Economic Research Service
|Formed||April 3, 1961|
|Jurisdiction||United States Department of Agriculture|
The Economic Research Service (ERS) is a component of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and a principal agency of the Federal Statistical System of the United States. It provides information and research on agriculture and economics.
The first USDA agency formally tasked with data collection was the Division of Statistics, created in 1863, one year after the USDA itself was created. By 1902, a Division of Foreign Markets had been created, and the following year, that division was merged with the Division of Statistics to form the Bureau of Statistics. In 1914, the bureau was renamed the Bureau of Crop Estimates, and in 1921 this bureau merged with the Bureau of Markets to form the Bureau of Markets and Crop Estimates. This merger brought together “responsibility for the collection of farm-level crop and livestock data with that for major domestic and foreign commodity market transactions” in a single agency.
While the USDA’s data collection activities were developing, the department was also developing expertise in agricultural economics research. In 1903, the Office of Farm Management was formed within the Bureau of Plant Industry. In 1915, this office was transferred to the Office of the Secretary to provide analytic support during World War I. In 1919, the office was renamed in Office of Farm Management and Farm Economics. In 1920, the office became a separate USDA agency.
In 1922, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAE), the ERS’s immediate predecessor, was established by the merger of the Office of Farm Management and Farm Economics and the Bureau of Markets and Crop Estimates, bringing together responsibility for data collection and economic research/analysis in a single agency. This new agency brought together for the first time in data collection and economic analysis and research. The first leader of the BAE was the pioneering agricultural economist Henry Charles Taylor, appointed by Secretary of Agriculture Henry C. Wallace. In its initial years the BAE recruited agricultural economists from the handful of land-grant universities that offered the Ph.D in agriculture, such as Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Cornell.
The ERS was established by Secretary of Agriculture Memorandum 1446, supp. 1, of April 3, 1961. It was subsequently consolidated with other USDA units (including the Economic Development Service, established in 1969, and the Economic Management Support Center, established 1974) into the Economics, Statistics, and Cooperatives Service by Secretary’s Memorandum 1927, effective December 23, 1977. The agency was redesignated as the Economic Research Service by secretarial order of October 1, 1981.
Functions and management
Today, ERS’s mission is to provide “economic research and information to inform public and private decision making on economic and policy issues related to agriculture, food, natural resources, and rural America.”
The ERS is led by an administrator, who is a career Senior Executive Service appointee. In 2009, the ERS has about 430 staff members, a decrease from about 510 in 1998. Along with the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the ERS reports to the Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics.
The ERS and NASS jointly fund and manage the Agricultural Resource Management Survey, a multi-phase, nationally representative survey of U.S. farms that is the USDA’s “primary source of information on the financial condition, production practices, and resource use of America’s farm businesses and the economic well-being of America’s farm households.”
The ERS is organized into the Office of the Administrator and four divisions: The Food Economics Division; the Information Services Division; the Market and Trade Economics Division; and the Resource and Rural Economics Division. Each division is led by a director.
The ERS publishes the magazine Amber Waves five times a year. The publication began in February 2003; it replaced Agricultural Outlook, FoodReview, and Rural America. The publication “features information and economic analysis about food, farms, natural resources, and rural community issues” and includes data and charts on various economic indications, including livestock cash receipts, farm household income, agricultural imports and exports, and food spending.
The following individuals served as the administrators of the ERS from 1961 to the present:
- 1961–1965: Nathan M. Koffsky
- 1965–1972: Melvin L. Upchurch
- 1972–1977: Quentin M. West
- 1977–1981: Kenneth R. Farrell (ESCS Administrator); J.B. Penn (Associate Administrator for Economics)
- 1982–1993: John E. Lee
- 1993–1996: Acting administrators
- 1996–2006: Susan Offutt
- 2007–2011: Kitty Smith
- 2011–2018: Mary Bohman
- 2018-Present: Chris Hartley (Interim)
- Panel to Study the Research Program of the Economic Research Service, Sowing Seeds of Change: Informing Public Policy in the Economic Research Service of USDA, Committee on National Statistics, Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council (John F. Gewek et al., eds. 1999).
- Milestones in ERS History: Henry C. Taylor, Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture.
- United States Government Manual 2012, Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration, p. 555.
- Economic Research Service (ERS) Overview, United States Department of Agriculture.
- Committee on National Statistics, Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency (4th ed. 2009, eds. Constance F. Citro, Margaret E. Martin & Miron L. Straf), Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. National Research Council.
- Overview: ARMS Farm Financial and Crop Production Practices, Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture.
- Management Directory, Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture.
- Peggy Garvin, The United States Government Internet Directory 2010 (Bernan Press, 2011), p. 9.
- Milestones in ERS History, Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture.