A couple years ago the veil was lifted, ever so slightly, on the machinations of ag economists. The Politico article titled, “The wild world of ag economists,” illuminated the fuzzy boundary between agricultural extension–a tax payer-funded public obligation of land-grant universities–and for-profit consulting. The article illustrated how ag economists have been able to leverage their public duty for private profit. The practice is ubiquitous. Along with tenure, junior faculty often receive an invitation to join the senior faculty’s consulting firm. And yet, conflicts of interest are never declared.
The irony is, as it was explained to me, the Politico article was an “inside the Beltway” political ploy; a salvo from one camp of ag economists to another. But I can’t be sure; the curtain dropped as quickly as it was lifted. And the world of ag economists remains as wild as ever.