Agricultural economics: Wikis


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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 yield of crops 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]



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 [2] . Another contributor, Theodore Schultz was among the first to examine development economics as a problem related directly to agriculture.[3] 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.[4]

Evolution of Agricultural Economics

The field of agricultural economics has evolved over many decades. One scholar summarizes its development as follows:

"Agricultural economics arose in the late 19th century, combined the theory of the firm with marketing and organization theory, and developed throughout the 20th century largely as an empirical branch of general economics. The discipline was closely linked to empirical applications of mathematical statistics and made early and significant contributions to econometric methods. In the 1960's and afterwards, as agricultural sectors in the OECD countries contracted, agricultural economists were drawn to the development problems of poor countries, to the trade and macroeconomic policy implications of agriculture in rich countries, and to a variety of production, consumption, and environmental and resource problems."[5]

Agricultural economists have made many well-known contributions to the economics field with such models as the cobweb model,[6] hedonic regression pricing models,[7] new technology and diffusion models (Zvi Griliches),[8] multifactor productivity and efficiency theory and measurement,[9][10] and the random coefficients regression.[11] The farm sector is frequently cited as a prime example of the perfect competition economic paradigm.

Since the 1970s, agricultural economics has primarily focused on seven main topics, according to a scholar in the field: technical change and human capital; agricultural environment and resources; risk and uncertainty; consumption and food supply chains; prices and incomes; market structures; and trade and development.[12]

Areas of Concentration

Agricultural economics tends to be more microeconomic oriented. Many undergraduate Agricultural Economics degrees given by US land-grant universities tend to be more like a traditional business degree rather than a traditional economics degree. At the graduate level, many agricultural economics programs focus on a wide variety of applied microeconomic topics. During the last decades, graduates from Agricultural Economics departments across America find jobs in diversified sectors of the economy; from corporations to government. Their demand is driven by their pragmatism, optimization and decision making skills, and their skills in statistical modelling.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Karl A. Fox (1987), Agricultural Economics, The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, v. 1, pp. 55–62.
  2. ^ Shaars, Marvin A. (1972). "The Story of The Department of Agricultural Economics: 1909-1972" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  3. ^ Economic Growth and Agriculture, New York: MacGraw-Hill, 1968
  4. ^ Schultz, Theodore, "Reflections on Agricultural Production, Output and Supply," Journal of Farm Economics., 1956
  5. ^ Ford Runge, "Agricultural Economics: A Brief Intellectual History," page 1 (abstract), University of Minnesota Working Paper WP06-1, June 2006,
  6. ^ Ezekial, M. "The Cobweb Theorem," Quarterly Journal of Economics, 52(1938): 255-80.
  7. ^ Waugh, F., "Quality Factors Influencing Vegetable Prices," Journal of Farm Economics 10(1928): 185-196.
  8. ^ Zvi Griliches, "Hybrid Corn: An Exploration in the Economics of Technical Change," Econometrica 25(1957): 501-522.
  9. ^ 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
  10. ^ Vernon Wesley Ruttan, "Technological Progress in the Meatpacking Industry, 1919-47," USDA Marketing Research Report No. 59, 1954.
  11. ^ Hildreth, H. and J. Houck, "Some Estimators for a Linear Model with Random Coefficients," Journal of the American Statistical Association, 63(1968): 584-595.
  12. ^ Ford Runge, "Agricultural Economics: A Brief Intellectual History," pp. 15-16, University of Minnesota Working Paper WP06-1, June 2006,

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