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Abstract

Economic research in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has achieved its greatest recognition in periods when agriculture and farmers have experienced stress and change. In 1922 the Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAE) was set up in the Department to help rind solutions to the disastrous post-World War I drop in farm prices. After BAE's solutions proved politically unacceptable, the Bureau focused mainly on economic analyses and market studies, and it handled most of USDA's work on standards, grades, crop and livestock estimates, foreign agriculture, and some other subjects. BAE's position reached a high point in the 1930's when its data and economic analysis formed the basis for major New Deal programs and policies. It was given responsibility for general planning in 1939. During World War II, it served war agencies as well as USDA, but afterward its influence declined because of effective opposition to some of its activities, including program planning. With its dissolution in 1953, economic research was divided between two USDA agencies and removed from policy planning. In 1961, the Economic Research Service was established. Currently, it supplies basic economic data, evaluates policy when asked to do so, and provides prompt answers to pressing economic questions.

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