East Lansing, MI
Jake Ferris is Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics at Michigan State University where he was on the faculty for 40 years. Ferris graduated from Purdue with a B. S. degree in Agricultural Economics in 1951. He earned his M.S. in Agricultural Economics from Cornell University in 1952 and continued his graduate studies at Michigan State University, where he received his Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics in 1960.
Ferris’ professional career focused on agricultural marketing, market outlook, and both domestic and international economic development. His career exemplified the tripartite land-grant mission, as he spent nearly 50 years channeling his creative and intellectual energy into research and education programs that enhanced the knowledge and decision-making abilities of his students, extension educators, farmers and agribusiness professionals. For many years he headed the agricultural outlook education program in Michigan, leading numerous marketing workshops and producing monthly newsletters to assist county extension agents with their outreach programs to farmers. More than 8,000 farmers have completed his intensive three-day marketing workshops.
As a teacher, he developed two new courses: “Commodity Market Analysis” for graduate students, and “Commodity and Futures Marketing” for undergraduates. The graduate level course gave rise to his textbook, Agriculture Prices and Commodity Market Analysis, now in its second edition. As a researcher, he has developed “gross margin” variables to predict crop acreages and livestock numbers, a procedure that emphasizes profits rather than product and input prices. Ferris has always had an interest in long-term forecasts, and his agricultural modeling tools have been widely used. He collaborated on the development and management of the “MSU Agriculture Model,” an econometric representation of U.S. and international agriculture. He later developed AGMOD, an econometrics simulation of U.S. agriculture with a satellite model on Michigan. AGMOD uses approximately 800 variables to generate 10 to 25 year forecasts for major U.S. crops and livestock with an international component.
Ferris has worked internationally, coordinating and participating in programs in both the United Kingdom and South Korea. And he has twice taken leave from Michigan State to work on projects in Washington, D.C. In 1973 he was on the staff of the President’s Cost of Living Council, directing the Food Policy Appraisal Division of the Office on Food. From 1989 to 1990, he worked with USDA’s Economic Research Service, improving and expanding AGMOD and analyzing the impact of ethanol as an oxygenate under the Clean Air Act of 1990.
In retirement he remains actively involved with the Michigan agriculture community, in long-range economic forecasting and the economics of renewable fuels. In 2005 he joined Michigan Biodiesel LLC, a group of farmers organized to build the first major biodiesel plant in Michigan, a 10-million gallon plant that began production in late 2006.
Ferris was named the Outstanding Specialist by the Michigan Extension Specialists’ Association in 1980, and in 1991 he received the Outstanding Extension Specialist award from the Michigan Association of Extension Agents. In 1996, Michigan Farm Bureau honored him with its Distinguished Service to Agriculture award. The American Agricultural Economics Association honored him with a Distinguished Extension Program award in 1975, and five times has presented him with its Extension Outlook Committee’s Premier Forecaster award: in 1989 for crops, 1991 for livestock, 1994 for crops, 1999 for general business and overall forecasting, and 2000 for crops.
Ferris’ community service includes many roles at Peoples Church where he is a past elder and currently co-chairs the 100th Anniversary Celebration. In 1968 he co-founded the non-profit Michigan Montessori Internationale, Inc. that established a pre-school and early elementary education program that serves about 150 students. He has been a continuing member of the school corporation’s board of trustees and has served in numerous other roles.