Longtime AgriLife Extension economist retires Jan. 31
AMARILLO – Dr. Steve Amosson says he just ran out of time before getting all the projects he wanted done, but the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist in Amarillo is going to retire Jan. 31 after more than 40 years with the Texas A&M University System.
“I can see where we should be headed in ag economics,” Amosson said. “I would like to see a new producer program to teach business management skills with commodity specialties. Also, we have people exiting agriculture and I would like to develop a program to match them with individuals who may have the desire but not the resources to start farming.”
He has always maintained, “Providing producers with information is one thing. Teaching them how to process and interpret that information correctly is critical to improving their bottom line.
“I just ran out of time to get it all done.”
But it’s not because he wasn’t already busy doing what he loved.
A native of Eagle Grove, Iowa, Amosson earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Iowa State University, and his doctorate from Texas A&M University.
“As an Iowa farm boy, I grew up on a small farm,” Amosson said. “It didn’t take me long to figure out, while I loved agriculture, I didn’t want to be a farmer.”
Economics wasn’t his first choice, his bachelor’s degree is in animal science, “and I was thinking about feedlot management. But I had an uncle who told me I might want to look at economics, and I fell in love with it.”
In 1977, Texas A&M recruited him to College Station for his doctorate, and he studied animal health economics. During that time, Amosson said he built one of the bigger simulation models in the country looking at control strategies for brucellosis.
He stayed at Texas A&M as a visiting assistant professor until he joined AgriLife Extension in 1985 in Amarillo. While Amosson said he had four or five offers, “Extension is what I always wanted to do. I wanted to help people make a better living. That’s why I took the Amarillo position.”
Programs he said he has been a part of that are still making a difference include the Master Marketer program, offered around the state, and the Have Computer Will Travel program, which was the first self-funded mobile computer lab to teach financial management.
“I also got the chance to be the first one to do an economic analysis when the Russian wheat aphid popped up and some of that analysis was used to help free up disaster payments for Texas people,” Amosson said.
He provided Congressional testimony on wheat losses incurred by drought and Russian wheat aphid infestations during 1988 and 1989. The efforts helped provide $22 million in previously withheld disaster payments.
The economic loss estimates were the first ever made in the country on the issue and resulted in Amosson being appointed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Russian Wheat Aphid Task Force and as economic adviser to the Great Plains Task Force on Russian Wheat Aphids and Green Bugs.
“Also early in my career I remember doing a lot of Section 18s – Section 18 is for special use of a chemical not approved for a particular crop, but an emergency created a need for its use,” Amosson said. “One instance stands out where 18 states applied for the Section 18 for corn and the first 16 states were denied. But Texas was 17 and it was approved with the statement: it was the only one that provided a good economic analysis. All the other states were then approved.”
Over the years, Amosson said he has worked with many different people on many different subjects; with bankers on budgets and analysis; with producers on financial management and marketing training; and everyone from government officials to producers on the farm bill.
But he said he is especially proud of The Impact of AgriBusiness in the High Plains Trade Area publication he created, which interprets how important agriculture is to the general public.
“You have to remember that less than 2 percent of the population is on the farm or in production,” he said. “So this gives us the ability to say, ‘Yes, this makes a huge impact to this area.’ It is now in its sixth publication and has spun off into individual county interpretations. And then we broke it down even further on each ag industry’s water use and the economic impact it is having here in this region.”
In 1989, Amosson started a grain-grading school to help employees of grain elevators, feedlots and other grain-handling companies identify different types of damages in grains and recognize their economic importance. The workshop has run 28 consecutive years and trained more than 2,500 employees.
Promoted to full professor in 1993, Amosson was designated a Regents Fellow in 2003 in recognition of outstanding contributions in AgriLife Extension education and applied research.
National honors for contributions in marketing, finance and policy include the National Association of Wheat Growers Excellence in Extension Award, the Epsilon Sigma Phi National Honorary Extension Fraternity – Visionary Leadership Award, the Southern Agricultural Economics Association Lifetime Achievement Award and the American Agricultural Economics Association’s Distinguished Extension Award: More Than 10 Years’ Experience.
Within Texas A&M, Amosson has been honored with both a team and individual Vice Chancellor’s Award; the Former Students Association Faculty Distinguished Achievement Award in Continuing Education; and numerous AgriLife Extension Superior Service awards as an individual and for farm bill education, wildfire response, Master Marketer and Have Computer Will Travel teams, as well as the AgriLife Extension Distinguished Career Award.
Amosson won’t completely walk away from AgriLife Extension or the economics world upon his retirement, he said. He will do consultant work and remain on several AgriLife grants into the future.