Kentucky Ag News


UKAg names two department chairs


McCulley, Barnett will take office Jan. 1


University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment


LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture has filled two key positions with the appointments of Rebecca McCulley as chair of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and Barry Barnett as chair of the Department of Agricultural Economics.

McCulley and Barnett will assume their new positions Jan. 1.

As director of UK’s Tracy Farmer Institute for Sustainability and the Environment, McCulley has led campus-wide efforts to advance sustainability and environmental-related education, outreach and research since 2013. Under her guidance, the center helped initiate the Sustainability Challenge Grant Program. The program encourages UK faculty, staff and students to develop creative solutions to sustainability challenges on UK’s campus and beyond. As director, McCulley led the formation of five environment and sustainability focused working groups, helped establish a rain garden and provided students with meaningful educational opportunities through sustainability focused internships.

Since coming to UK in 2006, McCulley has led a research program focused on grassland agroecology in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Her research specifically explores the relationship between grasses and their fungal endophytes. She also studies how grasslands respond to global change factors.


“We are pleased to have Dr. McCulley at the helm of this distinguished department,” said Nancy Cox, dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “Her vision for continuing the tradition of excellence and inclusiveness is compelling, and we look forward to success.”

Originally from Houston, McCulley received her bachelor’s degree from Rice University, her master’s from Texas A&M University and her doctorate from Colorado State University.

“I appreciate the support of my colleagues, and look forward to interacting with faculty, staff and students in Plant and Soil Sciences, CAFE administration, and the larger CAFE community in this new role,” she said.

Barnett, a Woodford County native, has earned three degrees from UK, including his doctorate in agricultural economics.

"I look forward to working with the outstanding faculty and staff in the department to educate our students and to develop knowledge-based solutions for the important challenges facing the Commonwealth, the nation and the world," he said.

As chair, Barnett will be the department’s administrative and fiscal affairs officer, program leader and chief academic officer. The department is home to numerous faculty and staff as well as the Kentucky Farm Business Management staff in six locations statewide. It is also the home of the Kentucky Small Business Development Center, with 13 locations statewide and the Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky.

“We are honored that Dr. Barnett will be taking the helm of this department,” said Nancy Cox, dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “His background and experiences have prepared him for this role in a department that is fundamental to the agricultural economy of Kentucky and beyond.”

Barnett, who has more than 21 years of faculty experience, is currently a professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Mississippi State University and a visiting scholar at Humboldt University in Berlin. He also served as the graduate coordinator at Mississippi State from 2010 to 2016. He held a similar role in 2007 at the University of Georgia, where he served as an associate professor from 2001 to 2007.

His chief research interests are agricultural risk, insurance and public policy. He has written extensively on the federal crop insurance program and frequently conducted research on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency. Some of Barnett’s recent work has been on the challenges of offering crop insurance in low-income countries. Recently, he received a prestigious Humboldt Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in recognition of his research achievements.

Barnett was a major contributor to the development of an international programs office at Mississippi State, serving as the chief author of a white paper commissioned by the administration on strategies for creating the office.