Current Research Activities
I am working with Mary Hendrickson, a rural sociologist at the University of Missouri, on a project to assess the extent to which agricultural markets are or are not fair. The (un)fairness of agricultural markets is frequently invoked, especially by farmers. But fairness is difficult to define and measure. We are developing a framework that links perceptions of fairness with power and relative dependency in agricultural markets. We introduce the concept of structural justice, which we define as fairness in the relative distribution of power within network structures of two or more parties. Our argument is that the distribution of power and the associated dependencies such power creates within networks have implications for expectations that participants form and, hence, on their perceptions of fairness of agricultural markets. These perceptions of fairness become important to the ways that farmers and consumers do (or decide not to) participate in the agrifood system. They also carry over into the political arena with the ways policies are shaped, interpreted and applied, especially in the antitrust arena.
I am also working with Xiangping Jia, an agricultural economist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, to understand better the role and development of trust in the agrifood system in China. We are focusing particularly on the relationship between apple growers and the managers of agricultural organizations that purchase the apples. Our research is important because public trust in the agrifood system in China has been weakened following numerous food safety incidents and because of initiatives enacted by the Chinese government to industrialize the agrifood system.
My most recent book is the edited volume The Ethics and Economics of Agrifood Competition, published in 2013. This book presents ethical and economic analyses of agrifood competition. By systematically examining fairness and openness in agricultural markets, it seeks to answer the question of whether there is adequate competition in the agrifood industry and whether the system is fair to all participants. It outlines ethical and economic principles important for understanding agrifood competition, presents arguments for and against consolidation, globalization and the integration of agrifood industries, and looks at the implications of globalization on the nature of competition in specific agricultural contexts.
I also edited the book New Ideas in Contracting and Organizational Economics Research, published in 2005. The book brings together an international team of scholars who introduce and describe “new ideas” relating to research on the economics of contracts and organisations (more generally known as transaction cost economics). The book is divided into three main sections. The first section presents ideas for improving the theoretical and empirical research in transaction cost economics. The second section shows how transaction cost economics informs on two important business issues — corporate contracting and information technology (IT) operations. The third section presents alternative frameworks for examining contracting, organisational, and regulatory problems.
I published my first book, When Businesses Cross International Borders: Strategic Alliances and Their Alternatives, with Murray Weidenbaum in 1993. The book examines many ways successful companies establish a presence in overseas markets. For example, companies that do not want to establish local production facilities can export directly to targeted markets or engage in turnkey operations. Establishing contractual relationships with foreign companies is effective when a firm does not want to operate a wholly earned subsidy. Operating wholly owned facilities in other nations is one of the most preferred methods of gaining and maintaining a presence overseas. We demonstrate how the approach used by business depends on the nature of the obstacles a host government places before foreign commerce
A PDF of my current CV is available here.