Although a Department of Agriculture had been established in 1890 under the control of the Secretary for Mines, a separate autonomous Department was not established until after the passing of the Department of Agriculture Act 1907 (Act No.6, 1907) on 27 November 1907. (1)
Under the Department of Agriculture Act 1907, the Office of the Minister of Agriculture was established on 22 January 1908 and responsibility for agricultural legislation was transferred to the Minister on the same day. (2) Also on 22 January 1908, the Director and Government Statistician of the Intelligence Department and Bureau of Statistics, Henry Anderson, was appointed Acting Under Secretary and Director of the Department of Agriculture. (3)
On 22 January 1908, the Department of Agriculture became a separate Department responsible for the rural industry in general, administering policy and Acts of Parliament relating to rural industries. Four of the Department’s main functions were research, education, advice, and regulation.
On 1 June 1908 the Bureau of Microbiology was established by the Government. The Bureau assumed the responsibility for bacteriology which had previously been the responsibility of the various botanical, zoological and dairy experts employed by the Department. In his report for the year ended 30 June, 1908 the Under Secretary of Agriculture commented as follows: " In pursuance of the policy of the Government, the whole of the work connected with Bacteriology, which is of such great value in all branches of agriculture, has been transferred to the Bureau of Microbiology established under the Directorship of Dr Tidswell. We expect that much valuable original work will be done with regard to the problem of soil fertility, manufacture of butter, cheese, and wine, and many other questions which are connected with the presence or absence of micro-organisms in the soil and the various products thereof. A large portion of Dr Tidswell's work will concern this Department, and the result should be of great value in directing the field work on all our farms." (4)
The Forestry Department, which had been a branch of the Department of Agriculture since its inception was removed on 1 November 1916, (5) when the Forestry Commission was established as a statutory corporation.
In 1940 a divisional structure was introduced in the Department whereby the previously existing 30 branches of the department were grouped into the eight divisions of Plant Industry, Horticulture, Animal Industry, Dairying, Science and Research, Marketing, Information and Extension Services and Administrative. (6) This structure remained more or less intact until the early 1980s, apart from shifts in responsibility from the Head Office to the regions.
In 1962, the Department consisted of the Director-General, the Director of Agriculture (technical), Secretary of Agriculture (non-technical), seven Divisions, the Hawkesbury and Wagga Agricultural Colleges, and the Yanco Research Station. (7) The seven Divisions were:
1) Animal Industry – research, advisory and regulatory services pertaining to diseases and pests, and livestock breeding, feeding and management; Meat Inspection Services; and Quarantine
2) Plant Industry – field and vegetable crops, pastures, seeds, weeds, plant breeding, plant introductions, agronomy research and advisory services
3) Horticulture – fruit industry research and advisory, including processing, storage and wastage research; regulation of fruit industry legislation
4) Dairying – advised and supervised factories manufacturing dairy products; conducted herd production improvement programmes; conducted dairy technology research at Hawkesbury College, and staffed the Dairy Technology School
5) Science Services – included four branches, all concerned with research, diagnostic and advisory work. The four branches were Biological (plant pathology), Entomology (insect pests), Chemistry (of plants, soils, water, fertilizers, fungicides, pesticides, dairy products), and Botany (systematic botany in the National Herbarium, Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens)
6) Marketing and Agricultural Economics – comprised a Marketing Bureau and an Economics Research Section; collated prices data and trends, crop forecasts, and reports of pastoral conditions; studied farm economics, management and trends
7) Information Services – library; the Agricultural Bureau; services for rural women; farmers’ short schools and courses; audio/visual aids needs for all Divisions; in-service training in extension work; an information bureau; and distribution of publications. (8)
The purpose of the Department of Agriculture (Repeal) Act, 1976 (Act No 49, 1976) was to enable the change in the title of the Minister to whom the Department was responsible from Minister for Agriculture to Minister for Primary Industries. However the Act did not affect the continuance of the Department of Agriculture. (9)
On 2 October 1980, the Minister for Agriculture announced the restructure of the New South Wales Department of Agriculture, to increase the front-line advisory services to the farming community. This was implemented by 1 July 1981, and involved the transfer of authority from the Sydney office to five regional directorates of agriculture in: North Coast; New England, Hunter and Metropolitan regions; Murray and Riverina; Orana and Far Western; Central Western, South Eastern and Illawarra. (10)
In the interim period, the administration of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Government Domain and Centennial Park was transferred to the Premier's Department from 30 March 1979. (11)
Responsibility for fisheries was transferred to the Department on 16 March 1983, (12) when New South Wales State Fisheries was amalgamated into the Department, becoming the Division of Fisheries within a much larger agency.
1. NSW Government Gazette No.152, 4 December 1907, p.6576.
2. NSW Government Gazette No.8, 23 January 1908, pp.431-432.
3. NSW Government Gazette No.16, 5 February 1908, p.807.
4. Report of the Department of Agriculture for the year ended 30 June 1908, p.6 in NSW Parliamentary Papers Second Session 1908, Vol.1 p.10.
5. Forestry Act 1916 (Act No.55, 1916) s.1.
6. Public Service Board Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1940, p.26, Parliamentary Papers 1940-41, Vol.3, p.46.
7. Progress: NSW Public Service Board Journal, May 1962, Vol.1, No.3, pp.21-22.
8. ibid., p.22.
9. Department of Agriculture (Repeal) Act, 1976 s.5.
10. Regionalisation of the New South Wales Department of Agriculture, Working Party on Regionalisation - Report 1981.
11. Annual Report of the Public Service Board, year ended 30 June 1979, p.106 New South Wales Parliamentary Papers, 1979-80,Vol.6, p.843.
12. New South Wales Government Gazette No.52, 25 March 1983, p.1377.