeth Canales, also a K-State agricultural economics graduate student, competed on the fourth-place team with students from the University of Minnesota, advised by Michael Boland, former professor of agricultural economics at K-State.

The case study topic was a producer-owned cooperative based in Indiana.

“The challenge was to position the cooperative to respond to the biofuels industry,” said Brewer. “We had to research the ethanol industry and produce a solution that kept the cooperative balanced among its four divisions to ensure the long term viability of the cooperative and that it added value to the member owners products, the first objective of a producer owned cooperative.”

The team created a broad business plan, enabling the cooperative to prepare its owners to plant more corn, increase their access to storage space, utilize dried distiller grains to mitigate increasing feed costs, and use technology to increase the quality of services, Morris said.

“It was important for teams to recognize a cooperative’s commitment to their owners and understand how new ethanol plants consuming 78 million bushels of corn annually would change the structure of the local agricultural economy,” Lauer said.

The team of Brewer, Morris and Lauer experienced an additional twist in the competition. After their flight from Chicago O’Hare was canceled, the team drove overnight to Pittsburgh, arriving an hour after their scheduled presentation time. Vincent Amanor-Boadu, associate professor of agricultural economics, was instrumental in recruiting judges for two back-to-back presentations, enabling the team to still compete.

“His effort embodied the commitment of our faculty,” Morris said.

Amanor-Boadu and other faculty, including Brian Briggeman, David Barton, Arlo Biere and David Lambert, helped the team prepare for the competition.

“They helped us work through our solutions, making sure they were not only grounded in facts and economic truths, but we presented them effectively to the judges,” Morris said.

The top four teams were invited to the AEM industry dinner, where they were recognized for their success. While Morris said the team felt a sense of disappointment missing out on first place, they felt a concrete confidence that was more important than a trophy or ribbon.

“With the help of faculty, we had confidently worked through a complex analysis, survived a transportation nightmare and gave a great final presentation,” he said. “As a team, we had challenged one another to reach a level of economic and business analysis we had yet to achieve. We were one step closer to being ready to complete our theses, taking another step towards our longer term goals.”

Team Researches Chinese Beef Demand

A team of researchers has published an overview of Chinese beef demand, shifting consumer preferences, and the opportunities within future beef demand growth.

Agricultural economics graduate students Shonda Anderson, 2011 master’s graduate, Casey Bieroth, 2010 master’s graduate, and Grace Tucker, master’s student, collaborated with Ted Schroeder, professor of agricultural economics, to write, “Chinese Beef Consumption Trends: Implications for Future Trading Partners.”

The publication is available online at Anderson, Tucker and Schroeder were interviewed in April on Agriculture Today, the official radio program of K-State Research and Extension.

In 2010, the United States exported more than $4 billion worth of beef to its trading partners around the world. Export sales accounted for approximately 9 percent of total U.S. beef production. Developing, regaining and expanding access to global trading partners is crucial to expanding demand for U.S. beef. China represents an important U.S. trading partner for many reasons including population and income growth, shifting consumer preferences, and changing political and regulatory environments.

Graduate Becomes Ag Policy Adviser

Wayne Stoskopf

by K-State News Services

One agribusiness graduate is moving up the ranks as a Congressional staff member.

Wayne Stoskopf, a May 2010 graduate in agribusiness, formerly of Hoisington, served as an intern in summer 2009 for Jerry Moran, then the state’s 1st District congressman. During Moran’s campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2010, Stoskopf was a field director in central Kansas. He has since transitioned into a new role as a staff assistant for Rep. Lynn Jenkins, who represents Kansas’ 2nd District. In addition to constituent services, Stoskopf advises Jenkins on agricultural policy. This role is especially important given that Jenkins is a member of the House trade subcommittee.

“It allows her to be a strong advocate for Kansas agriculture,” Stoskopf said. “I’m excited about continuing to assist her as she works to open more trade markets for agriculture producers. As a K-State College of Agriculture graduate, this is a perfect fit.”

He credits leadership experiences at K-State as good preparation for working in Washington, D.C. Stoskopf served as student body vice president in 2009-2010. He also was a member of Blue Key, the senior leadership honorary, and other student organizations.

Ag Economics, Agribusiness Degrees Offer Salary Benefits

By David Lambert, Department Head, Agricultural Economics

New data available from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey permits comparisons of earnings by college graduates based on major.

Researchers at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce have collected and analyzed earnings data from the ACS. The full report can be downloaded at the Georgetown site:

The sample contains information on 171 college majors in 15 major categories. The total sample has earnings data for nearly 34 million Americans.

Students receiving undergraduate degrees in business compose the largest group (25.0 percent). Students majoring in agriculture and natural resources comprise 1.6 percent of the sample. Agricultural economics majors comprise 6 percent (32,427 graduates) of the students graduating within the agriculture and natural resource category.

The unique feature of the report is the characterization of earnings’ distributions by major. Instead of such frequently reported figures as average earnings of a college graduate are 84 percent higher than individuals with just a high school diploma, lifetime earnings from individual majors are reported.

For example, lifetime earnings for students majoring in engineering are $1,090,000. Education majors earn on average $241,000 over their working lifetimes. Correlated with these lifetime earnings estimates are median incomes by major. Median income for individuals with a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering is $120,000 per year.

Median income for individuals with a bachelor’s degree in counseling/psychology, the lowest reported median income, is $29,000 per year. The income figures are for all full-time workers regardless of graduation date, and thus do not represent starting salaries.

Within the agriculture and natural resource category, the highest median income is earned by people with degrees in Food Science ($65,000). Agricultural economics graduates are tied in second place (with Forestry), with a median income of $60,000 per year. Earnings at the 25 percent (75 percent) percentile for agricultural economics graduates are $39,000 ($92,000).

This initial report suffers from many of the problems of preliminary analyses, such as failing to account for time in the workplace, current occupations, and other conditioning factors. However, these failings aside, the report provides preliminary estimates of the value of a graduate (i.e., post-B.S.) degree (40 percent salary boost), and gender and racial characteristics of agricultural economics graduates. Unfortunately, sample sizes were too small to determine income gaps due to gender and race. On a positive note, 98 percent of the respondents with undergraduate degrees in agricultural economics are employed, tied for first among the agriculture and natural resource majors.

Although these results might persuade a high school student to focus on university studies in petroleum engineering, the report strengthens the argument for studying agricultural economics (and, by extension, agribusiness). The earnings distribution is high relative to all agriculture and natural resource fields. Median incomes also compare favorably with those reported for business majors. Employment prospects are good.

These findings just support the conclusion that 350 K-State students choosing to major in agricultural economics (and agribusiness) have already exhibited fantastic critical thinking and decision making skills!

Team Leads Review of USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey

Two faculty members are helping lead a nationwide team of researchers in a review of the USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey, which annually measures the financial health of farms and ranches.

Allen Featherstone, professor of agricultural economics, and Christine Wilson, assistant dean of the College of Agriculture, have teamed up with Chuck Moss, professor of food and resource economics at the University of Florida, to lead the year-long review. Their task is to review the survey and make recommendations for improvements.

“Basically when the USDA constructs income statements and balance sheets, we want to make sure that they’re measuring what they should be measuring,” he said.

So far, the team has found that changes to depreciation methods might need to be considered, as the survey has historically used tax depreciation which tends to overstate expenses, Featherstone said.

The team began reviewing the survey in September 2010 and expects to complete their review by this fall, Featherstone said.

Ag Econ Graduate Pursues Country Music Dream

By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University

How did you spend spring break? Some college students went to a sunny beach, a family trip or just caught up on their sleep. One student spent his spring break going to Nashville – not just to listen to country music singers, but to identify a studio where he could sing himself. This is an up-and-coming country western singer with deep roots in rural Kansas.

Rusty Rierson, a native of El Dorado, grew up on the family farm near Leon in Butler County.

“I was really shy growing up,” Rusty said. “I wouldn’t even sing in front of my mom and dad.”  But he did enjoy singing, and he started out singing along with the radio on the tractor while working in the field.

“That’s where I learned to harmonize,” Rusty said.

At age 14, he started singing in church. At age 16, his dad got him a guitar and suggested they take guitar lessons together.

“I suspect this was all Dad’s strategy to get me started on the guitar, and sure enough it worked,” he said. He found he loved playing the guitar and singing.

Meanwhile, he went on to K-State and got a degree in agricultural economics. In spring 2011, he will complete a master’s degree in animal science. But at the same time, his music career has blossomed.

In 2005, he went to the Kansas Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Talent Find and won the contest. He got to play at the state fair and has been invited back since. In 2007 Rusty won the “Colgate Country Showdown” at the state level and placed in the top 15 nationally. Now he is actively traveling and touring.
Rusty has played in Kansas, Missouri, Las Vegas, Texas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and California. He played in Mexico while on a church mission trip and in Central America while on a K-State study abroad program. Traveling with the Better Horses radio network, he has played rodeos, barrel races and horse events all over the Midwest, including at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in 2009.

Rusty has produced three albums, with more than 20,000 copies now in print. In 2009 he released “Good Morning Glory,” a patriotic single and tribute to veterans that also includes a song written for legendary bull rider Lane Frost.

While Rusty is writing and performing songs for the modern country-music market, he enjoys gospel and the old-time cowboy singing as well.

“My mom and dad loved Don Williams, Conway Twitty and Merle Haggard, so we got to listen to the older style of music,” Rusty said.  “I know lots of songs that were popular 20 years before I was born.”

During spring break, Rusty visited Nashville to select a studio to produce his new album. It happens that the producer he selected is Dolly Parton’s cousin. More importantly, the producer generates high quality production and helps market the album once it is produced.

“It was awesome. I had never been exposed to that quality of professional musicians before,” Rusty said.

For more information on his upcoming album, his upcoming performance schedule and more, visit

Grad Students Fewell, Parman Earn Poster Awards

Congratulations to Jason Fewell and Bryon Parman, both Ph.D. students in agricultural economics, for their exceptional posters on sustainable energy research.

The Kansas State University Center for Sustainable Energy held its Bioenergy Symposium Poster Presentations Apr. 27-28.

“We were very impressed with the level of research accomplishment achieved this past year,” wrote the center’s co-directors Mary Rezac and Ron Madl. “The outstanding quality of the posters and presentations given at the symposium made selection of the poster awards all the more challenging. Congratulations to the following students on presenting exceptional posters that most effectively demonstrated the progress of their sustainable energy research.”

$1000 Mohammed Hussain (Peter Pfromm, Chemical Engineering, advisor)
$750 Jason Fewell (Jason Bergtold, Agricultural Economics, advisor)
$750 Myles Ikenberry (Keith Hohn, Chemical Engineering, advisor)
$500 Bryon Parman (Vincent Amanor-Boadu, Agricultural Economics, advisor)
$500 Leslie Schulte (Mary Rezac, Chemical Engineering, advisor)

CSE acknowledges and appreciates funding from ConocoPhillips that make it possible to grant the CSE poster awards.