August 15, 2011

Agriculture expert Thompson joins SAIS as visiting scholar

Robert L. Thompson, a leading expert in the field of agriculture, has joined the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies as a visiting scholar.

Thompson, who is based at SAIS’s Energy, Resources and Environment and International Development programs, most recently held the Gardner Endowed Chair in Agricultural Policy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He currently serves as a senior fellow of global agricultural development and food security at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

“With agriculture now at the forefront of public and private sector agendas, SAIS aims to play a leading role in bringing this field into the main current of discussion in international relations policy,” said SAIS Dean Jessica P. Einhorn. “Dr. Thompson is peerless in his standing and suitability for taking agriculture beyond land grant universities and incorporating the subject into the mainstream of a modern professional school of international affairs.”

As a visiting scholar, Thompson will help SAIS develop an agriculture-focused curriculum to complement the school’s existing programs, help identify new adjunct faculty and play a leading role in coordinating external events during the “Year of Agriculture,” SAIS’ substantive theme for 2011–2012.

“One of the great challenges of the 21st century will be to feed the world’s larger population better than today at reasonable cost without destroying the environment,” Thompson said. “The world’s farmers will need to double agricultural production in the next 50 years using little more land and less water than today. The global distribution of arable land and fresh water is very different from where the world’s population is concentrated, yet individual countries must ensure their national food security.

“I am delighted to be given the opportunity to bring to the SAIS community greater emphasis on the growing global security implications of these challenges,” Thompson said.

During his accomplished career, Thompson has served as director of rural development at the World Bank, president and CEO of the Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development, dean of Agriculture and professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University, assistant secretary for economics at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and senior staff economist for food and agriculture at the Council of Economic Advisers.

He currently serves on the U.S. Department of Agriculture–U.S. Trade Representative Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee for Trade, the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council and the Land O’Lakes board of directors. He is a fellow of the American Agricultural Economics Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry and of the Ukrainian Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Thompson has written more than 100 articles and book chapters on agricultural policy, development and trade.

A native of Ogdensburg, N.Y., Thompson received his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and his doctorate in agricultural economics from Purdue University.