Pat Westhoff, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI), was recently named a Curators’ Distinguished Professor for dedication to the university’s missions of education, research, service and economic development. This is the highest and most prestigious academic rank awarded by the University of Missouri System Board of Curators.
Westhoff, who is also a professor of agricultural and applied economics, joined Mizzou in 1996 as FAPRI’s program director for international programs. In 1997, he was named a research assistant professor in the Division of Applied Social Sciences, and since then has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in agricultural policy, advised graduate students and served on committees.
In the early 2000s, his research focus shifted back to domestic agricultural markets and policies, and, since then, Westhoff has led the team that develops FAPRI’s projections of the farm economy and analysis of farm bill options, trade disputes, the pandemic and other issues. In 2007 he became FAPRI co-director, and director in 2011.
Westhoff has received the Roger L. Mitchell Fellow Award from the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, recognizing those who elevate the College through collaboration and innovative thinking; has been recognized with Honorary Membership in the CAFNR Alumni Association; and was honored with the USDA’s Bruce Gardner Visiting Economist Award for a lifetime of achievements in the field. He is the Howard Cowden Professor of Agricultural and Applied Economics, an endowed professorship established by Farmland Industries.
Westhoff credits this new accolade to the success of the institute he directs.
“I see this primarily as a recognition of the work that FAPRI has done over the years,” he said of being named a Curators’ Distinguished Professor. “I have been extremely fortunate to work with such a great team that has made important contributions in our field.”
FAPRI, one of CAFNR’s Programs of Distinction, has a mission to provide objective, quantitative analysis of issues affecting the agricultural and food sectors.
“We have had the opportunity to work with policy makers who want to understand how current and proposed policy options would affect farmers, lenders, agribusinesses, consumers and taxpayers,” Westhoff said. “During the trade dispute with China and in the early days of the pandemic, we provided assessments of likely impacts on agricultural markets and farm income which were considered by USDA in deciding compensatory payment programs. During past and current farm bill debates, we have provided analysis of policy options to staff of the agriculture committees in both the House and Senate.”
FAPRI’s annual baseline projections provide information that can help farmers in making farm program, production and marketing choices and businesses in making investment decisions, Westhoff said. FAPRI’s work has helped international institutions like the Food and Agriculture Organization develop their own economic models for use in identifying food security concerns.
The variety and uniqueness of the work he’s been able to do is a big part of why he has enjoyed his tenure at Mizzou – in addition to the opportunity to, as he said, be “a little bit weird.”
“I have enjoyed the flexibility to work on a wide range of issues and with a lot of great people here and around the world,” Westhoff said. “A lot of FAPRI’s most important work does not result in publications that garner lots of citations, but it is critical to policy makers and the public.
“I would not have had as much fun and job satisfaction over the years if I had been at an institution that didn’t sometimes allow me to act outside the academic norm. As an Al Yankovic devotee and a former Austin resident, I firmly believe it’s important to be a little bit weird.”