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September 19, 2012

Dr. Byerlee raises serious issues with Cowley Economic students


Dr. Byerlee

Sharing his knowledge of wheat production and what it looks like from the view of different countries in the world, Dr. Derek Byerlee spoke to students in Social Science Department Chair Todd Shepherd’s Economics class Tuesday on Cowley College’s main campus in Arkansas City. Byerlee is scholar in residence at Southwestern College in Winfield, KS, and his visit was made possible through the support of the Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow's Program.

Byerlee is the Rural Policy and Strategy Advisor for the World Bank. He has dedicated his career to agriculture in developing countries, as a teacher, researcher, administrator and policy advisor. He has lived and worked for a total of 20 years in the three major developing regions-Africa, Asia, and Latin America. After beginning in academia at Michigan State University, he spent the bulk of his career at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). There as an economist and research manager he made notable contributions in forging a new spirit of collaboration between scientists, economists and farmers

After joining the World Bank in 1994, he has applied his experience of research systems to finding innovative approaches to funding and organizing agricultural research, including emerging challenges in biotechnology policy.

According to Dr. Byerlee, wheat farms range from an average of less than 10 acres in India to more than a million acres in Argentina. He spoke specifically to the shortage of water and how this is being handled in different countries. He devoted time to talk about how to price water, which even here in the U.S. is becoming a major issue. He said there are even people who are buying water rights in the U.S., just like you buy oil rights. He mentioned it doesn’t seem big now, but when water becomes scarce individuals will have to pay large sums of money in the future because only a few people will have the right to drill for water. 

“It was a very interesting and informative talk and it raised serious issues that today’s students will have to deal with in the future,” Shepherd said. “It is very helpful to get a global perspective from someone who has been to these countries and dealt with these issues first-hand.”