AMARILLO – The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service has hired Dr. Justin Benavidez to serve as the new economic specialist in Amarillo.
Dr. Mark Waller, acting head and associate head for AgriLife Extension in the department of agricultural economics, said Benavidez was picked from a strong pool of applicants.
“Dr. Benavidez rose to the top given his background with AgriLife Extension and applied research interests,” Waller said. “We felt his training and interests would match up very well with clientele needs, and he could build strong working relationships with agents, specialists and researchers in the region.”
Benavidez, a Tulia native, recently finished his doctorate and a fellowship with AgriLife Extension in Texas A&M University agricultural economics department and the Agriculture and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M in College Station.
“I’m glad to be coming back close to home and to be able to help and work with people who were my neighbors and will be again,” he said. “I’m excited about the practical research opportunities here in the Panhandle. There’s more production agriculture here in this region than almost anywhere else in the state or the country.
“I look forward to getting to work with producers on practical solutions that will help improve their situations.”
Benavidez said he grew up as a field scout for a crop consultant and was active in 4-H and stock shows. So, while he will have to spend some time getting reacquainted, he said he will use that baseline knowledge to begin working with producers.
One of his initial focuses, he said, will be helping producers plan for a future with declining water supplies.
“Doing the long-term planning to be prepared in advance rather than being reactionary is an important part of transitioning as we have to operate with less and less water,” Benavidez said. “I think this will be important sooner than most expect or would like to think about.”
Another area he plans to work with producers on is the intersection of wildlife and livestock diseases, which he has some experience with.
“Chronic wasting disease is making its appearance here in the Panhandle, and there are more invasive species entering into the livestock arena all the time, so I hope to help livestock owners prepare to deal with those financially,” he said.
Benavidez earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees at Texas A&M in agricultural economics, with specializations in livestock economics and agricultural policy. He also has a certificate in international trade and agriculture.
During his time as a graduate assistant, Benavidez provided research assistance for a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to examine the economic impacts of pioneering beef processing technology to mitigate E. coli.
Benavidez made several presentations last year on the options and costs associated with cattle fever tick treatment. He also discussed options for splitting base acres under the farm bill, and the feasibility of installing biogas generation systems in Texas dairies.
Additionally, Benavidez served as an intern in the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture. While there, he conducted econometric modeling and price prediction, as well as assisted in economic policy analysis, specifically, crop insurance and the actual production history adjustment, or APH.
He also built a database of county crop yields and developed a formula to identify counties that qualified for APH adjustment due to drought.
Among the honors he gained while at Texas A&M are:
- First place in the Agriculture and Applied Economics Association, Extension Section Graduate Student Competition.
- Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Graduate Fellowship.
- Sloan “Mentoring for Success in Research and Leadership” Fellow.
- Western Agricultural Economics Association Outstanding Senior Award.
- The department’s Excellence in Academics and Leadership Award.
“I’m very excited to be here and working,” Benavidez said. “Anyone who may have questions, I’m ready to get started, so just give me a call.”
He can be contacted at 806-677-5600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.