The Department of Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M University was officially formed in 1922, but its history is nuanced and complex. It was not cut out of whole cloth at once, nor was it woven following a single pattern. It grew, instead, as did the discipline itself, like a patchwork quilt with pieces developed by unique individuals from several disciplines.
Founders of the Morrill Act of 1862, which created the Land Grant College System, were concerned. almost wholly with increasing food and fiber production and individual development to ensure food security and meet the needs of the growing human population. The Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College, the land grant school for Texas, was formed in 1876. Little movement relating to agricultural research happened, however, until after the penning of the Hatch Act in 1887, creating federal funds for agricultural research at each of the land grant schools.
Celebrating 100 years of Excellence
Early research efforts of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, (TAES), were largely production oriented. This emphasis on product-increasing technology was further augmented by efforts to extend information to farmers, an effort that was finally culminated with the formation of the Texas Agricultural Extension Services (TAEX) in 1914. Agricultural production vastly increased in the United States due to expanded acreage from western expansion, mechanization and the completion of the transcontinental railroad. However, with this, came market flooding and serious economic problems.
Higher farm prices during most of the 1910-1919 decade, growing out of World War I added further emphasis on increased production. Farm prices collapsed soon after the close of the war, declining 40 percent from mid-1919 to the close of 1920. As these depressed farm prices continued into and through the 20s, it was apparent that the time for addressing economic issues of agriculture and for improving economic literacy of both graduates from the agricultural college and farmers and ranchers had arrived. In 1922, out of discussions and immense need across the state, the Department of Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M University was born with its inaugural degree program in Agricultural Administration. Over the next 100 years, the department would become a leading source of information for Texas farmers, ranchers and policy makers and would train the next generation of informed, skilled graduates.
History excerpt taken from Agricultural Economics: Its History and Development at Texas A&M University Through 1983 by John A. Hopkins and Katherine Sue Durden (1985).
The Future of Department of Agricultural Economics
In Fall 2022, the Department of Agricultural Economics will hold its Centennial Celebration to commemorate 100 years of service in teaching, research and Extension to Texas and the nation. Since its establishment those many years ago, the department has awarded over 10,000 degrees. Currently the department is undergoing strategic planning and vision casting to help plan for the next 100 years of growth, innovation and excellence in agricultural economics at Texas A&M University.