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Harold Ola Carter
In Memoriam

Harold Ola Carter

Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Emeritus

UC Davis
Professor Harold (Hal) Carter died on September 22, 2011 at age 78, surrounded by his large family. Hal was married to the former Janet Edgar for 59 years and they had three daughters and two sons.

Hal Carter was born in Eaton Rapids, Michigan on December 13, 1932 to Lillian and Ola Carter. He earned B.S. (1954) and M.S. (1955) degrees from Michigan State University and his Ph.D. in Economics from Iowa State University (1958). He was an economist at USDA from April 1956 until January 1958 when he joined the staff at Berkeley as Lecturer and Assistant Agricultural Economist.

In July 1958, with his dissertation completed, Hal took up his appointment as Assistant Professor in the nascent Department of Agricultural Economics at UC Davis, beginning a career of four decades at Davis during which he helped build and manage his home department while providing intellectual leadership to other agricultural economists and serving agriculture.

Even though the Department of Agricultural Economics at Davis was administratively linked to the Department at Berkeley in the early years, Hal and his cohort were instrumental in establishing Davis as an independent center of excellence in agricultural economics, and they rapidly established Davis as a (the) top department of agricultural economics in the world. Hal was also instrumental in the establishment of the new Ph.D. program that was created at the time of the formal separation of the Davis Department from Berkeley in 1966.

During that period, Hal was one of the outstanding young quantitative economists in the United States, with a focus on farm production. His early teaching and research specialties included microeconomics, farm management, production economics and programming models. Later he added agricultural policy.

Hal achieved wide early recognition for his research within the broad area of production economics and for his ability to focus on important issues. Especially notable were his pioneering studies on input-output applications in agriculture, production function methodology and applications, measurement of economies of scale, and interregional analysis and projections. Beyond the specific applications, Hal became widely known as an expert in input-output analysis and linear programing optimization models applied to agriculture. His early work was influential in the spread of these tools among agricultural economists.

Working with his close friend and departmental colleague, Gerald W. Dean, Hal developed a series of imaginative empirical analyses pertaining to farm production, risk and variability and related topics. Later, in research published with another close friend and colleague, Warren Johnston, he took on related topics concerning the changing farm size distributions and what is often called the structure of agriculture, and potential public policy implications.

Hal’s work was highly regarded by his peers for its contributions to knowledge and he received several prestigious awards from his national and regional associations of agricultural economists for the quality of his research publications. In 1980, Hal was a named a Fellow of the American Agricultural Economics Association, the highest honor awarded in his profession. He was honored as one of three Distinguished Scholars of the Western Agricultural Economics Association (WAEA) in the founding year of that award, 2003.

Professor Carter was also a dedicated teacher and was particularly effective in his work with graduate students and in his contributions to the development of the graduate program. He was a visiting professor at the Agricultural College of Sweden, Uppsala, in 1967, and at the Center of Agricultural Economics, University of Naples in 1971.

Hal Carter served his profession and the broader community in many ways. He was a member of the Editorial Council and an associate editor of the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. He spent 1969 as a Senior Staff Economist at the President’s Council of Economic Advisers and was a member of the Economic Advisory Board to the Secretary of Commerce, 1973–74. Hal was elected president of the WAEA, 1975–76. In 1976–77 he was a Senior Research Scholar, International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria. He also led a major program in Egypt in the early 1980s that engaged many of his Davis-based colleagues in agricultural development assistance.

Hal was active in serving UC Davis and the University of California in a variety of assignments and committees. Significantly, he served as Chair of the Department of Agricultural Economics for two terms. The first of these was during 1970–1976, a crucial time in the rapid expansion of the faculty and in the rise of the Department to national pre-eminence. The second was during 1986–1989, another crucial time in the history of the Department as a new wave of faculty was recruited to replace retirements and other losses.

Hal also served as the founding director of the University of California Agricultural Issues Center (1985–1996). In that role, he initiated a series of multidisciplinary studies, that engaged faculty from across the campus and the University of California. Under his leadership the Center released a series of reports on prospects for farm industries, held annual conferences and published several multidisciplinary books on crucial issues such as water, farm labor and pesticides in the food supply.

For his many contributions to the University and California agriculture, Hal received the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Award of Distinction in 1997.

Hal retired from the faculty in 1993 after having served on the UC Davis faculty for 35 years. In retirement he enjoyed travel, reading and gardening, among other activities. He continued as one of the longstanding participants in the monthly departmental poker game, which was founded by Ben French around the time they both began their careers at Davis. And, during their emeriti years, Hal and Ben would be seen fishing together. In his last year, at the age of 78, he earned his Black Belt in Taekwondo.

Harold Carter was survived by one brother, his wife Janet, their five children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Dan Sumner
Julian Alston