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Australian agricultural economics was on the verge of professional recognition at the beginning of the 1950s. The discipline had emerged from the Second World War in a strong position due primarily to the work of the State Departments of Agriculture, the Economics Departments of the banks, and the pioneering efforts of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Agricultural economics as a field of study was being taken up by economics and agricultural science students alike, and research projects in agricultural economics were burgeoning. This paper investigates the factors which contributed to the professionalisation of agricultural economics in Australia after the Second World War. All vocations aspire to professional status but, even when it does receive professional recognition, a vocation is often still questioned regarding the legitimacy of that status. It is therefore significant to explore the origins and evolution of the agricultural economics profession in order to discover the reasons why it came into existence and the process by which the professionalisation occurred. The changed economic environment during and after the Second World War meant that agricultural economists were given opportunities to present a convincing case to pursue the professionalisation of their discipline. The distinguishing and overruling characteristic of a profession is the possession of specialized knowledge which has been acquired as a result of prolonged training. The knowledge is intellectual and based on the exploration of a recognized field of study. The way in which this knowledge is obtained is an important part of the professionalisation process. This paper identifies the economists and scientists who established the discipline of agricultural economics in Australian universities and set it on the path to professionalisation. The second most important aspect of professionalisation is the formation of a professional society for members and the development of a professional journal to disseminate research and other general information to members. The formation of the professional organisation associated with agricultural economics in Australia is examined in this paper. Australian agricultural economics was at the peak of its influence in the 1970s. All the mainland universities had at least one professor of agricultural economics, there was a strong professional association, annual conferences, and bi-annual outlook conferences, and three separate professional journals were in publication. The value of the agricultural economics profession was widely accepted throughout the policy community.


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