The Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture

Matt Liebman is a professor of agronomy and the H.A. Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. He received an A.B. in biological sciences from Harvard in 1978 and a Ph.D. in botany from the University of California-Berkeley in 1986. Before joining the ISU faculty in 1998, Matt worked at the University of Maine for 11 years. He became a fellow of the American Society of Agronomy in 2009 and was a member of the National Academies committee that produced the 2015 report titled “A Framework for Assessing Effects of the Food System.” His research, teaching, and outreach activities focus on ways to improve environmental quality and agricultural productivity, while reducing dependence on agrichemicals and fossil fuels. Specific interests include diversified cropping systems, weed ecology and management, and the use of native prairie species for soil, water, and wildlife conservation and biofuel production. Matt is a member of the board of directors for Wheatsfield Cooperative Grocery in Ames, Iowa, which has 65 employees and more than 5,000 owner-members.

Publications: Here’s a list supplied by Google Scholar.

Contact: Please use e-mail (mliebman at iastate dot edu) or surface mail (Iowa State University, 1401 Agronomy Hall, Ames, IA, 50011-1010, USA).


Liebman and image of Henry Wallace


Henry A. Wallace

The Wallace Chair is named for Henry A. Wallace, whose work as a scientist and public servant dramatically changed agriculture and the lives of farmers. Wallace was born in 1888 near Orient, Iowa, and graduated in 1910 from the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (now Iowa State University). In 1926, he formed the Hi-Bred Corn Company, later to become Pioneer Hi-Bred, a leading producer of hybrid seed. His work in developing and commercializing high-yielding, stress-resistant corn hybrids led to large increases in production throughout the U.S., Canada, and elsewhere.


Wallace was recruited by President Franklin Roosevelt to join his administration as Secretary of Agriculture in 1933 and continued to serve in that role through 1940. As Secretary of Agriculture, Wallace implemented measures to improve economic opportunities for farmers, and led programs for soil conservation, erosion control, and land-use planning. He went on to serve as Vice-President in the Roosevelt administration during 1941-1945 and as Secretary of Commerce in the Truman administration during 1945-1946. Orville Freeman, Secretary of Agriculture in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, wrote of Wallace, "He was one of the giants of our times. He never feared controversy, for his constant purpose was to do things which make life worthwhile. As a public servant, he will be remembered as the father of modern agricultural policy." Those interested in learning more about Wallace are encouraged to read the biography written by John C. Culver and John Hyde, American Dreamer: A Life of Henry A. Wallace (W. W. Norton & Company, 2000).

History and Mission of the Wallace Chair

Henry A. Wallace was an ardent conservationist, a fervent supporter of rural communities, and a progressive leader in the fight to alleviate global hunger and poverty. The Henry A. Wallace Endowed Chair for Sustainable Agriculture was established in 1997 to ensure that Wallace’s ideas would be shared with future generations. Gifts from the Wallace Genetic Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation provided the financial base for establishment of the chair. In 2000, Dr. Lorna Michael Butler was named the first holder of the chair. Upon her retirement from Iowa State University in 2007, Matt Liebman became the second holder of the Wallace Chair.

As specified by the memorandum of understanding establishing the Wallace Chair position, holders of the chair are expected to:

  • Provide leadership for the development and implementation of major educational and research programs on the sustainability of current and future agricultural practices;
  • Explore new structures and relationships among the environmental community, consumers, agricultural producers, universities, and industry and governmental bodies;
  • Enhance Iowa State University's ability to influence, support, and lead toward timely and appropriate changes for rural society, and better position the university to serve tomorrow's agriculture; and
  • Develop educational materials and programs and report research findings to the scientific community, the citizens of Iowa, and the nation.