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CARD: Center for Agricultural and Rural Development

Spring 2002, Vol. 8 No. 2

pdf for printing Meet the Staff: Phil Gassman

Picture of Phil Gassman
Phil Gassman has the distinction of being one of the few scientists who comes to CARD from outside the economics discipline. Phil is a research agricultural engineer. He received his B.A. and M.S. degrees in agricultural engineering from Iowa State University, and joined CARD's Resource and Environmental Policy (REP) Division in 1987.
Phil's research efforts support the integration of environmental and economics models that are used to assess policy scenario impacts for watersheds and other regions. "My role within REP is to apply, or help others to apply, agricultural environmental models to a wide range of climatic, management, soil, livestock, and cropping system combinations," says Phil.
The modeling results have been in demand by such agencies as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who make use of the input and data to evaluate agricultural policy. In his fourteen years with CARD, Phil's research has touched upon many of the most cantankerous issues in agriculture, including the risks and benefits of herbicide use, soil erosion and soil nitrogen loss studies, atrazine leaching in the Midwest, the impacts of alternative practices of livestock operations, and the nature of hog confinement odor.
The studies often involve assessment of water quality, an issue that looms large for decisionmakers trying to strike a balance between the demands of agricultural productivity and the integrity of the surrounding environment. Phil is currently collaborating with ISU Extension and the Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research (TIAER) on a modeling study for a watershed in the Maquoketa River Basin in eastern Iowa. He is also working with several REP researchers and others at ISU on a watershed study of the entire Upper Mississippi River Basin. These studies will assess both the environmental and the economic impacts of different management practices on the watersheds.
Phil and colleagues from TIAER are reporting the environmental and economic impacts of three other watershed studies (two in Texas and one in Iowa) in a forthcoming article in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association. "Most of the scenarios studied showed some environmental benefit [of altered management practices]," says Phil, "but often at an economic cost to producers."
"I find doing research on agricultural systems quite interesting and challenging," says Phil. "I really enjoy the interdisciplinary nature of the projects I am involved in, which include both CARD economists and other on- and off-campus researchers." He says the variety of physical conditions and different crop, livestock, and management-system combinations also keep the work interesting.
Phil grew up in Waterloo, where his father worked for the John Deere company. He met his wife Brigitte while attending the same church service in Ames. She is originally from D�sseldorf, Germany. The couple has four children: three boys and a girl. "The boys all have German names," says Phil. "which tend to be very challenging for the typical American adult to pronounce, but the kids almost always get them right!" Phil conducts a monthly geography club for interested home schooled students and helps organize annual geographic and spelling bees for the Ames Home Based Education Program. Phil's avocation as a geography instructor will come as no surprise to co-workers who are used to seeing Phil's colorful, detailed maps of monitoring sites.