New Oregon State agricultural economists help farmers and ranchers with their bottom line

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CORVALLIS, Ore. – Responding to an industry need, Oregon State University Extension Service welcomed two new agricultural economists in 2022.

Dan Bigelow and Tim Delbridge are assistant professors in the Department of Applied Economics and have statewide Extension responsibilities. Bigelow started Aug. 17 and Delbridge came on board Sept. 1.

“For the past several years Extension programs may have lacked substantial economic data, but with the hire of two new applied economics faculty their input in a diverse range of Extension programs will help producers and ranchers make sense of their agricultural enterprises,” said Sam Angima, associate dean for Extension.

Before coming to OSU, Bigelow spent three years as an assistant professor at Montana State University and has experience with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service as a research economist in the Rural and Resource Economics Division. He earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in resource economics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a Ph.D. in applied economics from OSU. His dissertation shed light on land and water use in the Willamette Valley, using the lens of Oregon’s urban growth boundaries and water rights policies.

Delbridge comes to OSU from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, where he was on the faculty of the college’s Agribusiness Department and assistant department head. He has a bachelor’s degree in international studies from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s and Ph.D. in applied economics from the University of Minnesota. At Cal Poly, Delbridge worked on the economic viability of robotic strawberry harvesting and processing and the economic impact of insect pests on strawberry production. He also looked at how drought and water restrictions in California impact organic certification, which can be a difficult process.

“Dan and Tim have extensive knowledge of the types of economic challenges and opportunities that many people face in Oregon,” said Jeff Reimer, professor and interim director of the Department of Applied Economics. “They come to us with a great deal of professional experience in other regions of the U.S. and offer a new perspective on problems in agricultural economics, natural resources and sustainable development.”

In their short time at OSU, Begelow and Delbridge have already jumped into multiple projects.

Bigelow’s position focuses broadly on local and regional economic development. He’s already joined a team looking at the impact of agritourism in the Willamette Valley.

“We’re trying to learn more about the value of agritourism within the region, thinking in particular about what types of benefits there are for a grower to expand into agritourism,” Bigelow said. “Do operations hire more workers when they offer agritourism? Will it affect their bottom line?”

In addition, Bigelow is involved in work on real estate markets and land-use in Oregon, particularly how urban growth boundaries influence agricultural and forest land values, housing prices and development patterns.

Most of Delbridge’s work is on production issues facing growers. He uses production and financial data to analyze how new technology, production systems or policy impact growers’ profitability.

“It can be helpful for producers and others in the ag supply chain to understand which market conditions support investment in things like automation or a conversion to organic production,” Delbridge said. “And it’s important for researchers and policy makers to understand the real-world implications of making changes that affect farmers.”

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