James E. Reynolds, 71, a retired chief of the publications branch of the Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, died of lung cancer March 23 at his home in Hyattsville.

Mr. Reynolds joined the Agriculture Department in the Midwest in 1939 and transferred to Washington in 1943. He retired in 1974, having spent his career disseminating information on farm price programs, marketing research and related matters. In 1959 he won the USDA's Superior Service Award for improving information services for marketing research.

For 20 years, Mr. Reynolds taught at the department's graduate school.

A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, he grew up in St. Paul, Minn., and elsewhere. He was a reporter for the Des Moines Register and a free-lance writer before joining the Agriculture Department.

During World War II, he served in the Navy in the Pacific. In 1956 he received a bachelor's degree from George Washington University.

After retiring from the government, Mr. Reynolds was a free-lance correspondent for the Washington Agricultural Record, the Watt Publishing Co. and the Nautilus Press.

His first wife, the former Anne Capeti, died in 1939.

Survivors include his wife, Eunice K. Reynolds of Hyattsville; five children, Anthony J. Reynolds of Palo Alto, Calif., Penelope J. Simonds of Glenn Dale, Rebecca M. Ewing of Milo, Maine, Abigail J. Wilcher of Greenbelt and Gwendolyn C. Reynolds of Hyattsville; two brothers, William Reynolds of Schaumburg, Ill., and Paul A. Reynolds of McLean, and five grandchildren.