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Agricultural economics


Agricultural economics

Agricultural economics originally applied the principles of economics to the production of crops and livestock — a discipline known as agronomics. Agronomics was a branch of economics that specifically dealt with land usage. It focused on maximizing the crop yield while maintaining a good soil ecosystem. Throughout the 20th century the discipline expanded and the current scope of the discipline is much broader. Agricultural economics today includes a variety of applied areas, having considerable overlap with conventional economics.[1][2][3][4] Agricultural economists have made substantial contributions to research in economics, econometrics, development economics, and environmental economics. Agricultural economics influences food policy, agricultural policy, and environmental policy.


  • Origins 1
  • Development 2
  • Major topics in agricultural economics 3
    • Agricultural environment and natural resources 3.1
    • Food and consumer economics 3.2
    • Production economics and farm management 3.3
  • Professional associations 4
  • Careers in agricultural economics 5
  • Literature 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Economics is the study of resource allocation under scarcity. Agronomics, or the application of economic methods to optimizing the decisions made by agricultural producers, grew to prominence around the turn of the 20th century. The field of agricultural economics can be traced out to works on land economics. Henry Charles Taylor was the greatest contributor with the establishment of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Wisconsin in 1909. [5]

Another contributor, 1979 Nobel Economics Prize winner Theodore Schultz was among the first to examine development economics as a problem related directly to agriculture.[6] Schultz was also instrumental in establishing econometrics as a tool for use in analyzing agricultural economics empirically; he noted in his landmark 1956 article that agricultural supply analysis is rooted in "shifting sand," implying that it was and is simply not being done correctly.[7]


One scholar summarizes the development of agricultural economics as follows:

"Agricultural economics arose in the late 19th century, combined the [8]

Agricultural economists have made many well-known contributions to the economics field with such models as the cobweb model,[9] hedonic regression pricing models,[10] new technology and diffusion models (Zvi Griliches),[11] multifactor productivity and efficiency theory and measurement,[12][13] and the random coefficients regression.[14] The farm sector is frequently cited as a prime example of the perfect competition economic paradigm.

In Asia, agricultural economics was offered first by the University of the Philippines Los Baños Department of Agricultural Economics in 1919. Today, the field of agricultural economics has transformed into a more integrative discipline which covers farm management and production economics, rural finance and institutions, agricultural marketing and prices, agricultural policy and development, food and nutrition economics, and environmental and natural resource economics.

Since the 1970s, agricultural economics has primarily focused on seven main topics, according to a scholar in the field: agricultural environment and resources; risk and uncertainty; food and consumer economics; prices and incomes; market structures; trade and development; and technical change and human capital.[15]

Major topics in agricultural economics

Agricultural environment and natural resources

In the field of environmental economics, agricultural economists have contributed in three main areas: designing incentives to control environmental externalities (such as water pollution due to agricultural production), estimating the value of non-market benefits from natural resources and environmental amenities (such as an appealing rural landscape), and the complex interrelationship between economic activities and environmental consequences.[16] With regard to natural resources, agricultural economists have developed quantitative tools for improving land management, preventing erosion, managing pests, protecting biodeversity, and preventing livestock diseases.[17]

Food and consumer economics

While at one time, the field of agricultural economics was focused primarily on farm-level issues, in recent years agricultural economists have studied diverse topics related to the economics of food consumption. In addition to economists' long-standing emphasis on the effects of prices and incomes, researchers in this field have studied how information and quality attributes influence consumer behavior. Agricultural economists have contributed to understanding how households make choices between purchasing food or preparing it at home, how food prices are determined, definitions of poverty thresholds, how consumers respond to price and income changes in a consistent way, and survey and experimental tools for understanding consumer preferences.[18]

Production economics and farm management

Agricultural economics research has addressed diminishing returns in agricultural production, as well as farmers' costs and supply responses. Much research has applied economic theory to farm-level decisions. Studies of risk and decision-making under uncertainty have real-world applications to crop insurance policies and to understanding how farmers in developing countries make choices about technology adoption. These topics are important for understanding prospects for producing sufficient food for a growing world population, subject to new resource and environmental challenges such as water scarcity and global climate change.[19]

Professional associations

The International Association of Agricultural Economists (IAAE) is a worldwide professional association, which holds its major conference once every three years. The association publishes the journal Agricultural Economics. There also is a European Association of Agricultural Economists (EAAE) and an Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society. Substantial work in agricultural economics internationally is conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute.

In the United States, the primary professional association is the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA), which holds its own annual conference and also co-sponsors the annual meetings of the Allied Social Sciences Association (ASSA). The AAEA publishes the American Journal of Agricultural Economics and Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy.

Careers in agricultural economics

Graduates from agricultural and applied economics departments find jobs in many sectors of the economy: agricultural management, agribusiness, commodities markets, education, the financial sector, government, natural resource and environmental management, real estate, and public relations. Careers in agricultural economics require at least a bachelor's degree, and research careers in the field require graduate-level training.[20] A 2011 study by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce rated agricultural economics tied for 8th out of 171 fields in terms of employability.[21][22]


Evenson, Robert E. and Prabhu Pingali (eds.) (2007). Handbook of Agricultural Economics. Amsterdam, NL: Elsevier.

See also


  1. ^ Karl A. Fox (1987). "agricultural economics," The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, v. 1, pp. 55–62.
  2. ^ B.L. Gardner (2001), "Agriculture, Economics of," International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, v. 1, pp. 337-344. Abstract & outline.
  3. ^ C. Ford Runge (2008). "agricultural economics," The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Ed., Abstract.
  4. ^ Daniel A. Sumner, Julian M. Alson, and Joseph W. Glauber (2010). "Evolution of the Economics of Agricultural Policy," American_Journal_of_Agricultural_Economics, v. 92, pp. 403-423.
  5. ^ Shaars, Marvin A. (1972). "The Story of The Department of Agricultural Economics: 1909-1972" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  6. ^ Schultz, Theodore (1968). Economic Growth and Agriculture. New York: MacGraw-Hill. 
  7. ^ Schultz, Theodore W. (1956). "Reflections on Agricultural Production, Output and Supply". Journal of Farm Economics 38 (3): 748–762.  
  8. ^ Ford Runge, "Agricultural Economics: A Brief Intellectual History," page 1 (abstract), University of Minnesota Working Paper WP06-1, June 2006,
  9. ^ Ezekial, M. (1938). "The Cobweb Theorem". Quarterly Journal of Economics 52 (2): 255–80.  
  10. ^ Waugh, F. (1928). "Quality Factors Influencing Vegetable Prices". Journal of Farm Economics 10 (2): 185–196.  
  11. ^  
  12. ^ Farrell, M.J., "The Measurement of Productive Efficiency," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, General 125 Part 2(1957): 252-267. Farrell's frequently cited application involved an empirical application of state level agricultural data
  13. ^ Vernon Wesley Ruttan, "Technological Progress in the Meatpacking Industry, 1919-47," USDA Marketing Research Report No. 59, 1954.
  14. ^ Hildreth, H.; Houck, J. (1968). "Some Estimators for a Linear Model with Random Coefficients". Journal of the American Statistical Association 63 (322): 584–595.  
  15. ^ Ford Runge, "Agricultural Economics: A Brief Intellectual History," pp. 15-16, University of Minnesota Working Paper WP06-1, June 2006,
  16. ^ Catherine L. Kling, Kathleen Segerson and Jason F. Shogren (2010). "Environmental Economics: How Agricultural Economists Helped Advance the Field" American_Journal_of_Agricultural_Economics, v. 92, pp. 487-505.
  17. ^ Erik Lichtenberg, James Shortle, James Wilen and David Zilberman (2010). "Natural Resource Economics and Conservation: Contributions of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Economists" American_Journal_of_Agricultural_Economics, v. 92, pp. 469-486.
  18. ^ Laurian Unnevehr, James Eales, Helen Jensen, Jayson Lusk, Jill McCluskey and Jean Kinsey (2010). "Food and Consumer Economics" American_Journal_of_Agricultural_Economics, v. 92, pp. 506-521.
  19. ^ Jean-Paul Chavas, Robert G. Chambers and Rulon D. Pope (2010). "Production Economics and Farm Management" American_Journal_of_Agricultural_Economics, v. 92, pp. 356-375.
  20. ^ Education Portal (2014). "Careers in Agricultural Economics: Job Options and Requirements". Retrieved 2014-10-11. 
  21. ^ Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, the Ohio State University (2014). "What's the Value of an Agricultural Economics Degree?". Retrieved 2014-10-11. 
  22. ^ Anthony P. Carnevale, Jeff Strohl, and Michelle Melton (2011). "What's It Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors". Retrieved 2014-10-11. 

External links

  • Independent research institutions
    • Center for Agricultural and Food Industrial Organization
    • Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD)
    • Cornell Food and Brand Lab [1]
    • Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI)
    • International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
  • Academic and professional associations
    • Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Association
    • Agricultural & Applied Economics Association
    • Canadian Agricultural Economics Society
    • European Association of Agricultural Economists
    • International Association of Agricultural Economists
  • Government agencies
    • U.S. Agency for International Development, Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture, and Trade
    • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service
  • UN Agencies
    • UN Food and Agriculture Organization
    • UN World Food Program
  • Academic journals
    • Agricultural Economics
    • American Journal of Agricultural Economics
    • Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy
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