Hertel is a Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University. His research focuses on the economy-wide impacts of global trade and environmental policies with a particular interest in the impacts of energy and climate policies on global land use and poverty. He is also Executive Director, and founder of the Center for Global Trade Analysis, and Past-President of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA).
During his stay at Stanford he undertook research into the impacts of climate change and climate policy on agriculture, food security and poverty. In the winter quarter he co-taught an FSE seminar (with David Lobell) on the long run determinants of global agricultural land use.