Dr. Christa Court, Assistant Professor of Regional Economics in the UF/IFAS Department of Food & Resource Economics and Director of the Economic Impact Analysis Program (EIAP), was recently recognized with the Southern Agricultural Economics Association’s (SAEA) Outstanding Extension Program Award.
Presented annually, the Outstanding Extension Program Award recognizes remarkable contributions to the field of agricultural economics. In the case of Dr. Court, she was recognized for the work that she and her team do regularly to estimate and communicate the agricultural impacts of disaster events.
Florida is a large agricultural state producing a robust and diverse amount of food, fiber, and forestry products. The state also supports commercial and recreational activities that are dependent on the quality of its natural resources. As a result, Florida finds itself vulnerable to many different ecological and manmade hazards. These include tropical cyclones (e.g., Hurricane Ian, which significantly impacted much of Southwest Florida in October 2022) and harmful algal blooms (e.g., recurring Red Tide events).
In the case of tropical cyclones, Dr. Court and her team analyze the acute, short-term agricultural production losses associated with these events and communicate results to industry stakeholders, government agencies, and policymakers. For other types of hazard events, such as Red Tide, the team is often investigating the broad array of socioeconomic impacts that occur as a result of the change in the quality of a natural resource.
“Our program focuses on using interdisciplinary, systems-based modeling approaches to help measure the impact of these disasters, and then communicates the outcomes broadly to help producers and policymakers identify what is needed to aid recovery and improve resilience,” Court said.
When looking back on the program’s impact, Court said she is proud to see the work of her team recognized by the field on a regional level.
“I am honored and excited that my Extension efforts in this topic area are being recognized,” Court said. “It is a bit of an unconventional program but is one that I really enjoy working on not only because I believe we are providing critical information in the aftermath of these events but because I am always learning something new about production agriculture, the food system, or the relationship between Florida’s citizens/visitors and its natural resources while investigating how they are impacted by and how they recover from disaster events.”
She also notes that the work carried out would not be possible without the hard work of all the team members and program affiliates who contribute by participating in baseline data collection, survey design and implementation, geospatial analysis, feedback on methodologies, and by providing crop-, commodity-, or market-specific expertise.
The UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program has several research assistant professors (Dr. João-Pedro Ferreira and Dr. Xiaohui Qiao), postdoctoral associates (Dr. Bijeta Saha and Dr. Robert Botta), graduate students (Mengming Li, Fei He, and Roberto Koeneke), undergraduate assistants (Stowe Dinenberg and Julia Ulrich) and affiliated members (Julio Cruz, Dr. Alan Hodges, Dr. John Lai, Dr. Andrew Ropicki, and Dr. Caleb Stair) as well as a Research Coordinator, Kelsey McDaid.
In addition, they work extensively with other UF faculty and administrators, UF/IFAS Extension professionals in the field, and other organizations. Across every county, Extension professionals work directly with producers and businesses in their regions and assist Court and her team through their connections with the stakeholders to determine impacts to their businesses.
“When it comes to the EIAP, especially with respect to our Disaster Impact Analysis program, the efforts are so much bigger than anything I could carry out alone. I am supported by the EIAP team and we are supported by the invaluable contributions of numerous Extension agents and other faculty members, administrators, and industry association representatives around the state who are connecting us with producers and businesses that are providing primary data on the impacts of disaster events. Each and every one of these individuals are essential to carrying out our mission. This award truly is a recognition of all of their hard work as well.”