Ph.D.,1964. Harvard University
M.S., 1950. Duke University
B.S., 1948. Texas A & M University
James T. Bonnen, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics at Michigan State University. Born in Brookings, South Dakota on March 11, 1926, James Bonnen received his primary and secondary education in College Station, Texas. While still too young for full military service, Bonnen volunteered for the U.S. Navy. In July 1943, he was assigned to the Navy’s wartime V-12 Officer Training Program at the Southwestern Louisiana Institute (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette), and in March 1944 he was transferred to the Naval ROTC program at Tulane University. After being commissioned as an Ensign in October 1945, he served on Eniwetok (now spelled Eniwetak) Atoll in the north Pacific theatre from December 1945 to June 1946. After serving in active duty in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946, he continued to serve in the U.S. Navy Reserve until he retired in 1988 with the rank of Commander.
After returning from active military service at the end of World War II, Bonnen earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Texas A&M University (1948). He completed an M.S. degree in economics at Duke University (1950) and a Ph.D. in economics at Harvard University (1964) working with Professors John D. Black, John Kenneth Galbraith, and Carl Kaysen. During his time at Harvard, he also served as a Resident Tutor in Adams House. Bonnen won the American Farm Economics Association Award for Outstanding Ph.D. Thesis in 1957 on the topic of “United States Agricultural Capacity: A General Equilibrium Model of American Agriculture for 1965.”
Bonnen joined the Department of Agricultural Economics at Michigan State University in 1954 and retired from the University in 1996. Throughout his career of teaching and research he focused on issues of public policy, primarily for rural development and for agriculture. His first area of research focused on production adjustment problems in the agricultural sector (Black and Bonnen; Bonnen and Cromarty, 1958; Bonnen, 1965; Bonnen and Schweikhardt). Closely related to that work was his second area on research policy and the role of technological change in economic development (Bonnen, 1962, 1983, 1986; Schweikhardt and Bonnen; Johnson and Bonnen). In addition, his research on agricultural adjustment problems led to work on problems of rural poverty, particularly rural poverty issues related to the transformation of the agricultural sector in the economic development process (Bonnen, 1966, 1968, 1987, and Bonnen and Browne).
As a frequent participant in the national policymaking process, Bonnen also conducted research on the changing political economy of agriculture. This work focused on changes in the Congressional and Executive branches of U.S. government and on the changing role of interest groups in the U.S. policy making process (Bonnen, 1969, 1980; Bonnen and Browne, 1988; Bonnen, Browne and Schweikhardt). Related research included work on the role of the economist as an advisor in the policy process (Bonnen, 1969, 1988, 1992; 2000; Bonnen and Schweikhardt, 1998) and on the changing role of the nation-state (Bonnen, Hedley and Schweikhardt).
Finally, a major topic of research throughout his career focused on the organization and coordination of economic data systems, particularly agricultural data systems (Bonnen 1975, 1977, 1982, 1984, 1988; Bonnen, et.al. 1972; Bonnen, et.al.; Riemenschnieder and Bonnen). This work reflected his interest in the development of agricultural data systems that began with his father’s generation of agricultural economics. His father, Clarence A. Bonnen (B.S. and M.S., University of Illinois, PhD. coursework at the University of California-Berkeley), a professor of agricultural economics at Texas A&M University, conducted pioneering work in data collection on farm management and production economics [in cooperation with the Bureau of Agricultural Economics (now Economic Research Service) of the USDA.]. James Bonnen’s work in this area often required the collaboration of economists, statisticians, and organizational theorists to address the problems of coordinating national data systems. In 1972, he was appointed Chairman of the first Committee on Economic Statistics of the American Agricultural Economics Association (Bonnen et. al. 1972),
Bonnen helped to guide the formation of policy affecting American agriculture through his work as a teacher/mentor, and as a consultant to industry, government and foundations. He served as Senior Staff Economist with the President’s Council of Economic Advisers in 1963-1965, as a member of the President’s National Advisory Commission on Rural Poverty in 1966-1967, and as Director of the President’s Federal Statistical System Reorganization Project in 1978-1980. He was also a member of the National Advisory Committee to the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin, and chairman of various committees of the American Agricultural Economics Association and the American Statistical Association. From 1968 to 1971, he served as Director of a study on “The Role of the University in Public Affairs” sponsored by the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges and the Carnegie Corporation.
Throughout his career, Bonnen served on numerous committees of the National Academy of Sciences. The reports of these committees included Rural America in Passage: Statistics for Policy (1981), Private Lives and Public Policies: Confidentiality and Accessibility of Government Statistics (1993), The Bureau of Transportation Statistics: Priorities for the Future (1997) and Sowing Seeds of Change: Informing Public Policy in the Economic Research Service of USDA (1999) (all available from National Academy of Sciences Press).
Bonnen received the Distinguished Faculty Award at Michigan State University in 1972. In 1981 he received the American Statistical Association’s Washington Statistical Society’s “Julius Shiskin Award for Outstanding Achievement in Economic Statistics.” He was elected President of the American Agricultural Economics Association in 1975 and made a Fellow of that Association in 1978. The Michigan Senate honored him with a resolution of tribute in 1974 when he was elected President of the American Agricultural Economics Association.
In 1984 he was elected a Fellow of the American Statistical Association and in 1992 was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1984, he received the Distinguished Policy Contribution Award from the American Agricultural Economics Association for his contributions to U.S. agricultural statistical policy. In 1965, he received the American Farm Economic Association Award for Outstanding Journal Article (for the article “Present and prospective Policy problems of U.S. Agriculture: As Viewed by an Economist,” Journal of Farm Economics) and in 1998 he received (with co-author David B. Schweikhardt) the Outstanding Journal Article Award from the Review of Agricultural Economics (for the article “The Future of U.S. Agricultural Policy: Reflections on the Disappearance of the ‘Farm Problem’”). In 2000, he was invited to deliver the Leonard K. Elmhirst Lecture to open the Twenty-Fourth International Conference of Agricultural Economists, held at Berlin, Germany. His lecture, entitled “The Transformation of Agriculture and the World Economy: Challenges for the Governance of Agriculture and for the Profession,” combined many aspects of his various research interests to examine agricultural policy issues, governance, and analysis with the complexities of addressing each in an increasingly integrated international economy (Bonnen, 2001).
Selected Publications – According to Bonnen’s Research & Policy Areas of Emphasis
John D. Black and James T. Bonnen. 1958. A Balanced United States Agriculture by 1965. National Planning Association.
James T. Bonnen and William A Cromarty. 1958. In Agricultural Adjustment Problems in a Growing Economy, North Central Farm Management Research Committee. Edited by Earl O Heady. Iowa State College Press: Ames.
James T. Bonnen. 1965. “Present and Prospective Policy Problems of US Agriculture: As Viewed by an Economist.” Journal of Farm Economics.
James T. Bonnen and David B. Schweikhardt. 1998. “The Future of US Agricultural Policy: Reflections on the Disappearance of the ‘Farm Problem.’” Review of Agricultural Economics.
James. T. Bonnen. 1962. “Some Observations on the Organizational Nature of a Great Technological Payoff.” Journal of Farm Economics.
James T. Bonnen. 1981.”Agriculture’s System of Development Institutions: Reflections on the U.S. Experience.” Paper prepared for the 1981 Symposium on Rural Economics: Quebec Agriculture and Food Economy and its Development Potential in the 1980’s, University of Laval, Quebec Canada, October 19-22, 1981 (French version: “Agriculture’s System of Developmental Institutions: Reflections on the U.S. Experience.” L’Agro-Alimentaire Quebecois Et Son Development Dans L’Environment Economique Des Annees 1980. Department D’Economie Rurale, University of Laval, Quebec, Canada, 1983).
James T. Bonnen 1983. “Historical Sources of US Agricultural Productivity: Implications for R&D Policy and Social Science Research American Journal of Agricultural Economics.
James T. Bonnen. 1986. “A Century of Science in Agriculture: Lessons for Science Policy.” American Journal of Agricultural Economics (AAEA Fellow’s Address).
James T. Bonnen. 1986. “The Institutional Structures Associated with Agricultural Science: What Have We Learned?” In Agricultural Science Policy in Transition. Edited by V. James Rhodes. Bethesda MD: Agricultural Research Institute.
David B. Schweikhardt and James T. Bonnen. 1986. “Policy Conflicts in Agricultural Research: Historical Perspective and Today’s Challenges.” In The Agricultural Scientific Enterprise: A System in Transition.” Edited by Lawrence Busch and William B. Lacy. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
James T. Bonnen. 1987. “Agricultural Development: Transforming Human Capital, Technology, and Institutions.” In International Agricultural Development Edited by Carl K. Eicher and john M. Staatz. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press, 1998. Originally published in U.S.-Mexico Relations: Agriculture and Rural Development. Edited by Bruce F. Johnston, Cassio Luiselli, Celso Contreras, and Robert D. Norton. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1987.
Glenn L. Johnson and James T. Bonnen. 1991. Social Science Agricultural Agendas and Strategies. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press.
Data and Information Systems
James T. Bonnen. 1996. “The Politics of Statistical Reform: A Cautionary Tale, 1978–1980.” CHANCE.
James T. Bonnen and Steven B. Harsh. 1995 “Establishing a Framework for an Information System” Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics.
James T. Bonnen. 1989. “On the role of data and measurement in agricultural economics research” Journal of agricultural economics research.
James T. Bonnen.1988. “Improving the Socioeconomic Data Base.” In Agriculture and Rural Areas Approaching the Twenty-First Century: Challenges for Agricultural Economics. Edited by R.J.. Hildreth, Kathryn L. Lipton, Kenneth C. Clayton, and Carl C. O’Connor.. Ames: Iowa State University Press.
James T. Bonnen. 1984. “Federal Statistical Coordination Today: A Disaster or a Disgrace?” The Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly. Health and Society.
James T. Bonnen. 1983. “Federal Statistical Coordination Today: A Disaster or a Disgrace?” The American Statistician.
James T. Bonnen. 1982. “The Government Statistical Muddle.” American Demographics.
James T. Bonnen, Theodore G. Clemence, Ivan P. Fellegi, Thomas B. Jabine, Ronald E. Kutscher, Larry K. Roberson, and Charles A. Waite. 1981. “Improving the Federal Statistical System: Issues and Options. Statistical Reporter.
James T. Bonnen, Theodore G. Clemence, Ivan P. Fellegi, Thomas B. Jabine, Ronald E. Kutscher, Larry K. Roberson, and Charles A. Waite. 1981 “Improving the Federal Statistical System: Report of the President’s Reorganization Project for the Federal Statistical System” The American Statistician.
James T. Bonnen and Glenn L. Nelson. 1981. “Changing Rural Development Data Needs.” American Journal of Agricultural Economics.
Charles H. Riemenschneider and James T. Bonnen. 1979. “National Agricultural Information Systems: Design and Assessment.” In Information Systems for Agriculture. Edited by M.J. Blackie and J.B. Dent. London: Applied Science.
James T. Bonnen. 1977. “Assessment of the Current Agricultural Data Base: An Information System Approach.” In A Survey of Agricultural Economics Literature: Quantitative Methods in Agricultural Economics, 1940s to 1970s. Edited by George G, Judge, et. al.
James T. Bonnen. 1975. “Improving Information on Agriculture and Rural Life” American Journal of Agricultural Economics(Presidential address).
James T. Bonnen, Richard J. Hildreth, George G. Judge, George Tolley, and Harry Trelogan. 1972. “Our Obsolete Data Systems: New Directions and Opportunities.” American Journal of Agricultural Economics.
James T. Bonnen. 1989. “The Emerging Agenda of Issues in Rural America and the Role of the Social Sciences.” In Rural Development Issues of the Nineties: Perspectives from the Social Sciences. Proceedings of the 46th Annual Professional Agricultural Workers Conference (December 4-6, 1988). Tuskegee, AL: Tuskegee University.
James T. Bonnen. 1968. “The Distribution of Benefits from Cotton Price Supports.” In Problems in Public Expenditure Analysis. Edited by Samuel B. Chase. Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institute.
James T. Bonnen. 1968. “The Distribution of Benefits from Selected U.S. Farm Programs.” In Rural Poverty in the United States. Report by the President’s National Advisory Commission on Rural Poverty.
James T. Bonnen. 1966. “Rural Poverty: Programs and Problems.” Journal of Farm Economics.
James T. Bonnen. 1966. “Emerging Public Policy Orientations and New Programs in Rural Life.” In Policies Affecting Rural People, Raleigh NC: Agricultural Policy Institute, North Carolina State University.
James T. Bonnen. 1965. “National Policy For Agriculture And For Rural Life: Trends, Problems, And Prospects.” Increasing Understanding of Public Problems and Policies. Oak Brook, IL: Farm Foundation.
Role of the Policy Analyst
James T. Bonnen. 2000. “Providing Economic Information in an Increasingly Difficult Policy Environment.” Review of Agricultural Economics.
James T. Bonnen and David B,. Schweikhardt. 1998. “Getting from Economic Analysis to Policy Advice.” Review of Agricultural Economics.
James T. Bonnen. 1992. “Changing Roles of Agricultural Economists and Their Institutions.” American Journal of Agricultural Economics.
James T. Bonnen. 1989. “Relevancy of the Social Sciences in the Policy Arena: Implications for Agricultural Economics.” Southern Journal of Agricultural Economics.
James T. Bonnen. 1984. “Distributional Issues in Food and Agricultural Policy: Concepts and Issues. In Increasing Understanding of Public Problems and Policies. Oak Brook, IL: Farm Foundation.
James T. Bonnen. 1970. “The Role of the University in Public Policy Education.” In Increasing Understanding of Public Problems and Policies. Oak Brook, IL: Farm Foundation.
James T. Bonnen. 1969. “The Absence of Knowledge of Distributional Impacts: An Obstacle to Effective Public Program Analysis and Decisions.” In The Analysis and Evaluation of Public Expenditures: The PBB System, Joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress. Washington, D.C. Volume 1.
Political Economy of Agriculture
James T. Bonnen. 2001. “The Transformation of Agriculture and the World Economy: Challenges for the Governance of Agriculture and for the Profession.” In Tomorrow’s Agriculture: Incentives, Institutions, Infrastructure and Innovations, edited by George Henry Peters and Prabhu L Pingali. Dartmouth, Aldershot, UK.
James T. Bonnen, William P. Browne, and David .B. Schweikhardt. 1996. AFurther Observations on the Changing Nature of National Agricultural Policy Decision Processes, 1946-1995.@ Agricultural History.
James T. Bonnen. 1992. “Why is There No Coherent U.Ss Rural Policy?” Policy Studies Journal.
James T. Bonnen and William P. Browne. 1989. “Why is Agricultural Policy So Difficult to Reform?” In The Political Economy of U.S. Agriculture: Challenges for the 1990s. Washington, D.C.: Resources for the Future.
James T. Bonnen. 1985. “U.S. Agriculture, Instability and National Political Institutions: The Shift from Representative to Participatory Democracy.” In United States Agricultural Policy for 1985 and Beyond. Tucson, AZ: Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Arizona.
James T. Bonnen. 1980. “Observations on the Changing Nature of National Agricultural Policy Decision Processes, 1946-1976. In Farmers, Bureaucrats, and Middlemen: Historical Perspectives on American Agriculture. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press.
James T. Bonnen, Douglas D. Hedley and David B. Schweikhardt (1997). “Agriculture and the Changing Nation-State: Implications for Policy and Political Economy.” American Journal of Agricultural Economics.