This Department of Agriculture as an Organisation section includes:

  • information about various people who have worked in the Department, including oral histories, life stories, obituaries, and lists of Ministers of Agriculture.
  • development of structures of the SA Department of Agriculture and background about affiliated organisations that have served South Australia’s farmers and agriculture industries during its 125 year history.
  • historical information about the various offices, research centres and experimental farms located across South Australia during the Dept of Agriculture’s history.

Overview – A Brief History

The early activities by the South Australian Government in the agricultural sector were administered by the Department of Lands and involved regulation to control the spread of pest animals and plants, and livestock and plant diseases.

The first Minister of Agriculture was appointed in 1875 and subsequently a Royal Commission recommended the establishment of a Department of Agriculture to collect and disseminate information to people in agricultural, pastoral and horticultural pursuits”. At the same time, recommendations were made for the establishment of agricultural training facilities and a model farm. Roseworthy Agricultural College was established and took its first students in 1885.

The Central Agricultural Bureau was established in 1888 to advise the Minister and to encourage improved practices by farmers. In 1902, the SA Department of Agriculture was formed and undertook research through experimental farms, extension through the Bureau and regulatory activity to protect the State’s agriculture industries.

The next 50 years saw the modest growth in the Department with an emphasis on pest and disease control, improved productivity and soil conservation.  In the post World War II era, the department grew rapidly and collaboration increased between the Waite Agricultural Research Institute, Roseworthy Agricultural College, the CSIRO and other partners.

The Agricultural Bureau along with the Women’s Agricultural Bureau and Rural Youth, have continued to play an important role in providing a relatively inexpensive yet effective means of extending information to farmers by developing programs in collaboration with them.

Regulatory activity has also continued to be important, for example, the Brucellosis and Tuberculosis program conducted as part of a national scheme has been successful in wiping out these two diseases in South Australia’s cattle herds.

Throughout the Department of Agriculture’s history, the needs of the agricultural sector have been met through the formation of units such as the Rural Assistance Branch which was established to administer Commonwealth finance to farmer’s in need, SAGRIC International to deliver agricultural development services and projects in overseas countries; and the Rural Affairs Unit to assist farmers to make difficult adjustment decisions.

In the late 1970s the Department of Agriculture’s services were regionalised to improve responsiveness to local needs.

Since the early 1990s, there have been a series of agency mergers. On October 8, 1992, the Department of Agriculture was merged with other government agencies servicing primary industries to create Primary Industries SA (PISA), and later Primary Industries & Resources SA (PIRSA).  The October 1992 change included formation of a specialised research arm, the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI).

On June 30, 1998 PIRSA launched Rural Solutions, a key business unit providing specialised consultancy services in agriculture, agribusiness, and natural resource management through its network of 25 country service centres.

Since its formation, the department is justly proud of its record in implementing major improvements in the agricultural sector and boosting the South Australia’s economy.

Today, the Department of Primary Industries & Resources SA (PIRSA) is a diverse economic development agency containing a range of sections for forestry, fisheries and aquaculture to mining, energy, agriculture, food and wine.

Further Information

South Australian Department of Agriculture – A history until 1980 by V. K. Lohmeyer

Page Last Reviewed: 20 Nov 2017
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