Marc F. Bellemare

Northrup Professor of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota

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About Marc

Bellemare is an economist whose research focuses on international development, agriculture, and food policy. This is relevant to public policy in the United States because international development is often subordinate to foreign policy – when it is not a tool of foreign policy – and it is directly related to U.S. policy because farm bills are usually omnibus bills encompassing agricultural protection, trade policy, food aid, and nutrition programs. Bellemare has served as a consultant for the Political Instability Task Force and the World Bank. He has also presented his research on food prices to the Committee on Assessing the Impacts of Climate Change on Social and Political Stresses of the National Research Council. Before going to graduate school, he spent two summers working for a Cabinet minister in Ottawa, and he interned at the International Fund for Agricultural Development, a specialized agency of the United Nations in Rome.

In the News

Opinion: "Farmers Markets and Food-Borne Illness," Marc F. Bellemare, New York Times, January 15, 2016.
Research discussed by Heather Brown, in "Good Question: What Foods Contain GMOs?," CBS, April 27, 2015.
Quoted by Tamar Haspel in "Is a Soda Tax the Solution to America’s Obesity Problem?," The Washington Post, March 23, 2015.
Opinion: "Development Bloat: How Mission Creep Harms the Poor," Marc F. Bellemare, Foreign Affairs, January 5, 2014.
Research discussed by Brad Plummer, in "The U.S. Has Few Farmers. So Why Does Congress Love Farm Subsidies?," Washington Post, July 12, 2013.
Research discussed by Lydia DePillis, in "Quinoa Should be Taking Over the World. This Is Why It Isn’t," Washington Post, July 11, 2013.
Research discussed by Barrie McKenna, in "Taxpayers Oblivious to the Cost of Farm Subsidies," The Globe and Mail, July 7, 2013.
Research discussed by Michael Fitzgerald, in "Voters, Not Lobbyists, Deserve Blame for Our Crappy Farm Policies," Pacific Standard, June 27, 2013.
Research discussed by Tom Murphy, in "Agricultural Gains in Africa Crippled by Funding Crisis," Christian Science Monitor, March 27, 2013.
Opinion: "Lion Hunting in Tanzania: Getting Away with Murder?," Marc F. Bellemare, Star Tribune, March 22, 2013.
Research discussed by Rick Westhead, in "CIDA Merger with Foreign Affairs Might Help the Poor," Toronto Star, March 22, 2013.
Research discussed by Neha Paliwal, in "Actually, Food Riots Might Not be the ‘New Normal’," Foreign Policy, March 8, 2013.
Research discussed by "Sahel Drought in West Africa Leading to Crisis as Millions of Lives at Risk," Metro UK, August 7, 2012.
Guest on CCTV-America's Biz Asia America, August 3, 2012.
Research discussed by Tate Watkins, in "Fighting Famines with Markets: In Ethiopia, an Exchange Empowers Rural Farmers," GOOD Magazine, April 13, 2012.
Opinion: "Why Food Price Volatility Doesn't Matter," Marc F. Bellemare (with Christopher B. Barrett), Foreign Affairs, July 12, 2011.
Opinion: "The UN's Useless Promises," Marc F. Bellemare, The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 28, 2010.
Opinion: "Why Africa's Food Markets are Thin," Marc F. Bellemare, The Raleigh News & Observer, April 25, 2008.
Research discussed by "“Spannmålsfeber” (“Grain Fever")," Axess Magasin, November 2011.


"The Welfare Impacts of Commodity Price Volatility: Evidence from Rural Ethiopia" (with Christopher B. Barrett and David R. Just). American Journal of Agricultural Economics (forthcoming).
Quantifies the impacts of commodity – food, in particular – price volatility on the welfare of rural Ethiopian households. Against conventional wisdom, we find that although rural households in sub-Saharan Africa are indeed hurt by price volatility (or uncertainty), it is the wealthier households who are hurt the most, and so they are the ones who stand most to benefit from price stabilization policies. This explains why price stabilization policies are increasingly likely the more developed a country becomes.
"Why Do Members of Congress Support Agricultural Protection?," (with Nicholas Carnes), Duke University, May 31, 2013.
Looks at what drives legislators’ support for agricultural protection. Specifically, we study whether legislators’ roll-call votes on the 2002 and 2008 farm bills are driven by their own preferences for agriculture, by the proportion of their constituents who are farmers, or by the amount of money they receive as campaign contributions from agricultural Political Action Committees.
"The Productivity Impacts of Formal and Informal Land Rights: Evidence from Madagascar" Land Economics 89, no. 2 (2013): 272-290.
Asks whether land titles have the beneficial impacts many free-market advocates believe they have. Specifically, I look at Madagascar, a context where the U.S. government had pledged $110 million dollars to title plots of land via the Millennium Challenge Corporation. As it turns out, land titles have no impact on agricultural productivity. This points to the need to reform the legal system prior to spending large sums of money on titling programs.
"Rising Food Prices, Food Price Volatility, and Social Unrest," Duke University, July 31, 2012.
Shows that it is increases in food price levels rather than more volatile food prices that are to blame for the food riots that prevail during food crises. In other words, if one is interested in curbing social unrest, one should invest towards keeping food prices low rather than in price stabilization policies.
"Reconsidering Conventional Explanations of the Inverse Productivity Relationship" (with Christopher B. Barrett and Janet Y. Hou). World Development 38, no. 1 (2010): 88-97.
Illustrates how many observers of development policy conclude from the existence of an inverse relationship between farm size and productivity that smallholder farmers can ensure food security in the future. In this paper, we demonstrate that this inverse relationship is a statistical artifact, and so that banking on small farms to feed the future would be gravely mistaken.