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Kent Messer - University of Delaware. Newark, DE, US

Kent Messer

Professor, Applied Economics | University of Delaware


Prof. Messer specializes in topics in the nexus of agriculture and the environment and the economics of stigma.



Kent Messer Publication Kent Messer Publication



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Kent Messer, Mitchell Center Talk Series, 4/1/2019 UD research tuk tuk visits National Mall in DC Leaning green with safe drinking water




Dr. Kent Messer is the S. Hallock DuPont Professor of Applied Economics at the University of Delaware. Messer’s primary appointment is in the Department of Applied Economics & Statistics with secondary appointments in the School of Marine Science and Policy and the Department of Economics. Messer, who joined UD in 2007, is founding director of the Center for Experimental & Applied Economics and co-director of the Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research (CBEAR), a USDA Center of Excellence. Messer’s involvement with environmental issues dates back to the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil, where he was a youth delegate, activist and reporter. Messer received a BA in anthropology from Grinnell College in Iowa. In 1994, he became founding Executive Director of the Bluff Lake Nature Center in Denver, Colo. – an urban wildlife area at the former Stapleton International Airport that is now a wildlife refuge and education center for low-income school children. Messer received his MS in Resource Policy and Behavior at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and his PhD in Resource Economics from the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University. As a behavioral economist, Messer is engaged in cutting-edge research and outreach efforts related to the efficient provision of public goods with a focus on environmental conservation and the behavioral response to environmental-friendly products and stigma. Messer’s commitment has been a principal investigator of research proposals worth over $75 million from numerous sources including the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He had published over 110 articles in peer review publications, served as editor of the Agricultural and Resource Economics Review and associate editor of the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. He has written two textbooks on how to apply economics to better protect environmental areas. His book “The Science of Strategic Conservation: Protecting More with Less” (Cambridge University Press, 2018) challenges the conservation profession to enter the next generation of conservation by adopting planning tools that ensure that projects get their best-bang-for-their-buck. In 2023, he was the lead author on a commission report to the US National Academy of Sciences entitled, “Applications of Behavioral Economics to Climate Change.”

Industry Expertise (2)



Areas of Expertise (6)

Agri-Environmental Policy

Food Labeling


Water Recycling

Behavioral Economics

Experimental Economics

Media Appearances (3)

Expanding DENIN's reach

University of Delaware UDaily  online


The Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN) at the University of Delaware has worked for nearly 15 years to safeguard the environment by advancing interdisciplinary research, knowledge and solutions to environmental issues. DENIN also is a source for interdisciplinary environmental expertise and a training ground for future environmental leaders. Now, DENIN has selected three UD professors — Jon Cox, Nina David and Kent Messer — to augment this effort as 2023-25 Faculty Fellows.

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Climate-smart farming

University of Delaware UDaily  online


University of Delaware faculty member Kent Messer will investigate how to accelerate farmers’ adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Initiative, an effort that recently funded $2.8 billion in research projects nationwide.

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A new marketing push calls Inland Bays oysters a ‘Delaware delicacy’

Technically  online


The Cape Gazette reports that Ed Lewandowski, University of Delaware coastal communities development specialist, and Dr. Kent Messer, from the University of Delaware’s Center for Experimental & Applied Economics, put in months of market research for this and future Inland Bay marketing campaigns, thanks the USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant and a NOAA Sea Grant Aquaculture Grant.

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Articles (4)

Promoting Spatial Coordination in Flood Buyouts in the United States: Four Strategies and Four Challenges from the Economics of Land Preservation Literature

Natural Hazards Review

2023 Managed retreat in the form of voluntary flood-buyout programs provides homeowners with an alternative to repairing and rebuilding residences that have sustained severe flood damage. Buyout programs are most economically efficient when groups of neighboring properties are acquired because they can then create unfragmented flood control areas and reduce the cost of providing local services.

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Peer feedback can decrease consumers’ willingness to pay for food: Evidence from a field experiment


2022 The vast majority of consumer products fail to attract sufficient consumer demand. Word of mouth marketing and online feedback from other consumers have become focal marketing strategies for many products as social media has increased the size of networks and amplified the impact of messages from other consumers.

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Lottery Incentives and Resource Management: Evidence from the Agricultural Data Reporting Incentive Program (AgDRIP)

Environmental and Resource Economics

2022 To manage resources effectively in an agri-environmental context, policymakers need information about on-farm management practices and ecological conditions. This information is often accessible to agricultural producers but not to policymakers. However, little is known about how best to structure incentives for voluntary reporting. In other contexts, lotteries are often used to provide an incentive for voluntary data reporting.

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Implicit and Explicit Biases for Recycled Water and Tap Water

Water Resources Research

2022 Increasing use of recycled water to irrigate agricultural products and decreasing consumption of bottled water are important components of sustainable water management practices and consumer-driven efforts to improve water security and quality. However, consumers frequently discount agricultural products irrigated with recycled water relative to products irrigated with conventional water and place a premium on bottled water relative to tap water.

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Research Grants (4)

Beyond Adoption: Theory and Empirics to Predict and Understand the Sustained Use of Cover Crops by Agricultural Producers

USDA - National Institute for Food and Agriculture $650,000


Improving Conservation by Simplifying the Application Process: A Test of Enhanced Technical Assistance and Financial Assistance

Walton Family Foundation $600,000


Persistence of Field-scale Sustainable Agricultural Land Use Practices in Large-scale Landscape Evolution: A Data-driven Investigation

National Science Foundation – Human-Environment and Geographical Sciences program $385,248


RII Track-1: Water in the Changing Coastal Environment in Delaware (Project WiCCED)

National Science Foundation – funding support from EPSCoR Track-I $23,040,000

2018-2023 K.D. Messer (PI), H. Michael, D.L. Sparks, V. Kalavacharla, and M. D’Souza (co-PIs).

Accomplishments (4)

Benton Award (professional)

2022 College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Delaware

1st Place, Human Dimensions of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources (professional)

2020 College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Graduate Research Symposium, University of Delaware

Alumni Award (professional)

2019 Grinnell College

Distinguished Member Award (professional)

2016 Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association

Education (3)

Cornell University: PhD, Applied Economics 2003

University of Michigan: MS, Resource Policy & Behavior 1999

Grinnell College: BA, Anthropology 1994

Affiliations (9)

  • Rare : Advisory Board
  • Chesapeake Bay Trust : Advisory Board
  • Center for Teaching and Assessment of Learning : Faculty Advisory Board
  • Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association : Young Scholars Planning Committee
  • Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN) : Executive Committee
  • Association of Environmental and Resource Economists
  • Agricultural and Applied Economics Association
  • American Economic Association
  • Economic Science Association

Languages (1)

  • Spanish