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U professor receives agricultural economy award

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation recently awarded Richard Levins, University applied economics professor and extension agriculture economist, a two-year Food and Society Fellowship.

“I see it as a great way to enhance my teaching and my extension appointment,” Levins said. Levins will keep his University teaching position during the fellowship.

The fellowship program is a multi-year initiative that will try to make changes in food systems using environmentally friendly and health-promoting agriculture, said Alli Webb, W.K. Kellogg Foundation spokeswoman.

“(The initiative is) to enable existing and emerging leaders to effectively utilize media, scholarship, public education and policy education to inform decision makers about issues in local food systems, sustainable agriculture and nutrition and good production,” she said.

Levins started traveling throughout the world in October to learn about agricultural methods and policy and talk to policy makers.

“It would allow me to engage more people in these discussions about farming, the environment and food safety,” Levins said. “I see one of my principal goals right now is to engage more people in how farming affects their lives.”

Levins spent last week touring European farms and talking with European Union agriculture policy makers.

European agriculture has more policies in place to regulate farming to protect the environment. Levins toured a cattle farm, operating on the sole purpose to provide a place for endangered birds to live. The cattle are an important part of the habitat the birds need to survive.

European farms are subsidized for their environmental protection efforts. Levins said he hopes the U.S. agricultural policy makers will use the European model to shape future farm subsidies.

Levins and other fellows will travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with U.S. agriculture policy makers later this year.

The fellowship benefits go beyond what Levins himself will learn. Levins will bring his wider breadth of knowledge to University classrooms.

“As a result of the action, we expect him to have a richer set of extension education programs, and this also has a way of filtering into our undergraduate program as he is still teaching here,” said Vernon Eidman, head of the applied economics department.

The department also received a cash award from the foundation as a result of Levins’ fellowship.

The fellows were selected based on their expertise in food and agricultural policy, interest in sustainable agriculture and history of
publication, said Rob Myers, Thomas Jefferson Agriculture Institute director. Myers chaired the fellowship selection committee.

“He had a strong record of publication and demonstrated good ideas about what he would do with the fellowship,” he said.


Joanna Dornfeld covers the St. Paul campus and welcomes comments at [email protected]

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