Classes pertaining to agricultural economics were first taught at Oregon Agricultural College early in the 20th century as part of the Agronomy Department. In 1917 that department was divided into four separate ones; the Farm Management Department included the agricultural economics courses. Other classes in the subject area were also taught by Dr. Hector MacPherson in the School of Commerce. With the reorganization of higher education in Oregon in the early 1930s, the Oregon State College School of Agriculture in 1933 was divided into divisions, one of which was Agricultural Economics. E.L. Potter was appointed head of the division, as well as head of the Agricultural Economics Department formed within the division.
In 1949, the division system was abolished and the Farm Management Department was absorbed by the Agricultural Economics Department. Barton DeLoach served as the first chair of the combined department, but resigned shortly thereafter. Grant Blanch served as acting chair until 1951, when G. Burton Wood was appointed department chair. Wood served as department chair until 1966. Emery Castle was chair from 1966 to 1972 and Ludwig Eisgruber served from 1973 to 1981. Other department chairs have included A. Gene Nelson, 1981-1991 and David Ervin, 1991-1994. In 1974, the department name was changed to Agricultural and Resource Economics to reflect its broader role in research and teaching involving new technologies, rural population, income distribution, resource conservation and development, and international trade and development.
The Western Rural Development Center (WRDC) was established at Oregon State University in the 1970s as one of four regional centers funded by the US Department of Agriculture to link the research and extension activities of regional land-grant universities with local decision-makers in addressing rural development issues. The WRDC closed at Oregon State University on June 30, 1999, and was transferred to Utah State University.
The Agricultural and Resource Economics Department Records document research, teaching, and extension activities in agricultural economics and farm management at Oregon State University and provide extensive documentation of the economics of Oregon agriculture. The records include administrative records, speeches and presentations, reports and publications, reports and original data for studies conducted by department faculty, and extensive economic and statistical data on agriculture in Oregon assembled by the Oregon Agricultural Information Network (OAIN).
The Department Records (Subgroup 1) include general subject files; speeches, presentations, and papers; reports and publications; and field reports and surveys. The subject files (Series I) primarily reflect the chairmanship of G. Burton Wood, the administration of the department, and its relationship with the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Extension Service. These files also document the agriculture curriculum at Oregon State. Series II consists of speeches, presentations, and papers prepared by G. Burton Wood in the late 1950s and early 1960s that address various issues in the broad topic of agricultural economics including the politics of agriculture, vertical integration, economic trends, marketing and consumer awareness, and future business trends. The Reports and Publications (Series III) pertain to fisheries and the fishing industry, salmon, oyster seed hatcheries, water rights transfer, and Oregon ports and include a report on the economy of Wallowa County, Oregon and another on Oregon's cities and counties. A list of publications issued by the department in 1998-2000 is included as well as a newsletter for the Rural Studies Program.
Series IV (Field Reports and Surveys) forms the bulk of Subgroup 1 and consists of reports and publications, correspondence, and data for several major studies undertaken by department faculty in the 1930s-1950s. These include studies of farm organization, valuation, management, and income; land use; cost studies for production of hops, honey, field peas, fruits, berries, wheat, nuts, eggs, vegetables, grass seed, and other crops; pastures; sprinkler irrigation; milk production and distribution in the Portland, Oregon, market; and member attitudes toward cooperatives. Of particular note are maps of proposed farm organization and management plans for the Oregon state hospitals, penitentiary, and homes. Data regarding youth pickers of beans and cane fruit as part of the Emergency Farm Labor Program during World War II are included as well as extensive studies of farms on the Lower Powder River area of Baker County.
Subgroup 2 consists of the records of the Western Rural Development Center and includes grant proposals, project records, and final reports; plans of work; and related documentation and correspondence for general operation of the Center. Materials pertaining to the National Rural Studies Committee, the Western Extension Computer Application Committee, Pathways from Poverty, and the New Growth Theory and New Institution Economics Workshop are included. The records of the Northwest Service Academy are also part of this subgroup and include grant proposals, reports, governance council meeting minutes, audit reports, and related documentation and correspondence.
Subgroup 3 consists of statistical information and economic data compiled and reported by the Oregon Agricultural Information Network (OAIN). The records include annual harvest data for grass seed, grains, fish, cattle, berries, mint oil, orchard fruits, and nuts. The bulk of the files are arranged chronologically by year and thereunder alphabetically by county. In addition to data and statistics, the records include notes, newsletters, and reports. This subgroup also includes Extension Service publications and data documenting agricultural production and includes Commodity Data Sheets and Oregon County and State Agricultural Estimate Reports. Surveys on irrigation use, nursery and greenhouse production, and vineyard cultivation are also part of the records.
Agricultural and Resource Economics Department Records (RG 128), Oregon State University Archives, Corvallis, Oregon.