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Penn State agricultural economist to lead UF/IFAS food and resource economics

GAINESVILLE, Fla. –An agricultural economist who spent more than 30 years at Penn State has joined UF/IFAS as chairman of the Department of Food and Resource Economics.

Spiro Stefanou started Jan. 2 after being appointed by Jack Payne, UF senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources.

“Dr. Stefanou brings national and global expertise in agricultural and resource economics to UF/IFAS,” Payne said. “He can help propel the department to new heights as we help solve myriad world food issues, including hunger.”

Stefanou took over for Professor Rod Clouser, who served as interim chair after Professor Ray Huffaker returned to teaching and research at UF/IFAS.

He sees strengths and opportunities as he takes over the department.

“Food and Resource Economics has a tradition of offering strong expertise in the economics of agriculture and the food system, environmental and natural resource economics and international economic development,” Stefanou said. “With the turnover in faculty in recent years, we have a large, well-trained cohort of new junior faculty who are eager to contribute and succeed.”

He hopes to bridge the expertise between senior and junior faculty.

Stefanou said his overarching priority is to ensure the department’s programs are recognized nationally and internationally.

Short-term, he wants to understand the contributions of the different programs to their stakeholders and get more familiar with the diverse nature and structure of Florida agriculture. He plans to visit UF/IFAS research and education centers and those who depend on the contributions his department can offer.

Stefanou arrived at Penn State in 1983 and worked his way up to professor by 1995.

In addition to his teaching and research, Stefanou has held several leadership roles that he said have prepared him to chair the UF/IFAS department. For example, when his department merged recently with agricultural and extension education, three academic clusters were formed. Stefanou was elected chair of the agricultural and resource economics cluster.

While working at Penn State, Stefanou also served as the agribusiness management undergraduate program coordinator and the agribusiness management online program coordinator. He also holds an academic appointment with Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

“I have experience getting groups of people to get work done when there are no carrots or sticks to wield,” he wrote in his letter to the UF/IFAS search committee.

His research focuses on production analysis; innovation, growth and performance in the agriculture and food industries and the dynamics of economic adjustment.

Stefanou is a founding member and co-principal investigator of the Center for Food Innovation at Penn State, receiving $200,000 in startup funding in 2004 as a Center for Excellence. The center bridges the divide between university and food-manufacturing and food-service industries in Pennsylvania, he said.

Stefanou earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from George Washington University, a master’s in agricultural and resource economics from the University of Maryland and a doctorate in agricultural economics from the University of California-Davis.  He is a fellow of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, managing editor of Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy and past editor of the American Journal of Agricultural Economics.

He has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles, monographs and book chapters and been a visiting professor across the globe, including such places as Austria, Greece, Italy, and the Netherlands.

Among his international program accomplishments is the creation of Summer Schools for advanced graduate students and professionals in the Netherlands and Greece.

Sprio Stefanou

Dr. Spiro Stefanou