Robert L. Thompson, Ph.D.

Visiting Scholar and Professorial Lecturer in the Energy, Resources and Environment and International Development Programs
Energy, Resources and Environment
International Development

Bernstein-Offit 744

Agricultural Policy, Trade and Commodities
Agricultural Development
Developing Nations
Foreign Aid and Global Poverty
Food Security
Rural Development
Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award

Background and Education

Dr. ROBERT L. THOMPSON is a Visiting Scholar at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC. He is Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he held the Gardner Endowed Chair in Agricultural Policy from 2004 to 2010. He is also Senior Fellow, global agricultural development and food security, with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. From mid-1998 until late 2002 Thompson was at the World Bank where he served as its Director of Rural Development, with administrative responsibility for the Bank’s worldwide agriculture, forestry and rural development programs. While at the World Bank, much of his effort was concerned with getting agriculture and rural development back onto the World Bank’s agenda. From mid-1993 to mid-1998, Thompson served as President and CEO of Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development, a not-for profit institution which implements projects in 40 countries worldwide to reduce poverty and hunger by increasing agricultural productivity and rural employment while protecting the quality of the environment. From 1987 to 1993, Thompson was Dean of Agriculture at Purdue University, where he oversaw agricultural instruction, extension, research, international programs, and regulatory affairs for the State of Indiana. In addition, he was a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University from 1974 to 1993, focusing on agricultural trade policy, U.S. agricultural policy, and world agricultural development. Thompson was Assistant Secretary for Economics at the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1985 to 1987 and Senior Staff Economist for Food and Agriculture on the President's Council of Economic Advisers from 1983 to 1985. In these capacities, he played an instrumental role in writing the 1985 farm bill and preparing for the Uruguay Round of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade) negotiations. Active in all facets of agriculture, Thompson is a past president of the International Association of Agricultural Economists and a former board member of the National Cooperative Bank; PSI Resources, and its wholly owned subsidiary, PSI Energy; the Vigoro Corporation; Terra Industries, Inc., Rabobank’s North American Agribusiness Advisory Board, and the International Agribusiness Management Association. He currently serves on the Nestle corporate Creating Shared Value Advisory Board, and on the boards of directors of Land O’Lakes and the International Food Information Council Foundation. He also serves on the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council and was formerly a member of the USDA-USTR Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee for Trade. Thompson holds honorary doctorates from the Pennsylvania State University and Dalhousie University (Canada). He is a fellow of the American Agricultural Economics Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry and of the Ukrainian Academy of Agricultural Sciences. The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave him its Superior Service Award in 1989 and its Justin Smith Morrill award in 1995, for "demonstrated leadership and significant contributions to food and agricultural science." In 1999, the American College of Nutrition presented him with its Humanitarian of the Year award, in 2010 the University of Illinois honored him with its Faculty Award for Global Impact, and in 2011 the American Farm Bureau Federation presented him with its highest honor, the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award. Thompson has extensive international experience and has completed long-term assignments in Denmark, Laos, and Brazil. He has lectured, consulted, or conducted research in more than 90 countries worldwide. He is author of over 120 research and popular publications. He has been frequently interviewed by the media on current agricultural policy issues, including the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Time and Newsweek magazines, CNBC, the Today Show, and National Public Radio's “All Things Considered” and “The World.” Thompson is a Bachelor of Science graduate of Cornell University and received its outstanding alumni award in 1988. Thompson earned both his Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees from Purdue University, which honored him with its Alumni Certificate of Distinction in 2009. He was raised on a dairy farm near Ogdensburg, New York. He is married to the former Karen Hansen of the Danish island of Bornholm.

Download Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

  1. Spring 2015

    Comparative Agricultural Policy

    This course will compare and contrast various forms of public...

  2. Spring 2015

    Agriculture—Global Issues

    The course will examine important issues related to global agriculture,...