Transcontinental View—Guides Work in Global Trade

The Irish economy was tanking. It was 1981 and workers’ strikes, stagnant economic growth and a lack of private sector jobs caught the attention of Dermot Hayes, a new college grad with a degree in agriculture science from the University College Dublin. He became fascinated with economics and agriculture – two interests that quickly turned into a lifelong career path.

After graduating from University College in Dublin, he went on to earn a master’s in agricultural economics and a doctorate in international trade, both from Berkeley, before arriving at Iowa State University in 1988. Hayes, Pioneer Hi-Bred International Chair in Agribusiness and professor of economics, has a deep-rooted knowledge of agriculture, economics and the intricacies of trade agreements. He uses his transcontinental view to inform his work in global trade policy at Iowa State.

Free Trade Impacts Iowa

The United States is currently laying groundwork to expand trade across the globe through several new trade agreements. Two new deals, the Trans-Atlantic Trade Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), have taken center stage. The agreements, if enacted, could deepen the market for U.S. products, including Iowa-raised meat and grain, in countries such as Chile, Japan, Vietnam and the European Union.

Introducing free trade with Japan and Vietnam, Hayes says, will have a huge impact on U.S. exports of pork, beef and poultry. “Once TPP is in place, it’s likely that China will join. This would be so important and will change the face of
Iowa agriculture,” Hayes says.

Despite the beneficial nature of the trade agreements, there has been some resistance from non-governmental groups in Europe.

“Their consumers have formed beliefs their food is more eco-friendly and more organic. They view U.S. food as being
more of a commodity, of course I disagree, but some of the non-government European organizations are adamantly against trade with the United States,” says Hayes. “The pork industry alone could be looking at five to ten percent growth if even one of those trade agreements went through,” he says.

Trusted Expert, Partner

“Dr. Hayes is at the tip of the spear when we look at new markets in which trade barriers preclude us from shipping,” says Nick Giordano, vice president and council for international affairs at the National Pork Producers Association (NPPC). Giordano has been with NPPC for 20 years, and has worked with Hayes as long.

“Dermot’s analysis is critically important to pork producers. Many, including me, regard him as the foremost authority
on the global pork industry and pork trade,” he says. “NPPC has an outstanding global network of lawyers, economists, scientists, policy experts and political insiders. Dermot is at the top of the list and viewed as an invaluable asset to
the industry.”

While Hayes says he has had a lifelong interest in global meat trade policy, he didn’t develop a formal interest until he started his job with the Meat Export Research Center at Iowa State in 1986. In 1990, he became the leader of the Trade and Agricultural Policy Division of the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development.

His latest research examines links between Chinese and U.S. commodity markets, corn yields in Iowa and how these might respond to global warming and sourcing feedstock for next-generation biofuels.

Hayes has been working with another Iowa State researcher, Sergio Lence, studying intellectual property in the seed sector as part of his role as Pioneer Hi-Bred International Chair in Agribusiness.

“Seed companies invest enormous resources in developing improved seed varieties, which they wouldn’t do unless they were allowed to capture this investment via higher prices on the seed they sell,” Hayes says. Their work traces the incentive structure to show how societies benefit from stronger intellectual property laws.

Economist and Teacher

Hayes’ work in the classroom currently involves two classes at different ends of the spectrum—he teaches Economics 101 and an MBA class on financial derivatives. Economics 101 is the first class agriculture business students take, with 124 enrolled this year. The financial derivatives class is optional.

Advising graduate students also is a responsibility for Hayes, and he is currently advising six students. “Graduate students have to be very self-motivated. By the time they start writing their dissertation, which is where I get involved, they’ve already shown a lot of self-discipline. I’m there to provide a clear direction,” he says.

For aspiring economics students, Hayes has some advice. “Publish research papers and travel as much as possible,” he says. Students should also remember the global marketplace is “huge, but also very unpredictable.” Of course, not everyone heeds his advice—two of his children pursued degrees in economics. “I told them if you’re smart enough to do economics, you’re smart enough to do engineering, and engineering pays better, but they didn’t listen to me,” he laughs.