Before an economist was appointed to the SA Department of Agriculture, several staff members at Roseworthy College pioneered the study and application of economic principles to South Australian agricultural production. Professor A J Perkins, whilst Principal of Roseworthy Agricultural College presented detailed papers on wheat cost of production and crop responses to fertiliser at annual conferences of the Agricultural Bureau. One paper presented in 1913 at Cowell, reported the economic results of fertiliser experiments at Roseworthy College.
Much later, in 1933, as Director of Agriculture, Professor Perkins provided "itemised statements of Costs of Production of wheat at Turretfield and in the Mallee" as evidence given in Adelaide before the Commonwealth Grants Commission. In 1939 the Principal of Roseworthy, Allan Callaghan, wrote of the need for trained agricultural economists. Later, Allan Callaghan, when Director of Agriculture, sought to appoint an economist and introduce economic thinking into extension and advisory work.
D B [Don] Williams, who later became Director of Roseworthy Agricultural College, was the first rural economist to be appointed at the College. He wrote in the Journal of Agriculture [September 1948] in an article on farm records "In recent years the attention of farmers has been forced upon the business aspects of farming by the rapid movements in costs and prices........ For this reason farmers think of their farm as a business as well as a home, and realise that business methods must be combined with scientific methods and skilled craftsmanship".
These people and others were the forerunners of professional economists and farm business management specialists in the SA Department of Agriculture. This review attempts to encapsulate the personalities of the first economists in the Department of Agriculture and give an overview of the major theme of economic work carried out at that time viz whole-farm management work through groups.
This section does not include activities of the private sector in such areas as farm management consultants and farm clubs.
The following paper gives a more detailed insight into the Economics and Marketing Branch in the former Department of Agriculture.
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