The days are dwindling down for seniors here at Puget Sound. This year seemingly came and went quickly. That’s probably because seniors in the economics department, like other departments, were busy working on their theses. Quitterie Collignon, a graduating senior, took advantage of her accumulated economics foundation and interests and used it to construct a successful empirical thesis about policy effects on the organic farming sector.
In the summer of 2016 Quitterie worked for a non-profit, noncertified organic farm in Puyallup WA. Although it was summer, Quitterie’s academic exploration of thought was still on. She says, “I became very intrigued as to why a farm would be uncertified organic vs. certified and what the barriers to becoming certified were. After extensive research, I saw that farmers transitioning from conventional farming to organic farming practices experienced many economic losses during the 2-3-year transition period of becoming certified.” Even more extensive research led her to see that the primary help farmers had accessible to them was through the Farm Bill, part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and that slowly, changes to the Farm Bill every five years were adding and incorporating clauses specific to the organic sector and its growth. Soon, her curiosity led her to find accessible data from the USDA from the past 15 years, and soon enough she was in Professor Garrett Milam’s thesis class ready to work.
Thesis Question and Prediction
Although her overall thesis mainly looked policy effects on the organic farming sector, for her thesis to be empirically concrete she looked more specifically at the changed in the Farm Bill mentioned above. The exact questions she formulated:
Have changes to the Farm Bill in the last 15 years (2002, 2008, 2014) affected the organic sector in Washington? What years show to have impacted farm growth the most? What policy implications do these results have?
With a narrower topic, Quitterie identified certain factors in each of the bills and hypothesized the effects of the Farm Bill on farm growth over time. “I hypothesized that the organic sector would show growth about two to three years after changes to Farm Bill and progressively more over the course of the 15-year time series.” Using econometric tools, she was able to test these specific factors (independent variables) on her hypothesis of growth (dependent variable). Empirical work is always tricky. Using data incorrectly, or omitted variable bias is common and can lead to unexpected and unwanted results. With sufficient data and time, Quitterie’s research was not only significant, but successful.
With time, caution and economic understanding, Quitterie’s interests led her to significant results:
- “The most significant alteration to the Farm Bill I thought to be after the 2002 Farm Bill as this was the first Farm Bill to provide significant changes to the bill incentivizing more to become organic farmers.
- The findings of this study implicate that the years in which the Farm Bill resulted in the most significant farm growth were following the 2002 Farm Bill.
- The primary additions to this Farm Bill consisted of additional funding for environmental research and related projects.
- Policy implications from these connections imply that the redistribution of funding within the agricultural sector and the Farm Bill could lead to the biggest growths in organic farm growth.
- Following Farm Bills, in 2008 and 2014, demonstrate lack of environmentally oriented and sustainable programs within the agriculture sector.
- The addition of specific programs such as these in the coming Farm Bill would provide immense changes in perception of the government’s priorities in environmentally related sectors.
- These changes would enable the change of attitudes and perception of many producers and consumers in the United States, further incentivizing the practices of sustainable and organic food.”
Displayed through Quitterie’s thesis, personal interests in any field can be applied in economics. Quitterie plans to further her education in a graduate program in the next few years. She hopes to focus her time in environmental, natural resources economics or sustainable farming. After graduating, she will work for Stanford’s Center for Food Security and Environment to familiarize herself with behind the scenes of policy work and projects done in the field.
Congratulations Quitterie and good luck!