Milestones in ERS History
In 2011, ERS celebrated its 50th Anniversary,
but the Agency traces its history back to 1905. During most - but
not all - of the intervening years, USDA's economic research
functions enjoyed agency status and were housed in a single
1905-USDA establishes the
Office of Farm Management, which is renamed the
Office of Farm Management and Farm Economics in
1919. Research areas are established for farm organization, cost of
production, farm labor, farm finance, land economics, agricultural
history, and rural life studies. President Roosevelt's Country Life
Commission recommended that USDA expand its agricultural economic
research on the problems of farm families.
1922-Government leaders conclude
that economic research and analysis could help farmers solve their
price and income problems, and they establish the Bureau of
Agricultural Economics (BAE) with Henry C.
Taylor as chief.
1923-The BAE holds the first
annual USDA Outlook Conference in an effort to make information on
market conditions more accessible to farmers. The conference
resulted in regular publication of market outlook reports that
continue to be valued by users of ERS research products today.
1930s-Congress passes legislation
for a variety of New Deal programs for agriculture. Acreage
allotments and quotas, price-support loans, Federal crop insurance
for farmers, and regional research laboratories were established.
The first programs for soil conservation and food assistance were
created, and programs to benefit rural communities were also
implemented. USDA assigns BAE the role of central planning agency
for department policy and the responsibility for analyzing policy
impacts during this period.
1953-USDA centralizes agricultural
policy planning in its administrative office and reassigns the
economic research and service functions of BAE to two new agencies,
the Agricultural Marketing Service and the Agricultural Research
1961-USDA creates the Economic
Research Service (ERS) to concentrate economic research within a
single agency. The following year, ERS expands its research focus
to include economic development, rural renewal, river basin and
watershed programs, and resource policy.
1977-ERS merged briefly with
USDA's statistical agency and was called the Economics, Statistics
and Cooperatives Service (ESCS), but was later returned to agency
status in 1981.
Present-For the last five decades, ERS has provided
expert economic analysis and economic data to farmers, consumers
and policymakers as new technology and changes in domestic policy
and the rules for trade continue to alter the global
Administrators of ERS, 1961 to the Present
||Nathan M. Koffsky
||Melvin L. Upchurch
||Quentin M. West
||Kenneth R. Farrell (ESCS Administrator)
||J.B. Penn (Associate Administrator for Economics)
||John E. Lee
For More Information on ERS and Public
- Baker, G. L. and W.D. Rasmussen. 1975. "Economic Research in
the Department of Agriculture: A Historical Perspective."
Agricultural Economics Research, Vol. 27, No. 3-4,
- Centennial Committee, U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1963.
Century of Service: the first 100 years of the United States
Department of Agriculture. Washington D.C.
- Economic Research Service. 1991. Economics and Public Service:
Proceedings of the 30th Anniversary ERS Conference. U.S. Department
of Agriculture, Washington D.C.
- National Research Council. 1999.Sowing Seeds of Change:
Informing Public Policy in the Economic Research Service of USDA.
J.F. Geweke, J.T. Bonnen, A.A. White and J. J. Koshel, Editors.
National Academy Press, Washington, DC.