Jonathan Coppess

Jonathan Coppess

Primary Affiliation: Equity, Justice, and Human Flourishing Working Group

Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics | University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Skill Highlights

Agricultural Economics

Consumer Economics

Agricultural and Natural Resource Policy Analysis

Navigating  U.S. Congressional and State Legislative Process

Featured Work


2021 - March 2022: Part-time special counsel for U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, assisting with reconciliation legislation
2020 - January 2021: Volunteer for the Biden-Harris Presidential Transition, USDA Agency Review Team
Release of the Cover Crop Analyzer, a web-based decision support tool for a critical practice that reduces soil erosion and nutrient losses, as well as captures green house gasses
Release of the Gardner-farmdoc Payment Calculator; a web-based decision support tool to help farmers with federal farm program decisions
Publication of Prof. Coppess' first book, The Fault Lines of Farm Policy: A Legislative and Political History of the Farm Bill (University of Nebraska Press)
Prof. Coppess led a coalition for farmer education. He was awarded $1.65 million to assist with decisions from the Agricultural Act of 2014. He developed a Farm Bill Toolbox web-based decision support effort including online calculators and educational materials
Joined the faculty of the Agricultural & Consumer Economics Department, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign



Jonathan Coppess is the Director of the Gardner Agriculture Policy Program and Assistant Professor of Law and Policy in the Department of Agricultural & Consumer Economics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Prior to joining the University of Illinois, Jonathan served as Chief Counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Administrator of the Farm Service Agency at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and as a Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Ben Nelson.  Recently, Jonathan has volunteered with the Biden-Harris Presidential Transition, Agency Review Team for USDA and as a part-time special counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.  Prior to serving in Washington, DC, Jonathan practiced law in Chicago.  He grew up on his family’s farm in western Ohio.

Miami University, Oxford, OH; B.S. in Business Marketing, 1996. 

The George Washington University Law School, Washington D.C.; J.D., 2001.


2008 Farm Bill

Assisted U.S. Senator Ben Nelson on development of the 2008 farm bill, with focus on policies for a revenue-based commodity support program, crop insurance, ground and surface water conservation, rural microentrepreneur assistance, agricultural research, and assistance to farmers for the production of biomass crops for use in biofuels and renewable energy; conducted policy-based research; drafted policy memoranda, speeches, and discussion points; staffed Senator in meetings and conducted meetings with constituents, other Members of Congress and at Committee hearings, meetings, and the mark up of the legislation

Legislative Assistant

Lead policy advisor to Senator Ben Nelson on various issues and legislation including annual agricultural appropriations bills with significant work on behalf of major land grant university, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 with specific work on the Renewable Fuels Standard and related policy matters, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, comprehensive immigration reform legislation and matters of agricultural trade, including meetings with foreign ambassadors regarding difficult trade matters such as the closing of foreign markets due to sanitary and phyto-sanitary issues

Agricultural Appropriations

Supervised implementation of complex agricultural support programs created by the 2008 farm bill, such as supplemental disaster assistance, revenue-based commodity assistance, and innovative biomass crop production assistance; oversaw drafting of regulations and navigated them through the federal regulatory process; led effort to modernize and upgrade outdated information technology infrastructure in a challenging budgetary environment

300+ Articles

Director of Gardner Agriculture Policy Program; published 300+ articles on farmdoc daily; provided web-based decision support for cover crops, crop insurance, and farm programs

U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry

Responsible for development of comprehensive agricultural policy focused on substantial reforms that achieved reductions in federal spending; participated in extensive staff and Member-level negotiations; consulted with the United States Department of Agriculture, including the Office of General Counsel; involved in extensive consultations and negotiations with various interest groups, non-governmental organizations, lobbyists, and companies; drafted omnibus authorizing legislation and accompanying Committee Report consisting of detailed justification for the legislation, section-by-section analysis and implementing instructions.

Recent Publications

Up Next


2020 - John Clyde and Henrietta Downey Spitler Teaching Award, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
2016 - Distinguished Group Extension Program Award, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association
2014 - Distinguished Group Extension Program Award, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association
2022 - University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Campus Awards for Excellence in Public Engagement - Emerging Award