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Idaho Ag Economist Joins Panel Advising USDA Statistics Service

John Foltz

John Foltz, associate dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Idaho, has been appointed to the USDA advisory committee on agricultural statistics.

Foltz will join the 20-member advisory committee at its next meeting in February in Washington, D.C.

The committee advises the Secretary of Agriculture and National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) about the censuses and surveys.

"The National Agricultural Statistics Service performs work that is important to agriculture. The selection of Associate Dean John Foltz to serve on its advisory committee is a recognition both of his expertise and his leadership abilities," says John Hammel, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences dean.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service tracks agricultural commodities and trends. The service is widely respected and watched as an accurate barometer of one of the nation and world's largest industries.

NASS plays an important role nationally and internationally because agriculture is a critical industry and one that has become truly global. Agricultural statistics underpin world markets and commodity pricing. As an agricultural economist, Foltz studied the forces that support or oppose country of origin labeling, an issue that still divides consumers, regulators and producers.

"The National Agricultural Statistics Service provides data that is useful to producers and agribusiness firms in tracking agricultural production in the United States," Foltz says. "Its operations have to be transparent and open to generate confidence in its work."

The service faces some interesting challenges in gathering statistics because the people who provide the information on critical surveys are changing their communication preferences. For example, Foltz says, fewer farmers rely on traditional telephone lines as cell phones dominate the market.

Foltz, who directs academic programs for the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at Moscow, joined the University of Idaho faculty in 1991, the year he earned his doctorate in agricultural economics from Purdue University.

In addition to his early teaching duties as a professor of agricultural economics and rural sociology, Foltz helped develop an agribusiness management game for the Regional Cooperative Leadership Seminar.

He also participated in foreign assignments in Russia, New Zealand and Peru, and accompanied then-Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne on a trade mission to Taiwan.

This fall, the Northwest Regional Cooperative Conference honored Foltz with its Regional Co-op Award to recognize his impact on the future of cooperatives throughout the Northwest.

"Dr. John Foltz provided valuable information to co-op leaders about finance, planning and responsibility in leading cooperatives," says Blair Wilson, Idaho Cooperative Council president.

"The agribusiness activity Foltz developed provided a 'reality show' concept that was easy for co-op managers, directors and employees to understand and apply to their local cooperative," Wilson says.