The 7 a.m. Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute breakfast at Maggie’s Café on Oct. 16, 2013, was a gloomy one. With the recent government shutdown lasting more than 15 days, the meeting was focused on how the shutdown would affect agriculture. How were farmers to sell products with the shutdown? For Abner Womack, these topics are just part of normal daily discussions.
Womack, an MU professor emeritus, has had a long career in agriculture. He cofounded FAPRI, and served as co-director from 1984 until 2000 and again from 2002 to 2007. FAPRI is located in Columbia and provides economic outlook information that policy makers use to help make decisions.
Scott Brown, MU applied and agricultural economics professor, has come to know Womack well through the years.
“Abner is a very hard-working and educated man,” Brown said. “He’s always aware of what is going on in agriculture and wants to educate others so they know too.”
Born and raised in Alabama, Womack received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from Auburn University and a PhD. in agricultural economics from the University of Minnesota. He and his wife moved to Missouri when Womack joined the MU faculty in 1979. He previously worked at the USDA Economic Research Service as a marketing researcher. His duties included creating econometric models centered on the USDA farm analysis and food systems.
Because of Womack’s significant work at FAPRI, a fund was created in his name upon his retirement in September 2011. In addition to honoring his life’s work, the Abner Womack Fund for Excellence in Agricultural Policy will help to ensure continuity in FAPRI’s mission. There is a $1 million goal by the end of 2015, and,to date, funding is more than halfway completed.
“FAPRI needs as much financial support that it can get,” Womack said. “So every donation is important to us.”
Womack’s influence in agriculture has profoundly shaped the lives of others. His leadership has led others to pursue careers in agricultural economics and agricultural policy. Joe Tvrdy, MU agricultural economics alumnus and past intern for Womack, was inspired to pursue a career in Washington, D.C., He now works in Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler’s office as a legislative assistant.
“Abner has been a major driving force of FAPRI’s success,” current FAPRI Director Pat Westhoff, said. “I can’t recall of a time he had ever taken a real break from it.”
Even in retirement, Womack does not plan on slowing down when it comes to presentations and research. His influence on Missouri agriculture and national ag policy will continue to be felt for years to come.