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Current Vacancies

Vacancies under the Research Position Classification System (RPCS)

ERS-S15N-0015--Research Agricultural Economist, GS-0110-12, FEW vacancies (Closes: Friday, April 3, 2015)

Market and Trade Economic Division - Multiple selections will be made from this announcement to fill vacancies in these areas:

  1. Research Economist (Animal Products): This position is for a research economist to conduct analysis on a wide range of factors that influence the markets for animal products, primarily livestock, poultry, and dairy. The Branch has a strong need for a researcher to cover existing or emerging market trends and policy issues. Among such issues are livestock disease and vulnerability analysis, the potential impacts of climate changes on US livestock agriculture, trade policy changes, food safety legislation, marketing and price analysis, and other topics of lasting importance. The candidate will work largely in a team environment, working with livestock market specialists and other research economists to produce research reports and journal articles on subjects of interest to a wide array of stakeholders, including industry analysts, policy-makers, and the public at large.

  2. Research Economist (Food Safety Research): Food safety is a critical theme in need of new staff resources given the proposed implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2016 and ERS investments to collect primary data on food safety practices at the farm, handling and packing levels.  The new staff will build capacity for economic analysis of new rules for produce safety, preventive controls for human food and animal feed, and foreign suppliers/imports, a key component of the Agency’s strategic plan.

  3. Research/Outlook Economist (Organics Research): Organic farming has been one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture over the past 20 years, and ERS has historically played a key role in the collection of farm-level and firm-level data to analyze national market performance.  While the agency has successfully maintained research capacity to analyze organic production, ERS is looking to rebuild capacity to analyze marketing channels for organic products.  The incumbent will be responsible for analyzing and researching currently available data and seeking new sources of data to examine marketing tools and channels, information/labeling, price transmission, equivalency, trade and efficiency in the organic sector.

  4. Research Economist (Behavioral Economics and Risk Management): This position is sought to strengthen the Agency’s ability to estimate policy outcomes using behavioral models as related to risk management. The individual is expected to develop and implement state-of-the-art research methodologies to extract information from existing data, as well as participate in designing and analyzing experiments  to answer relevant questions on the relationships between federal risk management programs and farm management decisions. The position will strengthen ERS’ ability to do forward-looking analysis of risk management programs that can better inform future policy direction of such programs.

Food Economics Division - Multiple selections will be made from this announcement to fill vacancies in these areas:

  1. Food Assistance Program Interactions with the Economy: ERS is seeking an economist to conduct research to improve our understanding of domestic food programs and policies and their interactions with the macro-economy and various sectors of the economy. The range of topics includes market sector modeling of relationships with the food, farm, and employment sectors as well as countercyclical macroeconomic relationships. When households spend their program benefits, the direct effects are increased economic activity by the producers of the goods and services being purchased, as well as by the retail, wholesale and transportation system that delivers the goods and services. In addition, most food programs are counter-cyclical—providing more assistance to more low-income households during an economic downturn or recession and to fewer households during an economic expansion.

  2. Geo-spatial dimensions of food consumption, food purchase and dietary behavior, and the linkages to diet and health: Location. Location. Location.  Exploiting the value of location specific data is increasingly important in analyses of food access, food purchase and the related dietary and health consequences of food choice.  As one of sixteen Primary Federal Statistical Agencies, ERS has access to and uses sensitive, location specific data on providers and consumers of foods collected in National surveys and proprietary data to conduct research and analyses.  A researcher with the knowledge, skills and abilities to apply advanced spatial econometric techniques is needed to help model, analyses, and inform domestic food policy and the role of the local food environment as well as to better understand national policies by exploiting geographic variation in available data.

  3. Food Safety: ERS is seeking an economist to conduct research on the economics of food safety. The range of topics includes but is not limited to:  food labeling; the efficiency and effectiveness of pathogen testing in food processing plants; the costs of foodborne illness; product liability and microbial foodborne illness; food safety recalls; the safety of food served in Federal food and nutrition programs (e.g., the National School Lunch Program); and the implications and cost-benefit analyses of particular food safety regulations, such as the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  The globalization of the food supply and growing food imports into the United States provides an abundance of research opportunities, such as research on the safety of imports from developed versus less developed countries and the effects of food-safety related import trade bans or regulations on the various sectors of the U.S. economy. 

  4. Food Demand: ERS is seeking an economist to conduct research on the economics of consumer and food demand.  Expertise in using consumer expenditure (CEX) data along with USDA's National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) is essential to understand the impacts of policy changes on food expenditures across economic groups and to assess how shifts in consumer spending habits and trends influence food markets, retail and marketing strategies, and food nutrition programs. A thorough knowledge of demand theory, modern estimation techniques and the ability to access and exploit emerging big data sources in innovative ways to model household food purchasing behavior will also be expected.

Resource and Rural Economics Division – Multiple selections will be made from this announcement to fill vacancies in these areas: 

  1. Research Economists (Farm Production Systems): Changing consumer preferences and crop production technologies along with increasing farm size are altering the types of decisions farmers make about which crops to grow and how to grow them.  Beginning farmers face special challenges regarding these decisions.  Multiple positions are available for economists interested in farm production practices, farmer response and decision making under uncertainty, and alternative farming systems.  Examples of key program areas in which economists might conduct research include the following:

    • Analyses of pest and nutrient management practices, new developments in seed and chemical technologies, and crop selection and input use decisions;
    • Analyses of alternative agricultural systems like organic and locally-grown foods, including factors affecting farmers’ adoption decisions and cost of production comparisons across alternative agricultural systems;
    • Barriers to sector entry and expansion among the new generation of farmers, including challenges in intergenerational transfers of farm businesses, farm finance and investment, and land acquisition.
  2. Research Economist (Science Policy): USDA is an international leader in using science to increase agricultural productivity and our ability to feed a growing world population while protecting environmental resources.   An economist is needed to conduct research and analysis on the relationship between scientific research and development in both the private and public spheres and further gains in the efficiency of agriculture.  Research is also needed to understand how scientific discovery and understanding should be measured and how public investments in scientific research can be leveraged more effectively by partnering with the private sector.

  3. Research Economist (Behavioral and Experimental Economics and Conservation Policy): USDA spends several billion dollars per year on conservation programs, mostly on voluntary programs that pay farmers and landowners to provide environmental services.  Insights from behavioral and experimental economics are being used to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of these programs.  The individual would join a strong team to identify fruitful applications of behavioral and experimental economics to USDA conservation programs and to analyze the economic contributions of these efforts.   

  4. Research Economist (Risk Management): Farming is a capital-intensive activity and the pace of change in asset values and debt levels in the past decade has resulted in a major change in the capital structure of U.S. agriculture.  Changing public policy along with volatility in both markets and the natural environment have created a critical need for analysis of the role of risk management in farm-level decision-making.  An opening is available for an economist to explore issues related to farmers’ investment decisions in the face of uncertainty, including the implications of those decisions for land use.  Also of interest is farmer response to new policy instruments designed to reduce sectoral risk, such as federal assistance for crop insurance.   


Summer Internships

Under the new Pathways Program, ERS hires students for summer internship positions. Applicants must be enrolled at least half-time at an accredited school (high school, technical or vocational school, 2 or 4 year college, university, graduate, or professional school) and be in good academic standing (2.0 GPA or better). Students are hired to work full-time but may work part-time if discussed when student is hired. Deadline to apply is: Friday, February 6, 2015

  • ERS-PATH-0018: Student Trainee (Economics/Social Science) - Pathways Intern, GS-0199-05/07/09
  • ERS-PATH-0017: Student Trainee (Info Tech) - Pathways Intern, GS-2299-04/05
  • ERS-PATH-0016: Student Trainee (Clerical & Office support) - Pathways Intern, GS-0399-04

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Last updated: Tuesday, January 27, 2015

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