Mark Waller, Ph.D., will retire Aug.. 31 after a 34-year-long career as an agricultural economist with Texas A&M AgriLife.  

A man in a suit and tie, Mark Waller, Ph.D.
Mark Waller, Ph.D., will retire Aug. 31 after more than 34 years in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Sam Craft)

Waller earned a bachelor’s degree with a double major in plant and soil sciences and agricultural education from Southern Illinois University, where he also earned his master’s degree in agribusiness economics. He earned his doctoral degree in agricultural economics from the University of Illinois.

Waller began his academic career in 1988 as a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service grain marketing specialist in the Department of Agricultural Economics. After that, he served as professor, associate department head and AgriLife Extension program leader in the department. As associate department head-AgriLife Extension from 2005 to the present, Waller supervised between 20 and 30 specialists and program specialists and faculty members. From May 2018 through July 2021, Waller served as acting department head, providing leadership and management to advance the operations and efficacy of the department.

Waller’s research and contributions

Waller’s applied research and support are in price analysis and risk management as well as market analysis for producers, handlers, processors and other users of wheat, corn, grain sorghum, rice, soybeans and their products.

While a grain marketing specialist, Waller served as co-director of the Master Marketer program and co-leader of the Texas Risk Management Education Program. 

“Dr. Waller led our agricultural economics AgriLife Extension unit for two decades as associate department head, maintaining budgets, solving numerous personnel issues and keeping track of programming efforts of more than 20 specialists and staff across Texas,” said Parr Rosson, Ph.D., professor and former head of the Department of Agricultural Economics. “Before that, as a grain specialist, he served commodity associations and farm organizations, developing a national reputation as one of the most solid marketing specialists in the country.”

Rosson noted Waller is the consummate professional, “exhibiting loyalty, diligence and perseverance in all of his efforts.”

Waller helped develop and implement the Master Marketer Program, a nationally recognized program for aspiring commodity marketers that has served Texas and the nation.

“Perhaps Dr. Waller’s greatest professional achievement was his significant contribution to the Master Marketer program,” said Dr. Rodolfo Nayga, head of the Department of Agricultural Economics.

More than 1,600 producers and agribusiness managers have graduated from 32 Master Marketer trainings in Texas over the past 25 years, and the program has been adopted in several other states.

“It has been rewarding to work with producers who are truly interested in learning and using that knowledge to improve their management skills and economic situation,” Waller said. “There are few things more exciting than feeling that you have contributed to someone else’s success.”

Some of Waller’s additional contributions include:

Aflatoxin Risk Management This project involves working with fellow extension and research faculty to provide cutting-edge producer risk management information regarding the economics of using biological materials to mitigate aflatoxin losses to producers and downstream agribusiness interests such as grain elevators.

AgriLife Extension Evaluation EffortsWaller was involved in analyzing and promoting the benefits of improving program offerings and generating meaningful publications for scientific outlets, and AgriLife Extension audiences. He helped quantify and show the positive economic results of these programs to develop continuing financial support from funding entities, including commodity organizations and the state legislature.

Texas Risk Assessed Management/Marketing: Waller and other AgriLife Extension economists developed a new risk management workshop that combined budgeting, production, price and risk management and developing a marketing plan into a one- or two-day integrated workshop.

Texas Risk Management Education Program: Drs. Waller and Joe Outlaw were co-leaders of a team involved in developing a comprehensive program including curriculum development, program delivery, and decision support systems to broaden the educational background of producers regarding the sources and tools available to manage risk. 

International efforts

During the 1990s, Waller was involved in projects that brought faculty and government staff from the former USSR to the U.S. to learn about the U.S. agriculture system. He also helped arrange two trips to Chicago to visit the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Chicago Board of Trade and Federal Reserve Bank.

In 2003, and 2004, Waller helped lead two tours of producers and other agribusiness professionals to Brazil and Argentina to study agricultural production, marketing and risk management methods and to evaluate the current and potential competition that Brazilian agriculture would pose over the next decade.

In 2016, Waller traveled to Tarim University in the Xinjiang province of western China with coworkers from AgriLife Extension as part of a multi-year cooperative effort related to agricultural production. This experience allowed AgriLife Extension faculty to learn more about cotton and other agricultural production in western China while helping Tarim University faculty and administration to better understand how AgriLife Extension operates in Texas.

Publications and affiliations

During his career, Waller has produced over 600 publications and made over 1,100 presentations. He has participated in 98 grants generating more than $6.6. million in funding. He is a member of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, Southern Agricultural Economics Association and Texas Extension Specialists Association.

“We truly do get to contribute to the growth and improvement of the lives of our students and AgriLife Extension clientele,” Waller said. “In my admittedly biased opinion, the people in this AgriLife Extension Unit and Department are among the best in the country, and I have been lucky and privileged to get to work with them.”

What’s next?

Waller said he and his wife, Kathy, plan to spend more time visiting their children, grandchildren and other relatives in various parts of the country.

“We also want to do some traveling, work on home-renovation projects, stay involved with the family farm in Illinois and re-engage with several hobbies that we haven’t spent much time on in recent years,” he said.

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