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Creating Our National System of Animal Disease Control

April 16, 2015

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Alan L. Olmstead, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at UC Davis (on left) shared insights from his recent book on the science, policy and conflicts over controlling animal disease.

More than 70 faculty and students from the School of Veterinary Medicine and across the campus attended a recent seminar in Gladys Valley Hall given by Alan L. Olmstead, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at UC Davis. Professor Olmstead shared information and insights from his recent book with Paul W. Rhode, "Arresting Contagion: Science, Policy, and Conflicts over Animal Disease Control." In the book, the authors analyze how U.S. animal disease policies redefined the boundaries of American federalism and states’ rights, led to an unprecedented peacetime deployment of federal police power, and saved hundreds of thousands of lives in the three decades prior to WWII.

Professor Olmstead discussed the history and the impact of animal and zoonotic diseases on the economy and public health. The central focus of the book zeroes in on the development of livestock disease control and elimination strategies, the rise of our food safety infrastructure, and the ground-breaking political and organizational battles that turned ideas into actions and laws. The seminar presentation was followed by a question and answer session and informal dialogue with attendees. 

Professor Olmstead earned his M.S. degree in history (1966), M.A. degree in economics (1967), and his Ph.D. degree in economics (1970) from the University of Wisconsin. He joined the UC Davis faculty as an acting Assistant Professor in 1969 and has pursued a distinguished career at the university. His publications have explored the adaptability of agriculture to climatic challenges, slavery and southern development, and the causes and consequences of technological change in the North America and Western Europe. He has written or co-written eight books and more than 70 articles. He is an Editor-in-Chief of the 4,500 page Historical Statistics of the United States: Earliest Times to the Present, Millennial Edition. 

Professor Olmstead has held many administrative and advisory positions in academia, government and industry, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the National Bureau of Economic Research. He is a past president of the Economic History Association, president elect of the Agricultural History Society, and the recipient of numerous research awards.