Austin is a 7th generation Iowan. His mother Kathy managed a beauty salon before opening her own bakery. His father Scott delivered and merchandised beer for a local, family-owned beer distributor. Austin’s passion for agriculture comes from spending weekends working with his Grandpa Frerick.
Austin has held a job since the age of 12, when he started working at the Cedar Rapids Gazette as a paperboy. He attended Grinnell College on merit scholarships and Pell Grants. While in college, Austin wrote two theses on corporate power in Iowa’s slaughterhouse communities. After being the first in his family to graduate from college, Austin attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for graduate school on a full academic scholarship.
Once he completed his education, Austin took a job at the Congressional Research Service in the Library of Congress, where he provided non-partisan policy analysis to members of Congress and their staff, with a focus on income support programs. He then worked as an Economist at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Tax Analysis. While working next door to the White House, Austin published research on executive compensation, pharmaceutical corporate charity abuses, and the growth of concentration in the American economy.
Austin continued to highlight the growing economic concentration in the American economy after his time at Treasury. He worked as the Director of Special Projects at the Open Markets Institute, where he authored a report on “America's Concentration Crisis,” which was discussed extensively by David Leonhardt in a New York Times column -and cited by Vox and The Intercept and tweeted out by Sen. Sanders and David Axelrod. During this period, he wrote an article in The American Conservative that was later republished in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Civil Eats, and The Progressive Populist that argues for restoring the balance of power in the American food system in favor of farmers, workers, small businesses, and communities.
He recently organized a conference entitled “Big Ag & Antitrust: Competition Policy for a Sustainable and Humane Food System” at Yale Law School, which featured 18 papers and a keynote address from New York Times best-selling author Christopher Leonard. Recent publications include an article in Vox profiling one of the country’s most powerful hog barons and an article in The American Conservative arguing that the country’s food and agriculture policy has caused the offshoring of the American food system.
He also created & organized the "Heartland Forum" in Storm Lake, Iowa, the first candidate forum during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary process, which focused on the impacts of economic concentration in rural America. The forum was attended by Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Secretary Julian Castro, and other candidates. He also advised the Warren and Buttigieg campaigns on agricultural policy and subsequently served as Co-Chair of the Biden campaign’s Agriculture Antitrust Policy Committee.
For speaking inquiries, please reach out to FrerickforIowa@gmail.com. Recent engagements include: Craigardan, Drake University, Illinois Farmers Union, Iowa Farmers Union, Kansas Farmers Union, MOSES (Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service), Warren Cultural Center, Wisconsin Farmers Union, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Yale School of the Environment and Yale Law School.