Courtesy of Cornell University

March 13, 2022

Prof. Ariel Ortiz-Bobea to Advise USDA’s National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education and Economics Board

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In October 2021, Prof. Ariel Ortiz-Bobea, applied economics and policy, was appointed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education and Economics Advisory Board. Ortiz-Bobea will represent Cornell as well as the other 1,862 land-grant universities nationwide.

The NAREEE Advisory Board provides advice on priorities and policies for food research to the Secretary of Agriculture as well as land-grant colleges and universities. As a board member, Ortiz-Bobea will use the knowledge collected from his research to help the board make various relevant advising decisions from emissions to forest protection.

At the University, Ortiz-Bobea conducts research that examines how people and organizations deal with the dynamic environment. 

“Adapting to a changing environment entails tradeoffs which is a core focus of economics,” Ortiz-Bobea said. “[M]y research focuses on quantifying the impacts of climate change and determining whether we are seeing evidence that people in the economy are adapting to ongoing changes.”

Ortiz-Bobea’s research allows him to advise the board on related issues such as environmental additionality, which assesses whether a project generates ‘additional’ emission reductions with a government incentive as opposed to not.

“Ensuring that the U.S. agricultural sector really contributes to reducing emissions is the idea of additionality,” Ortiz-Bobea said. 

For example, the government may pay a farmer to change their agricultural practices and reduce emissions, but, if the farmer changes their practices without compensation, then government payments would not actually be reducing emissions. As a result, government payments to farmers do not result in direct environmental service in which emissions may be reduced.

Ortiz-Bobea will also be focusing on additionality in forest protection. Though paying people to protect forests may sound like a great thing, in practice, it is not very effective, Ortiz-Bobea said. 

Similarly to the farming practices, people may choose to protect the forests without payment. As a result, any exchange of funds has minimal effects on forest conservation and carbon sequestration. 

Ortiz-Bobea will now advise on these issues as an appointed member of the NAREEE board.

“My ultimate hope is to give honest, timely and useful advice to the [NAREEE]. I’m committed to that,” Ortiz-Bobea said. “[We have] the potential to influence the course of action of the government on matters that [will] have long-term consequences for the U.S. agricultural sector.”