WERA_OLD72: Agribusiness Scholarship Emphasizing Competitiveness

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Inactive/Terminating

WERA_OLD72: Agribusiness Scholarship Emphasizing Competitiveness

Duration: 10/01/2014 to 09/30/2019

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Statement of Issues and Justification

Dating back to Davis and Goldberg's seminal book, the term Agribusiness is often defined as the study of economic and managerial problems as they pertain to the global food and fiber system, including both private strategies and public policies. The agribusiness system is complex and interrelated. It includes agricultural input suppliers, agricultural producers, and the firms that provide the functional aspects associated with creating, communicating, and delivering value to consumers in the form of food and fiber products. Exchange, processing, storage, and transportation are all key functions preformed by agribusinesses. However, just as important are the facilitating functions provided through market information, risk management and financial services for agribusinesses throughout the marketing channel.
Agribusinesses have undergone rapid and expansive changes. From technological changes to changes in labor availability and from increased emphasis on efficiency to meeting the varied demands of consumers, the entire agricultural marketing system has had to adapt. The challenges encountered when making these adaptations are often interrelated and dependent on political and economic issues affecting the entire supply chain. Additionally, consumers are changing the demands for what is produced and, in many cases, how it is produced. Perhaps now more than ever, the industry is facing changed dynamics. Whether a small family farm or a leading multinational firm, agribusinesses are looking for new ways to remain profitable and competitive. Moreover, while there are similarities in the goals of those two types of firms, the approach by which they go about achieving them may be vastly different.
Agribusiness scholarship involves the creation of knowledge that explains, solves, and provides options for agribusinesses, and it is fundamental to the future of agribusiness. Addressing the fundamental problems in the food and fiber supply chain that are intrinsic to the interconnected and interdependent nature of the system is a key component of agribusiness scholarship. This scholarship may take on the form of quantitative or qualitative research that utilizes methodologies that pull from economic, management, finance, and marketing theories. This research can then fuel the development and implementation of industry outreach and extension programs that target managers, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders in the agribusiness sector.
Similar to other sectors, the future of agriculture will depend on those leading it. Agribusiness students will be a natural source for leadership for firms along the agribusiness value chain. Inspiring students to pursue careers in agribusiness and teaching them critical thinking, problem solving, and leadership skills, are all objectives that will help agribusinesses through future challenges and uncertainties. Therefore, the scholarship of teaching, as it applies to agribusiness students and courses, is also an important part of agribusiness scholarship, and, ultimately, the future of agribusinesses. Research related to the effectiveness of teaching pedagogies, factors that contribute to student success, the role of technology in education, and instructional design are valuable for sharing and dissemination so that we can better prepare the future leaders of this industry.
The WERA-72 Coordinating Committee plays an important role in the future of agribusiness by facilitating and promoting agribusiness scholarship, and by providing a research and educational forum that focuses on fundamental issues in the changing world of agribusiness. These issues include business competitiveness, strategic management, industrial organization, international trade, evaluation of business performance, analysis of consumer preferences, agricultural industrialization, transportation and logistics, supply chain management, traceability, food protection, and public policy as they pertain to the global food system. Partnerships with other organizations whose motivations align are also pursued (e.g. S-1050, Agribusiness Learning Outcomes working group), as does dissemination of research through partnering outlets (through special issues and invited papers). As a result, WERA-72 is able to share leading research with interested colleagues and discuss best practices regarding how to prepare the next generation of agribusiness leaders.
To facilitate information exchange, the committee undertakes several activities including organization of an annual meeting at which the above issues and other timely topics are addressed. Participation in the project includes university faculty with responsibilities in agribusiness research, extension, and teaching. In addition, the group has enjoyed active participation from government and industry representatives. Further, university participation has included traditional land grant institutions as well as selected public universities that also have programs targeting the agribusiness sector. The coordination of publically and privately funded research, teaching and outreach programs is a unique contribution of WERA-72. We strive to encourage the participation of graduate students, providing them with not only opportunities to discuss their research efforts and get constructive feed back from the group as a whole, but also opportunities to shape new directions of agribusiness scholarship.

Project Themes -

-WERA-72 provides faculty and decision-makers from land-grant and other universities, industry, and government a forum to interact, share information, and collaborate on research, teaching and extension programs that pertain to issues important to agribusinesses such as food production, distribution and consumption, and a safe and sustainable food supply. Through participation in WERA-72, participants will be better able to coordinate timely research, teaching and extension activities that examine the agribusiness industry in greater detail.

-WERA-72 also strives to provide participants with innovative and appropriate channels to disseminate and exchange leading research on issues of importance to agribusiness firms and stakeholders. Through the website as well as the coordination of special issues in agribusiness-focused journals, WERA-72 participants will have access to several outlets that agribusiness researchers and industry members utilize to access up-to-date research on issues important to the industry.

-WERA-72 is focused on the scholarship of agribusiness. Through organized sessions, participants will be able to share current practices as well as innovative ideas with other leading academics and industry professionals on how to prepare the next group of agribusiness leaders. By participating in WERA-72 organized activities, members will be better prepared to improve the quality of agribusiness scholarship at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Given the above outlined themes of WERA-72, the following general objectives are proposed:

1. An objective of WERA-72 is to examine how agribusinesses have responded to changes in the agribusiness industry. Greater competition both locally and globally may point to a need to examine the resources needed to be successful in this dynamic industry. Research in this area will examine firm and industry-level responses to changing trade policy, increased competition, and changing public and private standards that are being driven by more informed and more demanding consumers.

2. Technology and innovation have enabled agribusiness firms to become more efficient in the production of a safe and reliable food supply. As value chains evolve from adversarial, transaction-based economies to cooperative, relationship-based networks, the resources and skills needed to be successful in these environments may evolve as well. Future research will focus on the resources needed to take advantage of opportunities to innovate, and the type of innovation that occurs at various points along the value chain.

3. While agricultural products are largely homogeneous, consumers of agricultural products are not. Innovative and entrepreneurial firms along the value chain may seek to improve performance by differentiating the products or services they offer, or by leveraging the resources of similar firms to benefit from agglomeration effects. Research in this area will examine responses of firms and entire value chains to changing consumer demands by providing valuable experiences (e.g. wine trails, agri-tourism) and their effectiveness in improving firm performance. Additionally, firms may see benefits from agri-food clusters (e.g. food hubs) where location attributes and knowledge spillovers among members enable firms to improve performance.

4. Another objective of WERA-72 is to coordinate and disseminate research on best practices in agribusiness education. As the agribusiness industry is evolving, the manner by which institutions train students and researchers to meet the needs of the industry must also evolve. Research in this area will communicate best practices with stakeholders about innovative responses that have been implemented in land grant and other institutions regarding the evolution of agribusiness education. Along with undergraduate education, outcomes from this theme will include the discussion and dissemination of teaching and research methods involved in training future researchers and academics.


  1. Examine agribusinesses responses to contemporary change in the agribusiness industry. Specifically, research, extension and learning activities will focus on firm and industry-level responses to changing trade policy, increased competition, and changes to public and private standards driven by consumers expectations.
  2. Examine agribusinesses actions to innovate. Specifically, research, extension and learning activities will focus on innovation and the type of innovation that occur as value chains evolve from adversarial, transaction-based economies to cooperative, relationship-based networks.
  3. Examine responses of firms and entire value chains to the heterogeneity of consumer interests and demand. Research, extension and learning activities will focus on firm performance improvement through product or service differentiation, leveraging the resources to benefit from agglomeration effects and providing product associated experiences.
  4. Coordinate and disseminate research and outreach on best practices and innovative approaches in agribusiness education.

Procedures and Activities

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • WERA-72 will facilitate the development of quality teaching and extension programs in agribusiness and economic development through collaboration in integrated and multi-state work. Outcomes of WERA-72 will be greater coordination of research projects across states and regions as well as greater and more timely dissemination of research results.
  • WERA-72 will work to coordinate special issues of peer-reviewed journals related to a specific theme from the WERA-72 objectives. This may include the development of a themed issue of a publication with a broader reach, such as Choices, to stimulate discussion and potential research on an agribusiness-related issue.
  • WERA-72 will develop new ways to disseminate information regarding ongoing research and extension projects to interested parties. This may include greater use of a website that catalogues past and ongoing research, as well as the utilization of new tools that may provide for greater discussion of current issues and the dissemination of research results.
  • WERA-72 will also serve as an outlet for presentation and discussion of research findings at professional meetings. Through our own annual meeting, and possibly with joint meetings with other associations, such as the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, Regional Agricultural Economics Associations (e.g Western, Southern, etc.), the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association, the Food Distribution Research Society, researchers will have an outlet to discuss new areas of research and share the results of current studies. WERA-72 will also look to continue the relationship with the broader industry through participation of membership at industry conventions such as the National Grocers Association and the Produce Marketing Association.
  • WERA -72 will facilitate publication in peer-reviewed journals and other scholarly outlets of scholarship based on multi-institution and multi-state collaboration.
  • Outcome/Impact 6; WERA-72 will facilitate collaboration to attract grant funding to address significant multi-state research, extension and instructional issues in agribusiness.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

The annual meeting of the coordinating committee provides a forum for discussion and collaboration among participants and attendees interested in agribusiness issues. In addition to the published output from meeting presentations, the open forum enables participants to disseminate information via presentations at other professional meetings (including Western Agricultural Economics Association (WAEA), NCR-194, the Food Distribution Research Society (FDRS), and the Agriculture and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) as well as through extension programming conducted at participants institutions. Additionally many fact sheets are produced from the published referred research that put the more sophisticated research into a useable format for the general public.


The recommended Standard Governance for multistate research activities includes the election of a Chair, a Chair-elect, and a Secretary. All officers are to be elected for at least two-year terms to provide continuity. Administrative guidance will be provided by an assigned Administrative Advisor and a CSREES Representative. WERA-72 also hosts an annual meeting, which typically meets in June.

Literature Cited

Davis, J. H., & Goldberg, R. A. (1957). A Concept of Agribusiness. Division of Research, Graduate School of Business Administration, Harvard University.


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Minnesota State University Mankato, Santa Clara University, Texas A&M University, University of Saskatchewan
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