Economics Professor Named Center for Agricultural and Rural Development Director

Kling portrait
Cathy Kling

AMES, Iowa — Cathy Kling has been named the new director of Iowa State University’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD).

Kling, a Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a professor of economics, has served as interim director of the center for almost two years. She has served as head of CARD’s Environmental and Resource Policy Division since 1999.

She is only the fourth director of CARD since its creation in 1958. She succeeds Bruce Babcock, who left the position to become director of ISU’s Biobased Industry Center and holder of the Cargill Endowed Chair in Energy Economics.

For 55 years, CARD has provided in-depth analysis of agricultural policy issues using modern economic models and tools. CARD conducts innovative public policy and economic research on agricultural, environmental and food issues designed to inform and benefit society. CARD researchers develop and apply economic theory, quantitative methods, and interdisciplinary approaches to create relevant knowledge. Communication efforts target state and federal policymakers; the research community; agricultural, food and environmental groups; individual decision makers; and international audiences.

“It’s terrific to be stepping into this job with such a rich history,” Kling said. “Each director has brought distinct skills and interests that were relevant for the agricultural policy issues of the day. Each left CARD with a stronger academic reputation and credibility in policy analysis.”

Kling’s background in environmental economics is something that differentiates her from previous directors of CARD — everyone who held the position previously had a background in agricultural economics.

“While each director has moved CARD in a unique direction, they all remained focused on addressing the most critical issues of agricultural policy of the day. This flexibility and responsive to the needs of the policy community has been critical to each of their successes, and will be to mine as well,” she said.

Agricultural economics remains a core component of CARD’s mission, Kling said. “Agriculture faces new challenges — the food versus fuel debates, nutrition and dietary concerns, pressures to address environmental concerns both locally and globally, and the role of new technologies in these markets are just a few.”

The largest differences Kling foresees are the same challenges that many campus departments or units have been facing in recent years. “A large difference is likely to come from the different funding environment:  changes that all of higher education are facing in terms of sources and continuity of funding,” she said. “A second difference will be driven by the market demand for our work: the different set of topics that it will be important for CARD researchers to investigate and address.”

With new challenges to agricultural policy arising as products such as biofuels become more intertwined with other economic sectors, Kling sees an opportunity to expand the reach of CARD. “The demand for interdisciplinary analysis to help solve problems continues to grow, and reaching across disciplines takes effort,” she said. “I can see CARD becoming a catalyst for such work.”

The following are recent examples of CARD’s research in its core areas:

  • Trade policy:  The international agricultural sector model developed by CARD and the Food and Agriculture Policy Institute (FAPRI) was used to estimate benefits of free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, both to the United States and to U.S. trading partners. Results were used by commodity groups to understand the implications of the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership results currently are used for the same purpose by commodity groups and unions. CARD’s models have worldwide coverage, with 60 major producing, consuming and trading countries represented, and are uniquely capable of addressing critical trade issues.
  • Agricultural policy:  CARD-FAPRI models have been used extensively to provide analyses of U.S. farm policy and CARD staff regularly are requested to testify before Congress.
  • Energy and biofuels policy:  CARD-FAPRI models have been used to evaluate Renewable Fuel Standard waiver requests; the land use impacts of alternative biofuel pathways to meet advanced and conventional biofuels targets; and the effect on commodity and food prices from expansion of biofuels.
  • Agriculture and the environment:  CARD researchers have developed integrated economic and biophysical models allowing analysis of the effects of conservation programs, carbon markets and economic drivers on local water quality across the central United States, as well as carbon storage, soil erosion and hypoxic conditions in the Gulf of Mexico. CARD-FAPRI models have been used to analyze greenhouse gas implications of fertilizer and biofuel policy.