Bob Wisner Retires from ISU Extension

Well-known Iowa State University grain marketing economist is retiring after more than 40 years of service to agriculture.

An Iowa State University economist who has provided grain marketing information and advice to Iowa farmers for nearly 41 years is retiring Dec. 3. Robert Wisner joined the Department of Economics in February 1967 as an assistant professor and extension economist in grain marketing and outlook.

"Bob Wisner has been the preeminent grain economist in the United States for much of the last 40 years," said Arne Hallam, economics department chair. "His analysis has informed the decisions of multiple generations of agricultural producers and firms. He has provided exceptional service to farmers, government agencies and agribusinesses."

Wisner earned both a bachelor's and master's degree at Michigan State University and a doctorate at the University of Tennessee before coming to Iowa State. He was named a University Professor in 1997 and the Coles Professor of International Agriculture in 2005.

Innovator in market outlook information

Wisner has made presentations at more than 2,200 conferences and meetings in 38 states and 18 foreign countries. He's authored more than 1,500 publications.

Over the past four decades, Wisner has become well-known as an innovator in market outlook, and in analysis of marketing and risk-management strategies. He was the first, and still one of the few outlook specialists, to present probability-based grain price forecasts. He also is recognized as someone who provides market research and analysis in a form that can be easily understood and used by producers.

Since 1967, Wisner has provided grains marketing information through the popular Iowa Farm Outlook bimonthly newsletter. To deliver this and other educational material, Wisner developed and provides regular updates to a Web site that receives more than 50,000 hits each month. These informational materials will continue to be offered after Wisner's retirement, but changes will take place during a transition period.

Willing to adapt to meet farmers' needs

Hallam said Wisner's willingness to adapt his program to the needs in the field is a key to his success. "One of the things that impressed me the most was his decision about 10 years ago to get more involved in research and issues related to options markets, not shying away from new or different concepts. He made important contributions to the knowledge base," Hallam said.

Many of the revenue assurance contracts now offered by crop insurance companies are based on concepts Wisner and others at ISU developed and tested. During the 1990s, Wisner worked with crop insurance industry leaders to educate insurance agents and producers about the benefits of integrating two risk management tools - forward pricing and harvest-price revenue insurance.

Wisner is recognized around the world. His writings on risk management and marketing of genetically modified crops have been translated and widely used in Japan and China, and have helped shape research on identity-preserved marketing in Europe.

Wisner's expertise will be hard to replace

Wisner's shoes are big ones to fill. For the past year, Iowa State has been actively recruiting candidates with expertise in grains and energy crops marketing. The plan is to bring candidates from this national search to campus in early 2008 and have someone in place by summer. In the meantime, the questions Wisner is used to answering for producers, policymakers, agribusiness and the media will be fielded by others in the economics department.

Wisner, after a few months break, plans to do some work for the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center on the Iowa State campus.

Until someone is hired to replace Wisner as the ISU Extension grain marketing economist, here are other sources of grain marketing information at ISU that people can contact if they have questions on that topic:

* Chad Hart, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, grain and energy markets, (515) 294-9911, [email protected]  

* Bruce Babcock, CARD director, agricultural policy and international trade, (515) 294-5764, [email protected]  

* John Lawrence, economics professor, interactions of grain and livestock sectors, (515) 294-6290, [email protected]

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