Louisiana lawmakers and others involved in public decision making will have another source of information to use in developing public policy as a result of a new research unit in the LSU AgCenter.
The Board of Regents and the LSU Board of Supervisors recently approved the establishment of the Center for Natural Resource Economics and Policy at the LSU AgCenter. Dr. Rex Caffey, a wetlands and coastal resources economist in the LSU AgCenter’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, has been named director.
"The center will be beneficial to the state and the nation because it will bring natural resource economists from the LSU AgCenter, LSU and other agencies together," said Dr. Gail Cramer, head of the LSU AgCenter’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness. "They will provide policy-makers with economic analyses that should be beneficial to make improved decisions about resource use in Louisiana."
Cramer said the group will be able to conduct economic analyses to provide information on the benefits and costs of resource activities – not only to private individuals but also to society.
He said some areas of work could include decisions concerning water use, wetland valuation, farm programs and conservation programs.
"These are issues that could and should be addressed," Cramer said.
Caffey said economists look at the allocation of scarce resources among competing user groups, as well as location and ownership issues, such as property rights and market and non-market valuations.
He said a survey of more than 200 academic departments, centers and institutes in Louisiana colleges and universities showed none focus on policy, management and economics of natural resources.
Calling it a research cooperative and a center without walls, Caffey said the new center’s purpose is to contribute to the efficient management and sustainability of Louisiana’s natural resources by bringing together social science researchers from diverse program areas, including energy, coastal and inland wetlands, fisheries, forestry, wildlife, and soil and water.
"Louisiana is the best place for this sort of research," Caffey said. "It’s the terminus of one of the world’s largest river systems – a region well-known for its natural productivity."
Dr. Mike Dunn, an associate professor of natural resource economics in the LSU AgCenter, said the Center for Natural Resource Economics and Policy will provide a basis for dealing with the economic aspects of resource use and conservation in the areas of forests, wildlife and energy, as well as with all aspects of water.
"There’s no reason for the LSU AgCenter not to be the premier land-grant-based organization that deals with the economic and policy aspects of natural resources," Dunn said.
Dr. Steve Henning, an associate professor of resources and rural development in the LSU AgCenter, said he expects the new center to help people become more aware and to help them identify and prioritize future research and outreach needs.
"There’s an opportunity to get into the process early with data to help make decisions," he said. "We have a role to contribute in the process to think about real costs and identify them."
Henning said agricultural economists traditionally worked with farm management and production economics. Now most issues have elements of resource policy.
"We’re looking at farm management with emphasis on resource use and allocation," he said, stressing that those activities readily translate to other resource issues.
"When policy-makers look at the coast and coastal issues, for example, most discussion focuses on physical and technical issues," Henning said. "We can help them consider social-economic issues – the financial considerations and the social impacts on people."
Caffey said the Center for Natural Resource Economics and Policy already is planning a national conference. "Challenges of Socio-economic Research in Coastal Systems" is scheduled for May 27-28 at the Lod Cook Conference Center in Baton Rouge.
In addition to Caffey, Dunn and Henning, other members of the center include Dr. Hamady Diop and Dr. Walter Keithly of the LSU Coastal Fisheries Institute; Dr. Jack Isaacs of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries; Dr. Richard Kazmierczak, Dr. Krishna Paudel and Dr. John Westra of the LSU AgCenter Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness; Dr. William Olatubi of the Center for Energy Studies; and Dr. Richard Vlosky of the LSU AgCenter School of Renewable Natural Resources.
Gail Cramer at (225) 578-3282 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Rex Caffey at (225) 578-2393 or email@example.com
Mike Dunn at (225) 578-2376 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Henning at (225) 578-2718 or email@example.com
Rick Bogren at (225) 578-5839 or firstname.lastname@example.org