A new agricultural economist focuses on food systems and agricultural supply chains

Caroline Kraft Malone

Trey Malone is a new assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness at the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station.

A new agricultural economist who works with the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station says marketing in a world of endless options requires producers to know more about consumer demand.

Trey Malone, an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness at the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, has spent more than a decade researching agricultural marketing issues and now focuses on development technologies that will help producers in regional food systems to compete in a global market.

“Once upon a time there was a farmer who could grow a Red Delicious apple and know someone would buy it for a high enough price, but now consumers have so many different apples to choose from at the grocery store,” Malone said. . “So producers need to know even more about what their customers are demanding in the market.”

As a potential solution, he is developing an index to inform producers and stakeholders of consumer concerns and help them “anticipate issues” such as the surge in toilet paper purchases at the start of the COVID pandemic. He expects the index, which uses surveys to collect data from a nationally representative sample of consumers, to be available to producers this year. The working title is the Food and Agriculture Systems Sentiment Index.

“We are delighted to have Dr. Malone join the faculty here in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness,” said department head John Anderson, who is also director of the Fryar Price Risk Management Center of Excellence for the U of A System Division of Agriculture and Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences.

“Trey is well established as an emerging leader in research and outreach on agricultural and food systems management and value-added agriculture,” Anderson added. “He has a deep understanding of the land-grant mission of relevant stakeholder research, outreach, and education. His diverse interests and skills are a perfect fit for a state like Arkansas, with its agricultural economy. diversity and the needs of the rural community.”

Malone has already begun working with the Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research, also known as I3R, or “I-cubed-R”. The new U of A research initiative is supported by a $194.7 million grant from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation. Malone submits the National Science Foundation’s first proposal for I3R to develop a platform to match regional farms with regional demand. The proposal is directly in line with his keynote address for the Southern Agricultural Economics Association’s 2022 Emerging Scholar Award titled ‘Moving the Conversation From ‘Can We Grow It?’ to ‘MUST WE Cultivate It?'”

Malone also hopes to work with the Center for Arkansas Farms and Food, an experimental station service center, to help specialty crop growers make research-based marketing decisions. Malone’s research will be conducted through the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the Division of Agriculture. Starting this fall, he will teach agriculture and food marketing and agribusiness entrepreneurship at the U of A.

Prior to joining the Division of Agriculture, Malone was an assistant professor and extension economist in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics at Michigan State University. He received his PhD in 2017 from Oklahoma State University, where his dissertation used the US beer market to explore the behavioral principles that underlie how modern consumers choose what to eat and drink.

Malone has published dozens of academic articles in peer-reviewed journals, as well as opinion pieces in major media such as USA Today, Fast Company and popular science. He has also been featured on TV news such as CNBC, CNN and the TODAY Show. He is currently co-editor of the peer-reviewed journal Agriculture and Resource Economics Reviewas well as editor-in-chief of International journal of food and agribusiness. His research has won numerous awards, most recently winning the Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association Advisor Award.

He also recently recorded a TEDx talk in Michigan titled “How to Change Your Mind About the Food System,” focusing on how he responded to the COVID pandemic.

“If I had a dime for every time I heard someone claim that COVID-19 proves America’s food system is broken,” Malone said. “I’m not so convinced. We’ve been through one of the craziest global events of the last century, and I think the food system has responded with resilience to this incredible challenge. It’s just that most Americans don’t have never known the empty shelves of grocery stores.”

Malone said the average grocery store in 1975 had about 8,000 unique options. He said the average grocery store leading up to the coronavirus pandemic had more than 45,000 unique options.

“Psychologists often talk about retrospection in pink. We all have this idea that things were ‘better,’ but even at the start of COVID-19 we still had over 8,000 options on the average grocery store shelf” , Malone said. . “Even though you didn’t necessarily like those options, you had more options than your grandparents.”

He said choice overload makes decisions more difficult for consumers and sometimes prevents them from making a decision. As part of its study of the marketing issue, an Oklahoma bar agreed to double the number of beers it offered to see if it increased or decreased beer sales.

“If we increased the number of beers on offer, we might reduce the chances of someone ordering a beer because it would overwhelm the customer and they would just decide not to order one,” Malone said.

However, if they offered quality ratings, some other type of third-party verification, or put a particular beer on the menu, they could eliminate the “choice overload problem.”

Malone has also conducted studies to help players in many agricultural value chains, including dairy, beef, eggs, hops, hemp, and even morels. He says maintaining trust with stakeholders is key, and he sees research and extension closely tied to the land-grant university’s mission to help stakeholders make decisions.

“I can’t publish meaningful articles unless I know the issues and have the ability to collect primary data within trusted partnerships,” Malone said. “As a land-grant institution, we are accountable to stakeholders to maintain that level of trust. I think the Division of Agriculture is on the front line in maintaining those relationships, and faculty on campus have obligation to support this.”

Malone’s family ranch is the Backwards Rocking L Ranch near Laverne, Oklahoma. His wife, Caroline Kraft Malone, is a developmental psychologist from Tulsa and is set to take on a teaching role in the U of A’s Department of Psychological Sciences, as well as a part-time role in communications. of the agricultural experiment station. Previously, she worked as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Michigan State University.

To learn more about Agriculture Division research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch.

To learn more about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit https://uaex.uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @AR_Extension.

To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit https://uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.

About the Agriculture Division

The mission of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture System is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research with the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the country’s historic land grant education system.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities in the University of Arkansas system. It has offices in all 75 counties of Arkansas and faculty at five system campuses.

The Agricultural System Division of the University of Arkansas offers all of its extension and research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin , religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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