Call for Papers: Agriculture and Trade

May 17-18, 2018
Organizer: Dave Donaldson

To promote research on economic issues that involve trade and the agricultural sector, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), with the support of the Economic Research Service at USDA and the Giannini Foundation at the University of California, will convene a research conference on “Agriculture and Trade.” The conference will be held in Cambridge, Massachusetts on May 17-18, 2018. It will be organized by Dave Donaldson of MIT and the NBER. The conference will welcome both empirical and theoretical research on issues that relate to the role of intra-national and international trade in agricultural markets, the links between trade policy and pricing and production decisions in the agricultural sector, and the role of agriculture in current trade flows.

Topics on which paper submissions would be welcome include, but are not limited to:

  • Agricultural policy analysis in an open economy. How do domestic agricultural policies (such as price-based policies, land-use policies, or policies to promote technological change) affect border prices? How do these effects differ across activities and market sizes? How does domestic market integration affect border price elasticities? How strongly do foreign policy changes in one country affect prices and hence consumer and producer welfare in other countries? How are cross-regional (e.g. within-country) research designs compromised by unobserved, general equilibrium price or factor availability adjustments at a more aggregate (e.g. national) level?

  • Trade, volatility and uncertainty. How does market integration change the price and income volatility that agricultural consumers and producers face? How do these agents react to that volatility and uncertainty? How do shocks spread or dissipate over space? How quickly can domestic and trade policy respond to insulate the effects of these shocks? How does volatility and uncertainty affect the dynamics of agricultural land use, especially in the presence of large sunk costs?

  • Estimating and testing models of trade in the agricultural sector. Does the relatively simple product space and market structure of the agricultural sector afford new opportunities for learning about the fundamental drivers of trade and specialization and the scope for gains from trade? How useful is scientific knowledge of agricultural production possibilities for this purpose? How can remote sensing (e.g. satellite) data on land use be leveraged to inform these models?

  • Structural change in an open economy. How do the patterns of structural change (at the level of broad sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, and services) differ across relatively open and closed regions? Do the demand- and supply-side forces behind such structural changes interact differently in the presence of trade and factor market openness?

  • Trade and adaptation to climate change. How could the ability to import and export change a region's exposure to the changing agricultural conditions that follow from a changing climate? How will other forms of factor mobility (such as migration and capital movements) and accumulation interact with inter-regional and international trade? How do the predictions of micro-level impacts of climate change on individual crops aggregate up into damage functions at more macro levels?

  • Export-based agriculture in low-income countries. What are the barriers to growth (for example: trade costs, regulatory compliance, production of appropriate quality, collective reputations) of agricultural exporters in developing countries? What policies can reduce these barriers and what impacts can such reductions have? How much market power do producers enjoy, or how much do the agents they sell to enjoy?

  • Trade and domestic misallocation. Can foreign shocks, or trade policy changes, affect the extent to which factors of production, such as land or labor, are allocated across production units? How integrated do markets (both within and across countries) appear to be over space, and what are the consequences of any lack of integration?

  • Scale effects and agricultural policy interventions. When small-scale policies in agricultural contexts (e.g. at the farm or village-level) are scaled up to include more treated units, how can we expect market-level equilibrium prices (in goods and factor markets) to respond? Under what circumstances will large-scale interventions behave differently from small-scale ones?

  • Political economy of trade policy. What explains the pattern of trade protection we observe in the agricultural sector? When is it consumer-biased or producer-biased? Do political economy aspects of trade policy in the agricultural context (such as export taxes tariffs motivated by protection of supply chains) behave differently from those in other industries, such as manufacturing?
To be considered for inclusion on the program, papers must be uploaded by November 30, 2017 to:

Authors chosen to present papers at the conference will be notified in late December 2017. Please do not submit papers that will have been published by the conference date. Papers that are presented at the conference, and that have not yet been accepted for publication, may be included after the meeting in the NBER working paper series.

The NBER will cover the cost of domestic travel and hotel expenses for up to two authors per paper and for discussants at the conference. Questions about this conference may be addressed to

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