Tiffany Arthur knows peanuts.
Her command of the subject area not only allowed her to develop a new methodology to address issues in the peanut industry, but her ability to provide insight to Congressional leaders, USDA officials and market participants earned her the Economist of the Year award by the USDA Economists Group.
“I was floored,” said Arthur, senior economist and commodity analyst with the Economic and Policy Analysis Staff (EPAS) at the USDA Farm Service Agency. “Just the fact that someone thought to nominate me was incredibly humbling. I am very fortunate to have the supportive colleagues that I do.”
Arthur moved into her current position seven years ago, shortly after the 2002 Farm Bill required the peanut market to transition from a marketing quota structure to a system that depends on accurate market prices. Industry adjustment to the new program has been a challenge. With only a few large peanut buyers and heavy reliance on trade by private contract, peanut price data are often sparse and may not reflect market transactions.
“Tiffany’s efforts to create greater price transparency and government payment accuracy often meet significant inertia in an industry driven for decades by government policy rather than market forces,” said Joy Harwood, EPAS director. “Tiffany has worked tirelessly to develop the best possible survey-based price data with which to capture the full value of peanuts.”
In 2011, Arthur devised a new methodology facilitating policy development toward a more revenue-based approach in the peanut industry. Her efforts may facilitate policy discussions preceding the next farm bill. If her idea is adopted, it will lead to the capture of more accurate price data for use in calculating payments, as well as help farmers better understand the value of their crop.
“Whether the methodology I developed can garner industry support will be determined in upcoming farm bill deliberations,” said Arthur, who added that it is a logical step in developing a more market-oriented peanut policy. “If my efforts promote genuine dialogue among stakeholders, I consider that a win.”