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    Food and Resource Economics Department

    Food and Resource Economics Department

Florida Agricultural Policy Outlook Conference

Speakers Bios


  • Dr. Ute Albrecht

    Dr. Ute Albrecht photo

    Associate Professor of Plant Physiology at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center

    Dr. Ute Albrecht is an associate professor at the University of Florida. Ute received her PhD in Biology from the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. After moving to Florida, she joined the USDA Horticultural Research Laboratory in Fort Pierce as a research associate to work on citrus. In 2016, she joined the University of Florida as a plant physiologist in the Horticultural Sciences Department at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee. Her research and extension program focuses on finding solutions to mitigate the negative impacts of HLB on citrus production. She is also actively engaged in graduate student education and mentoring. A list of her publications can be found at

  • John Walt Boatright

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    Director of Government Affairs at the American Farm Bureau Federation


    John Walt Boatright joined AFBF as Director of Government Affairs in November 2022. In this role, John Walt’s portfolio includes farm labor, pesticides, food safety, and specialty crops. This includes legislative initiatives in Congress, as well as engagement with the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. 


    In addition to working closely with state Farm Bureaus and policymakers to accomplish AFBF policy, John Walt also represents the organization in its collaborative industry work, including the Agriculture Workforce Coalition, the Pesticide Policy Coalition, the Minor Crop Farmer Alliance, the Agricultural Safety & Health Council of America, and the Commodity Liaison Committee of the IR-4 Project.  


    Prior to joining American Farm Bureau, he led national affairs for Florida Farm Bureau for over 5 years. A native Floridian, John Walt graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Food and Resource Economics from the University of Florida.  

  • Dr. Deirdra Chester

    Dr. Deirdra Chester

    Dr. Deirdra Chester serves as the Director of the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS). In this role, she leads OCS in delivering science and research that undergirds the policies and practices of USDA and its customers and stakeholders. Additionally, she steers collaboration activities for USDA science programs that support scientific excellence, innovation, and capacity to achieve the Department’s mission. Prior to this role, Dr. Chester was with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) where she served as the Director for the Division of Nutrition. In this role, she provided leadership and oversight for the Division’s research, education, and Extension activities across the nation through competitive grant programs.

    Previously, Dr. Chester was the agency Science Advisor for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Before APHIS, she served as the National Program Leader for NIFA’s Applied Nutrition Research in the Division of Nutrition. Prior to joining NIFA, Dr. Chester was a scientist at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

    Additionally, Dr. Chester is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist. She has spoken both nationally and internationally on nutrition topics and is on the editorial board of the Journal of Obesity and Chronic Disease.

    Dr. Chester is an American University Key Executive Leadership program graduate and is SES certified through the USDA Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program. Dr. Chester holds a Ph.D. in Nutrition from Florida International University, where she was awarded the McKnight Doctoral Fellowship and was in the inaugural class of the Gates Millennial Scholars. She also holds a master’s degree in food and nutrition science and a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics from Florida State University.

    Dr. Chester is the recipient of numerous honors and awards. The American Public Health Association Food and Nutrition Section awarded her the Mary C. Egan Award and she was recognized by Florida State University’s College of Human Science with the Circle of Excellence Alumni Award.

  • Senator Jay Collins

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    Jarrid “Jay” Collins is a highly-decorated Army Special Forces combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient with over two decades of service.

    He has answered our nation’s call time and again, even serving five years as an active duty Green Beret following the amputation of his leg. Senator Collins committed his life to serving our country, and plans to do the same for District 14 in Hillsborough County.

    Adopted and raised by his grandparents, Senator Collins spent his early years on his family’s farm. Growing up in small-town America, he benefitted from the tight-knit community that helped him learn how to overcome adversity at an early age. Senator Collins would start college before enlisting in the Army, following in the footsteps of his WWII veteran adoptive father.

    He was selected to become a Special Force Medic, rescuing a hypothermic classmate in the middle of an ice storm, and earned the leadership award at his Special Forces Graduation. His first assignment with 7th Special Forces Group was on a burial detail for a close friend from Special Forces training. Having deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, and twice to South America. This experience drove home the risks of military service and forever changed the veracity with which Senator Collins approached his job.

    Following 23 years of service, Senator Collins took a position with a nonprofit, overseeing the distribution of millions of meals to veterans, first responders, and those in need. Through his nonprofit work across the country, it became clear to Collins that most Americans share the same concerns: they want their families to succeed, their children to have better lives than them, and to improve their communities.

    As a husband, father, Green Beret, and non-profit leader with over 20 years of dedicated service, Senator Collins has seen firsthand that “leadership comes at a cost, and that cost is self-interest.” He knows that while career politicians are focused on pursuing their own ambitions, real leaders put their personal concerns last, finding real solutions to the problems facing the American people. Collins has fought to protect and provide for American families for over two decades. As a battletested leader representing District 14, his leadership is just the office in which he represents.

    A committed family man, Senator Collins is married to his wife of 21 years Layla, a retired veteran with 20 years of service herself, and a father to two young sons, Gabe and Colt.


  • Dr. Christa Court

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    UF/IFAS Assistant Professor of Food and Resource Economics & Director of the UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program

    Dr. Christa Court is an assistant professor of Food and Resource Economics at the University of Florida. She serves as Director of the Economic Impact Analysis Program, which conducts regional economic analyses for funded research projects, industry organizations, and government agencies, analyzing a wide range of activities and industries, including agriculture, forestry, fisheries, education, and health care. Dr. Court's research and extension program focuses on regional economic modeling and integrated modeling of human and natural systems. Dr. Court also leads UF/IFAS efforts related to disaster impact analysis for agriculture, natural resource, and food industries, including efforts related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, tropical cyclones, harmful algal blooms, and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  • Carole Estes

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    Manager of the FARMS Program Water Resources Bureau at the Southwest Florida Water Management District

    Carole Estes the manager of the Facilitating Agricultural Resource Management Systems (FARMS) Program with the Southwest Florida Water Management District. She has professional geologist registrations in Florida and Arizona, as well as 31 years of experience with the water management district and environmental consulting companies in Florida and Arizona.  Carole has a Master of Science Degree in Geology from the University of South Florida and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Geological Oceanography from Florida Institute of Technology.   

  • Dr. Derek Farnsworth

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    UF/IFAS Associate Professor of Food and Resource Economics

    Dr. Derek Farnsworth is an associate professor in the Food and Resource Economics Department at the University of Florida. He specializes in the area of agribusiness management. He conducts research on topics such as agricultural labor markets, best management practices, and invasive species. He teaches classes on agribusiness finance and marketing and provides extension programming with a focus on managing farm labor and finances. Dr. Farnsworth received his Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics in 2014 from the University of California, Davis. He received both a BS in Business from the Kelley School of Business and a BA in Mathematics and Economics at Indiana University, Bloomington in 2009.

  • Jaime Fussell

    Jaime Fussell photo


    Director of Labor Relations at the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association


    Jamie represents FFVA members in labor related legislative efforts on the state and federal level. He advises growers on employment records, worker training, housing, OSHA regulations and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Fussell is also responsible for coordinating members’ use of the H-2A guest worker program and assisting with compliance efforts with labor laws affecting agriculture. Fussell also leads the Agricultural Labor Relations Forum held annually in Orlando. Agricultural employers from across the country attend to learn about wage and hour compliance, the Worker Protection Standard, and the H-2A program. Fussell is a licensed attorney and a member of the Florida Bar.

  • Dr. Robert Gilbert

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    Dean for Research, Director of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station

    Dr. Gilbert is responsible for overseeing the research mission and administration. His office manages more than $9 million in resources that are used to strengthen the capacity and innovation of UF/IFAS research. Gilbert joined the agronomy faculty at the UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade, FL in 2000. He then became the Center Director until 2014 when he was appointed as the Agronomy Department Chair on UF’s main campus. His past research experience has focused on breeding sugarcane varieties and working with stakeholders to improve one of South Florida’s signature crops. In service to the profession, he has functioned in numerous roles within the International Society of Sugar Cane Technologists and the Florida division of the American Society of Sugar Cane Technologists. He has been honored with a USDA/ARS Sustained Effort Technology Transfer Award, a UF/IFAS International Achievement Award, and several Denver T. Loupe Best Presentation Awards from the American Society of Sugar Cane Technologists.   

  • Dr. Lisa House

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    Professor and Chair

    Dr. Lisa House is Professor and Department Chair in the Food and Resource Economics Department at the University of Florida.  She also serves as Co-Director of the Florida Agricultural Market Research Center. Prior to taking over as Chair in 2018, she held a teaching and research appointment, teaching classes in food and agribusiness marketing and management, survey research for economists, and comparative world agriculture. Her research interests focus on consumer preferences and demand for food products. In research, Dr. House has received grants totaling over $15 million to research subjects such as consumer acceptance of genetically modified foods, demand for seafood products, perception of fruits and vegetables, and the role of social networks in new food product adoption. She was awarded the UF Research Foundation Professorship from 2017-2020.

  • Dr. Kimberly Morgan

    Kim Morgan photo

    Dr. Kimberly is an Extension Economist and Associate Professor in the Department of Food and Resource Economics at the University of Florida.

    Housed at the SW FL Research and Education Center in Immokalee, FL, she has 20+ years’ experience working with the Southeast specialty crop industry on the identification, management, and mitigation of the unique economic risks of growing fresh and seasonal produce. She is responsible for analyzing the economic costs and benefits of this project, and specializes in multi-disciplinary, science-based approaches to informing and improving decisions made by members of ag-food value chains. 

  • Dr. Nathan Palardy

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    UF/IFAS Assistant Professor of Food and Resource Economics

    Nathan Palardy is an assistant professor and Extension economist in the Food and Resource Economics Department at the University of Florida. He holds a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from Colorado State University. He specializes in economic analysis related to State and local policy, conducting engaged scholarship on public policy impacts on local food value chains and investigating how natural resource management decisions affect communities. His outreach programs aim to improve local governance by training local elected officials in economic development fundamentals and by creating tools that facilitate informed decision-making by local governments.

  • Dr. Jack Rechcigl

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    UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center Director & Professor of Soil and Water Sciences

    Dr. Jack Rechcigl has been a University of Florida Professor for the past 36 years in the Soil and Water Sciences Department and is currently the Center Director of the University of Florida Regional Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, located in Balm and Plant City. He is also the Center Director of the Ft. Lauderdale Research and Education Center in Davie. Dr. Rechcigl is recognized nationally and internationally for his research on the beneficial uses of organic wastes and industrial by-products as fertilizers for agricultural crops. Currently he is actively involved in the development and construction of a world class research extension and development Center for Applied Artificial Intelligence to assist stakeholders in being competitive in a global environment. He received his bachelor’s degree in plant sciences from the University of Delaware in 1982 and his master’s and doctoral degrees in soil and water sciences from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, in 1983 and 1986, respectively.

  • William “Gee” Roe III

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    Gee Roe – WM. G. Roe & Sons

    I am a 4th generation citrus grower in Central and South Florida that has extensive experience with harvesting, packing, shipping, and marketing of Florida citrus and blueberries.  Currently I am the chair of the USDA-NIFA Citrus Disease Sub-Committee. 

    I work for a company that is actively expanding our fresh citrus acreage in the HLB endemic environment of South/Central Florida.  These expansions are financed by the profitability of our current fresh citrus groves.  I’m seeing first-hand what is profitable for growers and what doesn’t work in the face of intense HLB and citrus canker pressure.  Working in a vertically integrated corporation has made me intimately familiar with HLB solutions that are pragmatic and robust from start to finish: tree health - growth and yield, harvesting and packing, marketing and logistics, end-consumer purchase.  I understand that the HLB problem is not resolved until growers are profitable selling to consumers who are enthusiastic about their citrus purchase and eating experience.

  • Dr. Skyler Simnitt

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    Economist in the USDA Economic Research Service

    Dr. Skyler Simnitt completed his Ph.D. at the University of Florida in Food and Resource Economics in 2019. His dissertation addressed U.S. farm labor markets and the H-2A guest workers visa program. Upon graduating he joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS), as part of the first contingent to work in Kansas City after the agency relocated from Washington D.C. He currently works as a research economist with the Crops Branch in the Market and Trade Economics Division. His research interests include agribusiness, production, food loss and waste, farm labor, development, and econometrics. His current duties at ERS also include managing the Citrus Outlook program. He also manages a Strategic Priority Grant project on the Economics Impacts of Citrus Greening and Competition from Imports.

  • Dr Suzanne Thornsbury

    Suzanne Thornsbury Photo

    UF/IFAS Professor of Food and Resource Economics

    Dr. Suzanne Thornsbury joined the Food and Resource Economics Department at the University of Florida in August 2022 as a Professor in Agriculture Policy and Specialty Crops. Her program integrates research and extension with a focus on the linkage between marketing, management, and trade strategies of specialty crop industries seeking to remain (or become) competitive in a global economy. This is consistent with an integrated world agriculture and food sector. A focus of her research is co-development of knowledge (industry, academia, government) in support of U.S. seasonal and perishable industries given current and anticipated technology developments and shifting consumer preferences.

    Prior to joining UF, Dr. Thornsbury was a Senior Advisor for Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities in USDA’s Office of the Chief Scientist. In this role she advised the Under Secretary for the Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area and USDA’s Chief Scientist. Dr. Thornsbury holds a PhD in Agriculture and Applied Economics from Virginia Tech. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, USDA NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) and Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), and the Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) among others.

  • Dr. Rosa Walsh

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    Scientific Research Director at the Florida Department of Citrus

    Dr. Rosa is the Director of Scientific Research at the Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC), an executive agency of Florida government charged with the marketing, research and regulation of the Florida citrus industry. She heads FDOC’s Scientific Research Department, overseeing its current FDOC research efforts focused on the benefits of citrus as it relates to health and wellness. Additionally, she supports initiatives aimed at developing and increasing the propagation of HLB tolerant and resistant trees.

    Joining FDOC in 2015, Dr. Walsh brought with her over 10 years of experience in the Florida university and college system as a chemistry professor and researcher. While teaching chemistry at the University of South Florida and Polk State College, her administrative responsibilities included university data and faculty activity reporting, maintaining departmental and grant budgets, supporting the accreditation process, and overseeing a research program for undergraduates. She holds both B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry from Clemson University.