Ag Policy Blog

Change in Chief Economist Post at USDA

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
One reason the American Farm Bureau Federation states Thanksgiving prices are cheaper this year is the average price for a 16-pound turkey comes in at $1.21 a pound, a 7% decline from last year. Retail turkey prices are the lowest since 2010. National Farmers Union notes farmers on average only receive about 11.9 cents per dollar spent on Thanksgiving food. (DTN file photo)

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Monday that USDA Chief Economist Robert Johansson will leave USDA at the end of January to become associate director of economics and policy analysis for the American Sugar Alliance, and that Seth Meyer has been hired as the new chief economist.

In the announcement, Perdue called Johansson “an upstanding public servant,” and noted that he had served as acting deputy undersecretary for farm production and conservation early in the Trump administration

Johansson said, “It has been a real honor to have spent more than two decades in public service, working for the Peace Corps, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Office of Management and Budget, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Council of Economic Advisers”

“My 16-plus years with USDA has been most rewarding and I'll miss the daily interaction with the fantastic team at OCE as well as the larger USDA family. I look forward to continue supporting America's farmers in my new role with the American Sugar Alliance."

The American Sugar Alliance, which represents cane and beet growers, said today that Johansson “will work alongside ASA Director of Economics and Policy Analysis Jack Roney to provide domestic and international sugar market analysis and evaluate the farm and trade policies that affect U.S. sugar producers”

Roney, who has worked with the industry for more than 30 years, plans to retire next August, at which time Johansson will assume the director role.

Johansson received his bachelor arts in economics from Northwestern University and his Ph.D. in agricultural and applied economics from the University of Minnesota.

Meyer is a research professor and the associate director for the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) at the University of Missouri.

Meyer was previously the head of the World Agricultural Outlook Board in the Office of the Chief Economist (OCE), the agency at USDA charged bringing together USDA resources in the assessment of crops around the world and publisher of the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report.

Meyer was also an economist with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations and has served as a visiting scholar at several research institutions around the world.

Meyer holds a bachelor science degree in community and regional planning and a master's degree in economics from Iowa State University and a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from the University of Missouri.

“This is a challenging time for the food and agricultural sector,” Meyer said in a news release.

“I'm quite honored to be asked to rejoin USDA as chief economist. I look forward to serving the American public and USDA's many stakeholders and constituencies,”

“We are excited to bring back Dr. Seth Meyer and know that he will do a tremendous job serving the people of American agriculture,” Perdue said.

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at

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