Coppess honored as Gardner Endowed Professor in Agricultural Policy

Gardner investiture event
(L to R): ACE Department Head Sarah Low, Kathy Gardner Thomforde, Jonathan Coppess, and ACES Dean Germán Bollero. Photo: Fred Zwicky.

URBANA, Ill.The Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics (ACE) honored Jonathan Coppess as the Leonard and Lila Gardner Illinois Farm Bureau Family of Companies Endowed Associate Professor in Agricultural Policy during an investiture ceremony at the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, on Sept. 14.

Coppess’ extensive experience in federal policymaking guides his research, public engagement, and teaching in agricultural policy and law. He leads the policy efforts for the farmdoc project, including weekly articles on policy for farmdoc daily. He also led development of the Gardner Agriculture Policy Program and the Gardner Policy Series, as well as web-based analytical tools for farm income and payment calculations. In 2018, he published The Fault Lines of Farm Policy: A Legislative and Political History of the Farm Bill.

In late 2020 and early 2021, Coppess was a volunteer for the Biden-Harris Presidential Transition. Throughout much of 2021, and while on a partial leave of absence, he served as a special counsel to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. For his efforts, he was awarded one of the 2022 Campus Awards for Excellence in Public Engagement.

Coppess graduated with a degree in business from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and earned a Juris Doctor from the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the U. of I. faculty, he served as the Chief Counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

“Jonathan has built a nationally recognized public engagement and research program for federal agricultural policy, and he is a sought-after speaker and panelist. We are grateful to the Gardner Family and the Illinois Farm Bureau Family of Companies for their important endowment of this work,” said ACE Department Head Sarah Low.

Len Gardner was raised on the family farm near Heyworth, Illinois and his wife Lila was raised in Bethany, Illinois. They both graduated from the University of Illinois in 1954 and married that August. Upon graduation, Lila taught elementary students and Len initially pursued a doctorate but left to raise his family and begin his career with Illinois Farm Bureau in 1956. Len had a passion for farming, but serious allergies prevented him from returning to it.

Over the years, Len helped with policy development on behalf of Illinois farmers and was an influential voice in Illinois agriculture who was also well-known on Capitol Hill. Len dedicated himself to making certain that Illinois farmers understood the policies coming out of Washington, D.C. and how they were developed. He traveled all over Illinois attending county Farm Bureau meetings, having a knack for presenting complex policy and political matters to farmers.

“I am incredibly honored to receive this recognition and to carry on the legacy and work of Len Gardner. I appreciate it greatly and  will consider it to be more of a challenge and motivation for continued work than as an accomplishment. I look forward to what we can do and how we can work to improve policies that support farmers and help them better compete and overcome some of the challenges and risks they face,” Coppess said.

To learn more about Coppess and the Gardner Agriculture Policy Program, visit the farmdoc website. For information about supporting the College of ACES, please contact ACES Advancement.


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