AREC 496a
Structure, Management, and Performance of American Agriculture

Class Time:
May 19 through June 6

photos from field trip

Syllabus for Summer Presession 2008

Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics
University of Arizona
Pre-Session 2008

Structure, Management, and Performance of American Agriculture

Gary D. Thompson and Paul N. Wilson

Chávez 319 and 403A

520-621-6249 and 520-621-6258

E-Mail: and

Office Hours:
Immediately following class or by appointment. Open door policy.

Admin. Assistant:
Heather Jepsen
Chávez 403-B

Description: In a seminar setting, students will study and discuss the current economic and management issues surrounding America’s modern agricultural sector. Special attention will be given to topics of competitiveness, structure, organization, and strategy using an economics analytical framework.

Course Organization:

First Week: Daily lectures, readings and discussion on the industrial organization of U.S. agriculture.
Second Week: Field trip to the Central Valley of California to interact with agribusiness executives.
Third Week: Class discussions and presentations of research papers.

Course Requirements:

1. Class attendance is required, including participation in the field trip.

2. All students are expected to read each daily assignment and be prepared to discuss the assignment in class.

3. All students are expected to actively participate in the six-day field trip to the Central Valley of California.

4. You will be required to write a research essay (12 page maximum) on a structural, management, performance or strategy topic associated with U.S. agriculture. The essay must draw upon the course material and research conducted by the student. Your essays must be typed using a 12 point font and be double spaced with 1" margins. The essay is due on or before 5:00 p.m. on June 7 (electronic submission). Late essays will be penalized. We are willing to assist you as you develop your essay idea.

Student Assessment:
Grades will be assigned on the basis of class attendance, the quality of classroom and field trip participation, field trip questions, and the research essay. These efforts will be evaluated as follows:

Course Requirement Points
Attendance/Participation 100
Field Trip Questions 50
Research Essay 150
Total 300

There will not be a final exam.
We use a standards-based grading system where grades are assigned in an approximate 90 and above = A, 80–89 = B, 70–79 = C, etc. scale. Grades are not based on a curve.

Required Textbooks:

A series of required readings are available in the ASUA Bookstore.

Other Resources:

Besanko, David, David Dranove and Mark Shanley. 1996. The Economics of Strategy. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Milgrom, Paul and John Roberts. 1992. Economics, Organization & Management. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

These two resources are on reserve in the Main Library.

Confidentiality of Student Records:

Course Withdrawal:
Course withdrawals filed by the end of the fourth week of classes result in cancellation of registration in the course. For course withdrawals filed from the end of the fourth week of classes until the end of the eighth week of classes, the grade of "W" is awarded to students who are passing at the time of withdrawal; the grade of "E" may be awarded to students not passing at the time of withdrawal. Both grades show on the student's permanent record.

The last day on which a student may drop a course is the last day of the eighth week during which classes are held, except for an extraordinary reason approved by the student's college dean (in the case of undergraduate students) or by the Dean of Students (in the case of students withdrawing completely from the University). (

Incomplete Policy:
The grade of I may be awarded only at the end of a term, when all but a minor portion of the course work has been satisfactorily completed. The grade of I will not to be awarded in place of a failing grade or when the student is expected to repeat the course; in such a case, a grade other than I will be assigned. Students should make arrangements with the Professors Thompson or Wilson to receive an incomplete grade before the end of the semester.

Classroom Behavior:
Please turn off your cell phone/pager and any musical device during the class period. Please ask Professor Wilson for permission to use your laptop to take notes; without instructor permission, laptops will not be allowed in class. Students disrupting class activities will be asked to leave. The Arizona Board of Regents’ Student Code of Conduct, ABOR Policy 5-308, prohibits threats of physical harm to any member of the University community, including to one’s self.

Special Needs and Accommodations:
Students who need special accommodation or services should contact the Disability Resources Center, 1224 East Lowell Street, Tucson, AZ 85721, (520) 621-3268, FAX (520) 621-9423, email:, You must register and request that the Center or DRC send Dr. Wilson official notification of your accommodations needs as soon as possible. Please plan to meet with Professor Wilson by appointment or during office hours to discuss accommodations and how my course requirements and activities may impact your ability to fully participate. The need for accommodations must be provided by the appropriate office.

Academic Integrity:
Integrity and ethical behavior are expected of every student in all academic work. This Academic Integrity principle stands for honesty in all class work, and ethical conduct in all labs and clinical assignments. (

Class Schedule*


Planned Topic*

May 19 Monday

Economic Concepts for Strategy
The Evolution of the Modern Firm

May 20 Tuesday

The Vertical and Horizontal Boundaries of the Firm

Robert A. Hoppe, Penni Korb, Erik J. O’Donoghue, and David E. Banker. Structure and Finances of U.S. Farms: Family Farm Report. EIB-24, ERS/USDA, Washington, D.C., 2007.

Sara D. Short. Structure, Management, and Performance Characteristics of Specialized Dairy Farm Businesses in the United States. Agricultural Handbook No. 720, ERS/USDA, Washington, D.C. 2000.

May 21 Wednesday

Market and Competitive Analysis

J. Michael Harris, Phil Kaufman, Steve Martinez, and Charlene Price. The U.S. Food Marketing System. AER-811, ERS/USDA, Washington, D.C., 2002.

May 22

Market and Competitive Analysis Continued

Thomas L. Vollrath. North American Agricultural Market Integration and Its Impact on the Food and Fiber System. AIB-784, ERS/USDA, Washington, D.C., 2003.

May 23

Strategic Positioning for Competitive Advantage

Paul N. Wilson and Gary D. Thompson. “Time Integration: Agribusiness Structure for Competitive Advantage.” Review of Agricultural Economics. 25(2003): 30-43

Paul N. Wilson “The Economic Nature of Network Capital in B2B Transactions.” Agribusiness: An International Journal. 23(2007): 435-448.

Turn in Field Trip Questions

May 27

Travel to Bakersfield, California

May 28

A.M. Calcot
P.M. UC-Extension
P.M. Finance

May 29

A.M. Produce
A.M. Tree Crops
P.M. Water Management
P.M. Environmental Issues

May 30

A.M. Sales and Marketing
A.M. Labor Management
P.M. Trade
P.M. Input Supply

May 31

Return to Tucson

June 2-7

Class Discussion and Preliminary Presentations of Research Papers

June 7

Turn in Research Papers (Electronic Submission)

*Schedule and topics may be changed at the instructors’ discretion.

Last updated June 2, 2008
Document located at
website contact:

AREC Home | About the Department | Research & Publications | Academics
Schedule of Classes | AgInfo | UAInfo