Keith Collins, USDA's chief economist and an agricultural policy expert whose career included a stint as the Agriculture Department's top cotton analyst, has announced his retirement, effective Jan. 3.

Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner praised Collins' service and named Deputy Chief Economist Joseph Glauber to replace Collins. Glauber is currently on detail to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative as Special Doha Agricultural Envoy.

“Dr. Keith Collins has been a cornerstone of the strength of USDA,” said Conner. “His distinguished service to agriculture has brought incisive analysis to inform USDA decisions made on behalf of America's farmers and ranchers. Keith will be greatly missed by many, and I wish him well in retirement.”

Conner said USDA is “fortunate to have someone as talented as Dr. Joe Glauber ready to assume a more prominent leadership role. Having served as deputy chief economist for 15 years, Joe is well prepared for the demands of the post and well respected throughout American agriculture.”

Collins has served as chief economist for the past 15 years, overseeing USDA's program of market forecasts and projections. Prior to assuming his current post, Collins was the cotton analyst for USDA's Economic Research Service.

His 32 years of federal service included leadership with wide-ranging impact in the economic analysis of agricultural policy, energy and bioproducts, risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis, and global climate change.

He has served as chairman of the board of directors of the Federal Crop Insurance Corp. for the past seven years and chairman and vice chairman of the USDA Graduate School. His key roles in USDA farm bill activities began with the 1985 farm bill and continued with frequent testimony on behalf of USDA in congressional hearings and briefings.

Glauber, USDA deputy chief economist, is scheduled to return to USDA in mid-December from temporary assignment to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and will retain his role as Special Doha Agricultural Envoy for the United States. Glauber has served as deputy chief economist at USDA since 1992.

He has served as senior staff economist for agriculture, natural resources and trade at the President's Council of Economic Advisers and as an economist at the USDA Economic Research Service. Glauber received his Ph.D. in agricultural economics from the University of Wisconsin in 1984 and holds an AB in anthropology from the University of Chicago.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, praised the work of Collins, who was the first to hold the position of chief economist at USDA.

“For almost thirty years, secretaries of agriculture and members of Congress from both political parties have relied on Keith Collins for his extensive knowledge of agricultural policy and his sound economic analyses,” he said. “He has provided incisive and objective testimony on key agricultural policy issues facing this nation - counsel that will be sorely missed with his retirement.”

He noted that Joseph Glauber “has long experience in agricultural policy analysis and is also highly capable, and I look forward to working with him.”

Farm organization leaders also thanked Collins for his long service and “keen insights” over the years, noting that USDA's information on key economic indicators including agricultural market forecasts, the world agricultural outlook and the economic consequences of public policy design has been much improved.

“Keith has a genuine gift for analyzing complex market issues and coming up with a range of policy options,” said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “And yet, he has always been forthright and patient when explaining complicated topics.

“This was never truer than when he played a key role in developing and analyzing the administration's 2007 farm bill proposals. Perhaps of even greater importance, he always presented economic information from a non-biased point of view. This means that Keith has always told the straight story, even when it sometimes wasn't what you wanted to hear.”

Ron Litterer, president of the National Corn Growers Association, also praised Collins for his service to farmers.

“Keith Collins has been a trusted source for agricultural statistics, economic indicators and their impact on agriculture policy,” said Litterer. “Over the years, NCGA eagerly anticipated Collins's agricultural forecasts and projections. We appreciate his bipartisan spirit and ability to work well with Democratic and Republican administrations.”