Feb. 25, 2014
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Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award 2014

Anetra L. Harbor, MS '02, PhD '06 

"In life, you need a little bit of luck, skill and will."

Anetra Harbor

Anetra Harbor

This article is the fourth in a series highlighting the 2014 recipients of the Purdue University College of Agriculture’s Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award. The award honors mid-career alumni who have a record of outstanding accomplishments, have made significant contributions to their profession or society, and have exhibited high potential for professional growth.

The 11 honorees are John Becherer, Lynda M. Ciuffetti, Johann (Joe) R. Garwood, Anetra L. Harbor, Carl C. Kincaid, Donald J. Leopold, Maurício Antônio Lopes, Nicholas L. Rozzi, S. Richard Tolman, Geoffrey C. Waldbieser and Carla N. Yerkes. They will receive their awards Friday, March 7, during a public reception and convocation in the Purdue Memorial Union North Ballroom.

Anetra Harbor, MS ’02, PhD ’06, has held economist and analyst positions with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) since 2006. She is currently a policy analyst with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Beltsville, Md., where she is a member of the Resource Economics, Analysis and Policy Division (REAPD).

As a member of REAPD, Harbor’s primary responsibility is to provide guidance and support for the overall regulatory activities of the NRCS. She has a key role in the development, coordination and clearance of NRCS regulations and notices. These documents, which are published in the Federal Register for the public, serve as the official mechanism by which NRCS’s conservation programs are administered. For the bulk of the past two years, her work has been directed toward preparatory activities needed to respond to the enactment of the 2014 farm bill. The majority of NRCS’s programs are authorized through the Conservation Title of the farm bill.

Her notable achievements with USDA include chairing the NRCS Regulatory Working Group, temporarily serving as the acting director for the NRCS Budget Planning and Analysis Division, assisting with the promulgation of more than 35 rules and notices to implement the conservation provisions of the 2008 farm bill, serving as administrator for the NRCS portion of the Federal Docket Management System, and conducting economic analyses covering various topics.

“Dr. Harbor has demonstrated excellence in her early career with the USDA and continues to have an impact on USDA policy analysis, contributes to agency budget development, and industry leaders,” says her nominator, Marshall Martin, a professor of agricultural economics and senior associate director of Agricultural Research at Purdue.

Which Purdue faculty member had the most profound impact on your professional career? Every member of the Purdue agricultural economics faculty I came into contact with inspired me in some way. I remember something enduring about each one. In particular, Dr. Marshall Martin and Dr. Jay Akridge guided me through my graduate research, and I was able to observe their passion for their craft, dedication to helping others, and commitment to the College of Agriculture and to Purdue University. This left the biggest impression on me as I graduated and went on to my first job as an economist with United States Department of Agriculture.

What part of your visit back to campus in March are you most looking forward to? I want to see how much things have changed. I can’t wait to talk with professors and students, find out what new classes or areas of study are being offered, and see what new buildings are up or renovated around campus. I haven’t had a chance to visit Indiana since graduation back in 2006, so I especially want to get a good look around the Lafayette–West Lafayette community. It was my home for six years.

Why did you select Purdue as the place to continue your education? I knew Purdue was a top school for graduate studies in agricultural economics. Given that I had decided to pursue an advanced degree, Purdue was a great choice.

Where was your favorite place on campus to study? The Krannert Library. I have fond memories of group efforts, individual studying, and completing assignments and my research there.

What do you miss most about your college days at Purdue? I made some great and lifelong friends at Purdue. I miss that type of developmental environment with opportunities where everyone is continually learning and encouraging each other to be their best.

Were you a good student when you were at Purdue? Many times I felt very confident or happy about what I was learning and my performance in classes. Other times I felt completely out of my element. I think this is typical as we develop as students and young adults early on and, to some extent, when you are well into a career.

What was the most difficult course you took at Purdue? What made it so difficult for you? ECON 607 (Microeconomic Theory). This was among my first classes as a PhD student. It was challenging and at the same time pushed you to deepen your understanding of microeconomic theory.

What is the best advice you got while you were at Purdue? Who gave you the advice? Dr. Otto Doering would give us all the best advice that applies to graduate school and life beyond: “Just hang in there.”

What is the best advice you have ever given? To whom did you give the advice? I actually have two pieces of advice that I find myself using when talking to my children. “In life you need a little bit of luck, skill, and will.” This one my son pretty much has memorized. Of course, he plays football and thinks everything in life is a competition, so he’s keen on the skill and will part. My daughter is getting close to graduating high school, and the pressure of standardized tests and college applications is increasing. I have to remind her that sometimes your best is good enough.

Coming next: Carl C. Kincaid, BS '99

Read about other 2014 Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award winners.

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