The Department of Agriculture was one of the original departments created upon the formation of the Executive Council of the North-West Territories in 1897. The department was headed by a Commissioner and a Deputy Commissioner. With the transfer to a provincial government in 1905, the department (still under a Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner) was organized into: the Fairs and Institutes Branch; Weeds and Seeds Branch; Dairying; Bacteriologist; Public Health Officer; and Brand Recorder. A Bureau of Information and Statistics was also added.
The Department of Agriculture's original responsibilities included dealing with brands, stray animals, pounds, stock and hide inspection, control of predatory animals, noxious weeds, prairie fires and protection of game, as well as encouraging development and providing assistance to farmers. The department also compiled production statistics and meteorological data. In addition, under the 1906 Department of Agriculture Act, the department was responsible for matters relating to immigration, vital statistics and public health, including hospitals.
The titles of Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner were superseded by Minister and Deputy Minister respectively, in 1909.
Other functions held by the Department of Agriculture in its early years included: a Bureau of Labour to look after the inspection of factories, ensure fair wages and work safety, and coordinate harvest help; responsibility for museums; and responsibility for debt assistance.
During its existence, the Department of Agriculture experienced numerous re-organizations and continual name changes to its branches and divisions. However, with a few important additions and deletions of responsibilities, most of the department's functions continued throughout its life span.
In 1910, the public health and hospitals function was transferred out of the Department of Agriculture. Also in 1910, members from the Department of Agriculture were appointed to the newly-organized Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan. The function of the Fairs and Institute Branch was transferred to the university level, under the supervision of the Department of (Agricultural) Extension. The Director of Agricultural Extension, appointed to the College of Agriculture, reported to the Deputy Minister on the work of agricultural societies.
A major function was added to the department with the creation of the Co-operative Organization Branch in 1913. The branch, developed out of the Office of the Registrar of Co-operative Associations, was established to assist farmers with marketing. It was renamed Co-operation and Markets Branch in 1920 and eventually formed as a separate Department of Co-operation and Co-operative Development in 1945.
The Vital Statistics function was transferred out of the department in 1914. However, added that year was the appointment of Agricultural Representatives. These Representatives provided advice and assistance to producers in various districts within the province. Initially, the Representatives acted as administrative support for the College of Agriculture, but later carried out their own programming. The Agricultural Representative Service became a branch in 1945 and was renamed Agricultural Extension Branch in 1969 to better reflect its function.
Another change to the department in 1914 was the inclusion of a Debtors Relief organization. This function was complemented in 1923 by the addition of the Debt Adjustment Bureau. This function of debt management was removed in 1935. The responsibility for museums was added in 1915, but was transferred to the Department of Railways, Labour and Industries in early 1928.
Early in its existence, the Department of Agriculture included a Bureau of Labour to look after the inspection of factories, ensure fair wages and work safety, and coordinate harvest help. This function continued until 1920 when the Bureau, then named the Bureau of Labour and Industries, no longer reported through the department.
By 1930, the department consisted of: the Debt Adjustment Bureau; Statistics Branch; Field Crop Branch; Dairy Branch; Livestock Branch; Bee Division (added in 1928 and later known as Apiary Branch); Co-operation and Markets Branch; and the Agricultural Representative Service.
As a result of drought and soil drifting in the early 1930s, the Land Utilization Branch was established in 1936 to carry out the work of the Land Utilization Board (1936-1964). The Board was responsible for establishing community pastures, irrigable land areas under the federal Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act (PFRA), and for relocation of settlers.
By 1940, the duties of the Department of Agriculture were solely related to agriculture. The department was responsible for: the administration of all acts relating to agriculture; the promotion of agricultural interests in the province; encouraging production and facilitating the marketing of field and garden crops, livestock and livestock products; promoting and encouraging co-operation among agriculturalists; instituting inquiries and collecting facts and statistics relating to agriculture or other interests of Saskatchewan; and, issuing agricultural information through reports, statistics, circulars or other publications.
The Lands Utilization Board was transferred to the Department of Natural Resources and Industrial Development in 1945, but this responsibility came back to the Department of Agriculture in 1947. At this time, the Lands Utilization division was placed under the Lands Branch which was responsible for the administration of Crown lands in the province. Lands Branch had also been transferred from Natural Resources to Agriculture in legislation assented to on March 5, 1947. In 1964, the Land Utilization Board was replaced by the Agricultural Development Advisory Board.
The Conservation and Development Branch was established in 1949 to encourage and assist with better land use practices. The branch consisted of three main divisions: Operations; Water Development; and Water Rights.
A reorganization of the Department of Agriculture into five main branches was completed in 1951: Animal Industry; Agricultural Representative Service; Conservation and Development; Lands; and Plant Industry. The divisions of Statistics, Information and Radio, Records and General Office reported directly to the Deputy Minister and were sometimes referred to as the Administration Branch.
In 1958, the Agricultural Machinery Administration was added to the department to do the work of the Agricultural Machinery Board, established that same year. Its functions included investigation of complaints, testing machinery and publishing reports on farm machinery and test results.
The Family Farm Improvement Branch was created in 1960 to assist with the installation of farm water and sewage systems, and to assist with the relocation of farmsteads through grants.
The year 1973 witnessed another major restructuring of the department. The various branches, boards and agencies were organized under four major divisions: Extension and Rural Development Division; Farm Resources Development Division; Production and Marketing Division; and a Planning and Research Secretariat. This structure remained in place until 1980, when only the Extension and Rural Development Division and a Marketing and Economics Division were maintained.
Beginning in the late 1970's, the number of boards, commissions and agencies reporting through the department increased. The following are the agencies listed on the Department of Agriculture's organizational charts in annual reports for the period 1977 to 1989: Saskatchewan FarmStart Corporation (1973-1984); Saskatchewan Farm Ownership Board (1974-1992); Saskatchewan Land Bank Commission (1972-1981?); Agricultural Implements Board (1973-1984?); Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Board (1960-1984); Milk Control Board (1977?- ); Saskatchewan Hog Marketing Commission (1977?-1982?); Saskatchewan Sheep and Wool Marketing Commission (1973- ); Agricultural Development Corporation (1974-1990); Lands Appeal Board (1978?-1979); Saskatchewan Lands Allocation Appeal Board (1979?- ); Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (1978?- ); Natural Products Marketing Council (1979?- ); Saskatchewan Vegetable Marketing Commission (1981?- ); Agricultural Credit Corporation (1984-1993); Saskatchewan Beef Stabilization Board (1982-1990); Saskatchewan Horse Racing Commission (1983-1994); Saskatchewan Pork Producers' Marketing Board (1983?- ); Farm Land Security Board (1984? - 1987 Transferred to the Dept. of Justice).
Beginning in 1978, the Department of Agriculture began using the name Saskatchewan Agriculture, although both forms of the name appear in the department's annual reports in this period. Lands Branch was transferred to Saskatchewan Rural Development effective August 1, 1988.
In 1989, the Department of Agriculture was renamed the Department of Agriculture and Food to reflect the addition of new functions relating to diversification and value-added opportunities in the agri-foods industry. From March 2002 to May 2004, the department was known as the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Revitalization, after which it reverted to the Department of Agriculture and Food. As part of a government-wide rebranding strategy, the department was renamed the Ministry of Agriculture on November 21, 2007 [The Government Organization Act (S.S. 2007 c.6)]. It continues (2011) to be known as the Ministry of Agriculture.