Ph.D., 1957. Michigan State University
M.S., 1952. Cornell University
B.S., 1951. Purdue University
Overview - In keeping with the true Land Grant tradition, Dr. Ferris’s career has blended extension, on-campus teaching and research with emphasis on agricultural price analysis, outlook and marketing strategies. For many years, he headed the outlook education program in Michigan, leading numerous marketing workshops for farmers and making extensive use of the mass media. He provided leadership for four college-wide projects on the long range prospects for rural Michigan. Ferris developed an undergraduate and a graduate course on commodity market analysis, the latter leading to the publication of a text book. His research centered on applied econometrics and the formulation of forecasting models. In retirement, after 40 years in the department, he has continued his professional activities mostly as a consultant on the economics of ethanol and biodiesel.
Extension/Outreach - Ferris considered the joint appointment in extension, teaching and research an advantage because of the complementarities among the three areas, each contributing to the other two sectors. For example, the feedback from his stakeholders of farmers, agribusinesses, extension agents, farm organizations, legislators, etc. provided guidance for Ferris’s research activity and also furnished ideas for the classroom. In producing over 1000 outlook articles, he wrote a monthly market page for a national livestock magazine for 10 years as well as a similar state-wide farm publication.
While the forecast period was mostly for the next year ahead, his interest in the longer run outlook was enhanced in the early 1960s when asked to provide leadership for a 10 year look ahead for Michigan agriculture and natural resources. This project, which brought together college faculty with rural leaders for a mutually beneficial exchange, was repeated three times in slightly different forms in the ensuing 30 years. His marketing education program featured three day workshops in which more that 8,000 farmers participated.
Teaching - Ferris developed an undergraduate course entitled “Commodity and Futures Marketing.” His graduate course, “Commodity Market Analysis,” was designed to help students develop analytical skills in applied econometrics. A majority of the students were either foreign or were interested in international development and were encouraged to select a commodity in their country to analyze. Class notes led to a textbook, Agricultural Prices and Commodity Market Analysis, published by WCB/McGraw-Hill in 1997. The book is in the second edition and has received a very favorable review in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. One of the chapters was selected by the World Bank for a web course on commodity price risk management in developing countries.
Research - Involved in his extension activities in short run forecasting of agricultural prices and long term projections, his research has been toward developing improved econometric/simulation models. Among his contributions to this area of economic analysis has been the rationale for agricultural enterprise gross margins in supply analysis and stochastic forecasting, particularly for crop yields. After several years working with colleagues in the department on developing and marketing an econometric model of U.S. agriculture on a large computer mainframe, he generated a desktop model called AGMOD which he has continued to maintain as a research tool. In the past four years, the model has been the base for two refereed papers, destined for publication in book form, on the impact of the expansion in renewable fuels over a 10 year forecast period. An invitation for a chapter on the same subject has been issued.
International - International experience involved overseas leadership conducting a USDA/MSU project on the impact of enlarging the European Economic Community in 1969-70. Also, Ferris was an active participant in a USAID/MSU project on agricultural development in South Korea in 1971-72.
Consulting - While on the faculty, Ferris consulted with a number of firms and organizations including President Nixon’s Cost of Living Council, the Tractor Division of Ford Motor Co., Dominos, and the Michigan sugarbeet and soybean industries. Since retiring in 1997, he has undertaken projects dealing with the economic impact of TB in the Michigan deer herd and projections of land use by agriculture in the state. Since early 2005, he has been writing monthly articles on biodiesel for Jacobsen Publishing, a private market new firm specializing in prices of by-products of agribusiness.