By no means exclusive, the tendency of agricultural economists to emphasize the field’s historic commitment to applied economics is nonetheless intriguing and worthy of further exploration. If agricultural economists have demonstrated the ability to translate “practical” research into policy, then it should be evidenced in policy histories that can then serve as a model for influencing reform. The agricultural crisis that followed the First World War serves as an excellent case study through which I explore the role of agricultural economists in the policymaking process. Rather than demonstrating a penchant for applying research, I conclude that agricultural economists were frustrated by the same forces that have limited the influence of economists in general. More specifically, the field’s passive approach to reform and the tendency of interest groups to accept advice on a piecemeal basis minimized agricultural economists’ influence. Agricultural economists’ role in shaping interwar farm policy was deceptively small, the implications of which should merit a reconsideration of the field’s claims of enhanced utility, as well as the connection between agricultural economists and federal farm policy in the early twentieth century.

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