As part of the Minnesota Campaign in the 1980s, donations from the Cargill Foundation, Archer Daniels Midland Company, and John Cowles, Sr. helped create a unique opportunity for the Department of Applied Economics, formerly the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. Instead of establishing one endowed faculty position, the department envisioned an initiative that would involve and benefit faculty and students from a variety of disciplines. As a result, the Center for International Food and Agricultural Policy was born in 1988.
Since its inception, CIFAP has had numerous directors, beginning with C. Ford Runge (first and fifth director), Benjamin H. Senauer, Harald von Witzke, K. William Easter, Paul Glewwe, Terry Roe and Marc Bellemare (current director).
CIFAP's endowment has grown over time and now stands at about $3.2 million. The income from this endowment allows CIFAP to support many student and faculty activities, travel, research, conferences and meetings.
The mission of CIFAP is to address international policy issues of high current relevance in the economics of agriculture, food, the environment and economic development. The role of the Center is to identify relevant policy issues and organize activities that address these issues. CIFAP provides research and policy education through publications, conferences, and workshops resulting from exchange agreements, faculty and graduate student travel grants, graduate student fellowships, externally funded projects, and other related activities.