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midwest 2.

spring 2010
Midwest 2.0
Midwest 2.0 | Spring 2010

Editor in Chief
Monika Johnson, Michigan State University

Regional Editorial Board

Ashley Herzovi, Michigan State University
Michael Tracht, University of Chicago
Audrey Henkels, University of Chicago
Alex Buckholtz, University of Wisconsin

National Editorial Board

Chair: Gracye Cheng, Harvard University
Frank Lin, University of Chicago
Carolina Delgado, Georgetown University
Sheri Holt, Georgetown University
Zachary De La Rosa, University of North Carolina
Sid Salvi, Amherst College

Policy Strategists
Lucas Puente, Economic Development, University of Georgia
David Weinberger, Energy and the Environment, CUNY Hunter College
Matthew Fischler, Equal Justice, Northwestern University

National Network Coordinator

Tarsi Dunlop

This journal is funded with the generous support of

Michigan State University, James Madison College
Michigan State University, Undergraduate Education – Office of the Provost
Michigan State University, Honors College

Copyright March 2010, the Roosevelt Institute. All rights reserved.

The Roosevelt Institute Campus Network | 2100 M St NW | Washington, DC 20037

The views and opinions expressed in this volume are those of the authors and do not
necessarily represent the views of the Roosevelt Institute, its officers, or its directors.
In This Issue
Wholesome Heartland: 3
Local Farm Certification Process for Missouri and the Midwest
Adina Appelbaum, Stephanie Chalifour, Daniel Goldfarb, Diana Hsu,
Srishti Mirchandani, & Morgan Ryan

Electric Vehicle Infrastructure: The Campground Solution 6

Weston R. Laabs

Localizing School Lunches to Nourish Students 8

Andrew C. Hobaugh

Integrating Environmental Education 11

into Middle School Curricula
Alixandra Hallen

Green Success: A Collaboration 13

Between Michigan State University and Lansing Public Schools
Gabriel A. Buzinski

Bringing Green Collar Jobs to the Midwest 15

Valerie Bieberich

Green-Based Career Training 17

Cory Connolly

Youth Unemployment Act: 19

Creating Stable Job Opportunities through Co-Ops
Vijay Singh

Building Municipal Fiber-to-Home Internet Connections 21

Kevin Atherton

A Bicycle-Based Mass Transit System 23

Theresa Gasinski

Ending Corn Subsidies: 29

A Small Step toward Sustainable Farm Policy
Gareth Collins
Wholesome Heartland:
Local Farm Certification Process for Missouri
And the Midwest
Adina Appelbaum, Stephanie Chalifour, Daniel Goldfarb, Diana Hsu,
Srishti Mirchandani, & Morgan Ryan
Washington University in St. Louis
We propose a new Midwestern agricultural certification process that promotes the re-
gional economy, encourages healthy consumption, and decreases environmental impacts.

Key Points
• On average, American farmers only receive 20 cents of every dollar spent, the rest
going for transportation, processing, packaging, refrigerating, and marketing. Eating lo-
cally can increase revenue share for farmers.1
• The demand for healthy alternatives exists; the organic food industry has grown from $1
billion in 1990 to $20 billion in 2007.2
• Food, on average, travels 1500 miles; decreased travel would mean decreased environ-
mental impact.3
• Local consumption can create twice as many jobs.4
• Unlike USDA Organic, the Wholesome Heartland certification process focuses on stimulat-
ing specifically Midwestern agricultural production and consumption.

As the nation’s “breadbasket,” the Midwest has historically depended on agriculture as a pillar of
its economy. The farming industry continues to offer great opportunities for job growth, revital-
ization, and the creation of new markets in the Midwest. Through the development of the Whole-
some Heartland certification process, the Midwestern region could become an innovative leader
in the promotion of local consumption. Eating locally would prove beneficial for the Midwestern
economy; a study conducted in Iowa estimated that a 25% increase in local consumption would
create 4,000 new jobs in the state.5 Increased local consumption would not only benefit farming
related industries, but also benefit consumers through healthier food alternatives and decreased
environmental impact.

We propose a new certification process for regional agricultural products that is specifically tai-
lored to Midwestern farming, as the current USDA Organic label does not adequately address
the needs of Midwestern farmers. The National Organic Program’s goal is to standardize the
quality of USDA Organic production and products. However, while the Organic label has fostered
huge growth in demand for organic products, it has failed to ensure strict standards or promote
local consumption. By localizing the certification process, standards will be less at the behest of
national corporations and better tailored to the realities and methods of Midwestern farming.

A firm precedent has been established with New Jersey’s ‘’Jersey Fresh’’ and Arizona’s ‘’Arizona
Grown” certification processes. The goal of both of these programs is to make it easier for con-
sumers, retailers, and restaurants to identify and buy local foods.6 ‘’Jersey Fresh’’ has been suc-
cessful since the 1980s, enabling consumers to identify and support their local farmers.

Beginning as a Missouri state policy, the Wholesome Heartland certification process could grow
to include all Midwestern farmers if other states adopt corresponding policies. The state initia-
tive would create a panel to establish farming standards that would act as guidelines for private
certifiers, as well as create private certification jobs.7 To receive certification, farms would need
to meet two requirements: locality and elevated standards of health and sustainability. The new
certification process would work towards three goals: to improve the region’s agricultural econo-

my, to reduce the negative environmental impacts of food production, and to increase Missouri
consumer health consciousness.

The Wholesome Heartland certification standards would first be set by a Missouri state com-
mission that prioritizes the unique characteristics of Missouri farms. Most importantly, our label
would provide a cheaper and simpler organic label alternative for the small farms in Missouri.
Currently only 242 out of the over 69,400 Missouri small farms are certified Organic because of
high barriers to entry. The small Missouri farms that currently face high costs and less revenue
would be made more competitive against larger-scale farms, with hopefully at least half of the
69,400 small farms under 169 acres obtaining the Wholesome Heartland certification.8 Follow-
ing the establishment of the Wholesome Heartland Certification in Missouri, other states could
follow suit by establishing their own certification standards or adopting Missouri’s, adding to the
breadth and success of the label.

This new certification would greatly benefit the local Midwestern economy. A study conducted
in southern Minnesota showed that only 2% of food in the region is purchased locally. If that
number increased to 20%, the change in shipping costs alone would move the region’s farming in-
dustry from losses to profits. In the same study it was shown that half of farmers’ expenses in the
region are from payments leaving the Midwest.9 In this way, we can decrease the cost of storage
and shipping while increasing consumer demand through marketing of the new labeling standard.
Organic foods saw an 18% annual increase in sales after the instatement of the USDA Organic
labeling system. If the new label helps local food become more desirable and easily identifiable
for consumers as the USDA Organic label did for Organic foods, then areas in the Midwest, like
Minnesota, would see farming go from an unprofitable to a profitable industry in just one year.10

The success of the certification process depends upon the demand for local food. There is evi-
dence nationwide of a growing demand for local food; when the California dairy industry began
the Real California Milk certification in 2007, 89% of people polled stated an intent to purchase
milk from in-state.11 Additionally, a study by Shaffer (2002) found that 86% of American consum-
ers surveyed supported mandatory state local labels.12 The consumer would have the option to
buy local foods that meet stringent health and sustainability standards, ensuring their ability to
make decisions that help local farmers, the environment, and their own health.

The benefits greatly outweigh the costs of this new certification process. The costs can be kept to
a minimum because, while the creation of a certification board is necessary, the actual certifica-
tion process will be handled by private certifiers. Under forces of competition, private certifiers
will keep costs of certification to a minimum. Since this process is intended to be less expensive
and more accessible to farmers than the current USDA Organic certification, state subsidization
of certification costs may be required for widespread success. If prices rose above the level that
farmers could easily pay, subsidization of the process would cost a maximum of $100 per certi-
fication inspection, with that number based on the current cost of Organic certification. With
around 100,000 Missouri farms, this would cost a maximum of 5 million dollars, a paltry figure
compared to the potential 4,000 new jobs and resulting tax revenues.

The only other costs of the new certification process would be the costs of advertisement. Raising
consumer awareness about the new certification and its advantages would be vital to the success
of Wholesome Heartland. As the policy aims primarily to increase demand for local agricultural
products, consumers’ perceived value of the brand is essential. A strategic consumer awareness
advertising campaign could ensure this. Aside from the non-quantifiable benefits, such as re-
duced environmental impact of farming and increased consumer awareness of consumption, our
certification process would greatly benefit the local Midwestern economy. A study by agricultural
economist John Ikerd has demonstrated that consuming locally rather than from national brands

can generate three dollars for every dollar lost to the national brand.13

1. John Ikerd, How does eating locally grown food help the environment? (2006). <
greenlivingdesign/a/locally_grown.htm> (accessed 27 January 2010).
2. Industry Statistics and Projected Growth (2008). Available from: Organic Trade Association <
organic/mt/business.html> (accessed 27 January 2010).
3. L. Hunter Lovins, Energy and Sustainable Agriculture. 2005 John Pesek Colloquium on Sustainable Agriculture.
9 March 2005. <> (accessed 27
January 2010).
4. Media Centre, The New Economics Foundation. 22 May 2006. <
markets-create-twice-many-jobs-supermarkets-and-food-half-price> (accessed 27 January 2010).
5. David Swenson, The Economic Impacts of Increased Fruit and Vegetable Production and Consumption in Iowa:
Phase II. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture (Ames, IA) <
health_0606.pdf> (accessed 27 January 2010).
6. Industry Statistics and Projected Growth. Organic Trade Association. 2008.
ness.html> (accessed 27 January 2010).
7. Organics in the News. Rodale Institute, 21 April 2005. <
news/2005/0405/missouriorgcert.shtml> (accessed 27 January 2010).
8. 2007 Census Publications, USDA. <,_Chapter_1_
State_Level/Missouri/index.asp> (accessed 23 February 2010).
9. Industry Statistics and Projected Growth. Organic Trade Association. <> (ac-
cessed 23 February 2010).
10. Laura Thornquist, Organic Farming in Minnesota Proves Profitable. Public News Service, 9 February 2010. <http://> (accessed 23 February 2010).
11. California Consumers Quickly Embrace New Real California Milk Seal. California Milk Advisory Board. April 3, 2008.
<> (accessed 23 February 2010).
12. Shaffer. Fresh Trends. 2002. Lincolnshire, IL: Vance Publications.
13. John Ikerd. Eating Local: A Matter of Integrity <> (ac-
cessed 23 February 2010).

Electric Vehicle Infrastructure:
The Campground Solution
Weston R. Laabs
Michigan State University

By revamping existing RV sites at campgrounds around the Midwest, federal and state
agencies would establish an interim solution to the insufficient number of battery switch-
out or quick charge stations needed to sustain the impending influx of electric vehicles in
the automobile market.

The Problem
Alternative fuels have already penetrated the U.S. market. With increasing demand for these
cheap and renewable fuel sources, Michigan-based car companies like General Motors and Ford
have already revealed plans for fully-electric or electric with range-extending gas motor cars
available to the average consumer by late 2010 or 2011. With this impending influx of electric cars
and vehicles (EVs), infrastructure will prove to be the largest obstacle.

With a battery that can take five passengers forty miles on a single six-hour charge for less than a
quarter of a dollar, new electric cars like the GM Volt and 2011 Ford Focus will generate demand
among consumers who are sick of paying $30 for a tank
at the pump.1 Since the average American’s commute is
less than 50 minutes round trip, the electric car seems
to be a cheap and environmentally conscious alterna-

EV critics say that consumers are weary to invest in an

electric car with no means to charge it en route. This
idea bridges the gap between a lack of available charg-
ing stations and a nation-wide network of quick-charge
or battery-replacement stations. It could take years to
establish such a network. With electric cars literally
on the horizon and demand pushing through the roof,
Americans need some type of interim solution.
Midwest Campgrounds

A simple, and already existing, solution to the infrastructure problem of a lack of battery switch
or charging stations along major highways is to form a partnership with chain campgrounds, e.g.
KOA, Yogi Bear, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ state park system. These
family campgrounds are usually no further than five to ten miles from major interstates and are
very common all around the country and the Midwest. Additionally, the campgrounds experience
the heaviest usage during weekends, which leave the majority of their RV electric hookups avail-
able for weekday commuters, who would gain the most for this type of program.

These campgrounds usually house 100-250 RV sites, which can accommodate mass electric
needs. The campgrounds would need to be fitted with fast charging, high efficiency outlets and
could charge a fairly high rate for a charge. Even a $5/charge fee would give the campground a
~2000% profit, while remaining an unbeatable attractive bargain to the alternative $30 tank of
gas. With large amounts of grant money (the U.S. Department of Energy is offering $2.4 billion)3
available to companies promoting green technology, the campgrounds could minimize start-up
costs for the project and reap the benefits of nearly limitless profits.

The industry has already made vast improvements in quick-charge stations. Unfortunately, house-

hold power grids do not have the amount of energy necessary to charge a battery in less than 4-8
hours. Quick charge stations can charge a car in 10-45 minutes, cost between $500 and $2000,
and are already available in overseas markets.4

The main obstacle to implementation of this policy is the limited capacity of the United States
power grid. Although net metering can effectively reduce the strain on the power grid, the volt-
age necessary to quickly charge a car is currently unavailable in the United States. The EV in-
dustry is moving faster than electricity, creating charging stations that are more capable than
the power grid allows. However, these ideas are exactly the types of interim solutions necessary
to jump start EV infrastructure in the Midwest: campgrounds can function as the launch pads
for infrastructure by providing overnight charge stations that can be easily retooled to support
quick-charging as the technology becomes available in the U.S.

Next Steps
A program in Massachusetts and Connecticut applied for a federal grant to help build 575 charg-
ing stations across the two states. The estimated total cost of the project is a mere $1.39 million,
half of which was gained through federal funding.5 A deadline for this type of Midwest project
is pressing; Nissan and GM plan to have publicly available EVs on the road by the fall of 2010.
Seattle’s infrastructure program has been successful in implementing a 14-month timeline to build
2,550 charging stations around the city.6 Using similar math, the Midwest has the capacity to build
over 1,600 stations in a 9-month period. With an estimated 80 campgrounds in the Midwest be-
tween these two companies, a goal of 800 stations (ten per campground) is easily obtainable in
a 9 month timeline, ensuring infrastructure availability matching Nissan, Ford, and GM estimates
for EV availability.

The project would need to be administrated by the campgrounds and the DNR. With help from
government grants and loans facilitated by state and federal government, these campgrounds
would work directly with Ford, Nissan, GM, and charge companies to create the infrastructure
necessary to drive the electric auto industry. Cooperation is necessary to technologically sup-
port the specifications of the stations: specific charging units compatible with mass-market EVs
must be installed to successfully implement the project. With infrastructure necessary for EV
development and lucrative profits available for charge station partners, cooperation is essential,
profitable, and feasible in the next few years.

Localizing School Lunches to Nourish Students
Andrew C. Hobaugh
Northwestern University
The Chicago Board of Education can improve the current lunch program by creating a
Local Lunch Program that will build partnerships between Midwestern farmers and mal-
nourished schools, as well as increase the number of partnerships between health based
non-profit organizations and schools.

Key Facts
• The average grade school serves students vegetables twice a week, oftentimes as
French fries or pasta sauce.
• Barely 2% of school-age children consume the USDA daily serving recommendations
for all five major food groups, and less than half eat one serving of fresh fruit and veg-
etables a day.
• Starting in 2011, Illinois’ newly created Farm Fresh Schools Program will begin to dis-
tribute grants to schools that are looking to develop relationships with local farmers
in order to localize their cafeteria menus. Currently, Chicago public schools are not
pushing for localized lunch programs.
• 82% of all Chicago public school (CPS) students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Talking Points
Due to the widespread availability of processed foods high in saturated fats, sodium, and sugar,
children and adolescents are facing severe health problems: high levels of serum cholesterol,
blood pressure, and “adult-onset” diabetes. This is especially true amongst African-American and
Hispanic youth, who happen to have the highest obesity rates amongst children. These two de-
mographics make up 87% of the Chicago public school system, many of whom qualify for free or
reduced lunch. This fact alone means that many of these children depend on the school system
to supply them with the proper amount of nutritious food.

School children receive a minimum of 35-40% of their total calories at school, according to the
National Farm to School Network. With many of the students coming from low-income families,
there should be an increased emphasis on healthful foods in schools. If the schools don’t offer
fresh fruits and vegetables daily coupled with unprocessed nutritious foods, then these children
will continually eat processed foods. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), pro-
cessed foods are to blame for the sharp rise in obesity levels and chronic disease around the
globe. The WHO went even further, stating that eating more fruits and vegetables, as well as
exercising, is the best way to combat chronic disease. According to Tony Geraci, the director of
food at Baltimore Public Schools, the up-front costs of feeding our kids healthy food are wiped
out on the back end by the high cost of treating Type-2 diabetes. Currently, the US is paying $147
billion a year to treat chronic health problems like obesity.

School districts in Maryland and California have succeeded in serving more healthful entrees,
fresh fruits and vegetables. In both cases, the school districts appointed a “forager” or group
of foragers – an individual or group of individuals responsible for working with local farmers to
purchase fruits and vegetables. A study in Riverside, CA found that students eating a farm‐fresh
salad bar consumed roughly one to one and a half additional serving of fruits and vegetables per
day; the school district also witnessed a 9% jump in lunch participation. Not only has the program
increased participation in school lunch programs, but it has also educated the students on health-
ful foods and increased school revenue.

The CPS Local Lunch Program would develop relationships with local farmers (265-300 mile
radius) in the Midwest. On average, the produce shipped to Chicago travels 1,518 miles. Making
an effort to purchase more local fruits and vegetables would provide a boost to the local and
Midwestern economy and decrease CO2 emissions from transport.

The forager would facilitate purchasing of fruits and vegetables, as well as assist in shaping the
meal options throughout the school district. Funding for any additional costs would come from
the grants established by the Child Nutrition Act as well as Illinois’ Farm Fresh Schools Program—
two programs that have not been taken advantage of by the CPS due to their lack of a local
lunch program coordinator or forager. The forager would apply for these grants, as well as col-
laborate with non-for profit organizations that specialize in healthful food education. There are a
few instances of CPS schools working with non-for profit organizations to create food education
programs, healthful school lunch programs, and an environmentally tailored curriculum. However,
these schools must actively seek out and establish these partnerships; assigning this task to the
forager might make schools more inclined to look into these alternative programs.

The CPS paid Chartwells Thompson Hospitality $100 million dollars during the 2009-2010 school
year to provide school lunches. This contract is negotiated every year and charter schools can
choose to control their own lunch program. This cost can be decreased if CPS starts to diversify
its supply by contracting farmers . Forming these local co-ops eliminates the middle man, de-
creases transportation costs,* and gives CPS more control over the amount of fresh fruits and
vegetables that are served in school cafeterias. Reallocating money from this budget to be used
by the forager would mean that local farmers would have access to more income; possibly caus-
ing the growth of commercial farming at an urban and rural level. In Florida, for instance, a group
called the New North Florida Cooperative Association contracted 60-100 farmers to supply local
schools with fresh produce. The program is responsible for doubling the income of the farmers
who were originally below the poverty line.

Through partnerships with food companies—California’s Riverside school district contracted

Odwalla to supply juice to all schools within the district at an extremely reduced cost—schools
can supply healthier food at the same or lesser cost. Through partnerships with and/or donations
from private sources and grant money from newly created government programs, Chicago Public
Schools can actually spend less of its own money on school lunches.

Wellness education followed by “corn syrup lunches” is blatant hypocrisy. In many instances,
school lunch and breakfast programs are the main source of food for students who come from
low-income families. Greater availability and awareness of fresh, local produce in schools is es-
sential to combating the childhood obesity epidemic. This should be the priority of the local
school council, the teachers and staff, and the parents. With the support from these three groups
is essential to getting the policy off the ground.

Next Steps
There are many important questions that need to be asked at the beginning of the implementa-
tion process: How many farms are there within a 300 mile radius? What is the capacity of each
farm? What do schools need? How will the climate effect the availability of produce at an given
point in a school year? Once these questions are answered, it is important to engage the schools
to see how they can take initiative.

Reform could start at an individual school that decides to appoint someone to look into healthier
food options. Another good starting point is to have the school district draft a ‘’lunch bill of rights’’
detailing a baseline for healthful, sustainable meals. The bill of rights would declare that students

have a right to high quality food and produce; hopefully establishing guidelines as to what stu-
dents should be served on a daily basis.

*Assuming that the average truck gets 10mpg and gas costs an average $2.80/gal decreasing travel
distance from 1500 miles to 300 miles would save $336 per shipment.

Barlow, Zenobia. Center for Ecoliteracy. 2004. Web. Oct. 2009. <
‘’Eat less Processed Foods, Experts Say,’’, March 3, 2003.
Elsener, Megan, Debra Eschmeyer, and Sheilah Davidson. “Nourishing the Nation One Tray at a Time:Farm to School Initia-
tives in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization.” (2006). Farm to School. National Farm to School Network, Community
Food Security Coalition, School food Focus. Web. <>.
HB0078, Illinois General Assembly (2009) (enacted). Print.
Illinois. Illinois Board of Education. Food Service Management Contracts. Print.
Joshi, Anupama, and Moira Beery. “A Growing Movement: A Decade of Farm to School in California.” Center for Food and
Justice (2007): 1-40. Farm to School. The Urban Environmental Policy Institute. Web. Nov. 2009. <http://departments.oxy.
Nestle, Marion. Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University.
“School Food, Public Policies, and Strategy for Change.” Center for Ecoliteracy (2006).
Pirog, Rich. “Checking the food odometer: Comparing food miles for local versus.” Leopold Center for Sustainable Agri-
culture (2003): 1-6. Leopold Center. Jan. 2003. Web. <
Saunders, Jean. “Chartwells Thompson Hospitality.” Telephone interview. 12 Jan. 2010.

Integrating Environmental Education
Into Middle School Curricula
Alixandra Hallen
Northwestern University
By integrating environmental education into middle school curriculum we will be able to
teach students about their environment, while also increasing their science and math lit-
eracy. This in turn will make students more able to face the environmental challenges of
today and the future, and be a critical part of finding the solution.

In the United States, especially in the Midwest, we need to start taking an interest in environmen-
tal education. Starting in middle school, students should be taught about their world, including
the problems our environment is facing today. The most effective way to do this is to integrate
environmental learning into the already existing curriculum. We should no longer accept that en-
vironmental education is not available to children across the country. We are facing the growing
threat of global warming and students today often do not even know what that is. We should be
preparing students to meet the challenges of tomorrow and our current middle school curricu-
lum is not yet up to that task. Students should be able to not only understand the current climate
problems we are facing, but should be given the tools necessary to one day be able to work
towards a solution. What constitutes environmental education is a hotly debated topic, however,
there have been some general consensus as to what should be included in the environmental
education category. There is agreement that environmental education should “foster knowledge
about the environment and the skills to act on that knowledge.”1 The U.S. Environmental Protec-
tion Agency came out with their second report to Congress on the state of environmental educa-
tion in 2005. They found that while environmental education in the United States had improved
since their previous report in 1996, there was still much room for growth.2 Continuing to press
for more environmental education will be essential for helping current and future students learn
about the world around them.

Key Facts
• 40% of Americans cannot name a fossil fuel.6
• 51% of Americans cannot name a renewable energy source.7
• 56% of Americans believe that Nuclear power contributes to global warming.8

Talking Points
• The National Environmental Education and Training foundation that examined schools
that integrated environmental education into their curriculum. They found that students
improved their reading and math scores, and performed better in science and social stud-
• Students must be well versed in environmental education because they will be one day
faced with the problems associated with our environment. Without proper environmental
understanding, students will not be equipped to solve these problems.

Middle school, which includes grades 6 through 8, should be where we begin to integrate envi-
ronmental education into the curriculum. These students all over the Midwest often times are not
exposed to environmental education. Without exposing them, it is hard to expect these students
to grow up and be not only knowledgeable about the environment, but willing and able to work
towards solving environmental crises. In the Midwest, we face a myriad of environmental chal-
lenges and concerns. We need to begin educating our young people about the specific challenges
in the Midwest and start them on the path to thinking about how to solve these problems.

Once environmental education is deemed a priority, the next is to integrate it into the curriculum,
using a model of interdisciplinary learning. Interdisciplinary learning “emphasizes connections
between traditionally discrete disciplines … rather than limiting learning to one content area at
a time.”3 An environmental curriculum would be woven into the already established curriculum
using projects, text books and field trips to connect students with their environment. For ex-
ample the curriculum could incorporate readings during English class that will teach students
about environmental concerns or math class will involve problems where students can calculate
the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from various sources. “Research has demonstrated that
interdisciplinary teaching can increase students’ motivation for learning as well as their level of
active engagement.” The State Education and Environmental Roundtable did a study in 16 states
and found that interdisciplinary learning using environmental education is an effective teaching
method. The study showed that “environmental-based learning is interdisciplinary, collaborative,
student centered, and hands-on. Not only did the students’ performance improve on traditional
measures of competence… but their interest and motivation were also enhanced.”4 Environmen-
tal education is essential. When students graduate, they will need to be able to not only under-
stand the world around them, but to be able to solve the problems our environment faces.

School curriculum is decided on many levels, by many different people. Ideally, there would be a
national initiative to work towards integrating environmental education into middle school edu-
cation across the country. The National Environmental Education Act passed in 1990 could be
used to create a standardized, national environmental education framework. This act would need
to be updated to reflect the new state of environmental education and the new, changing world
we are living in.5 Updating the National Environmental Education Act would give greater autho-
rization to the Office of Environmental Education to administer materials and provide advice for
educators across the country.

Next Steps
If the National Environmental Education Act is updated by Congress, the Office of Environmen-
tal Education can work towards creating a standardized middle school environmental education
curriculum. A standardized national environmental curriculum can be used in conjunction with
regional specific curriculum to give students the full range of information. School boards, par-
ents associations, and teachers across the Midwest can then come together to supplement this
national material, with curriculum that is specific to the Midwest region. Students can take a trip
to the surrounding environment and take a survey of the environment and then discuss current
issues facing that area. Curriculum created Illinois, can for example focus on the Great Lakes.

1. Morrone, Michael «Primary and Secondary School Environmental Health Science Education and the Education Crisis:
A Survey of Science Teachers in Ohio», Journal of Envrionemtal Health, Vol. 63, 2001
2. The National Environmental Education Advisory Council, “Setting the Standard, Measuring Results, Celebrating Suc-
cesses: A Report to Congress on the Status of Environmental Education in the United States,” March 2005
3. Center for Ecoliteracy, “Interdisciplinary Learning,”
4. The National Environmental Education Advisory Council, “Setting the Standard, Measuring Results, Celebrating Suc-
cesses: A Report to Congress on the Status of Environmental Education in the United States,” March 2005
5. The National Environmental Education Advisory Council, “Setting the Standard, Measuring Results, Celebrating Suc-
cesses: A Report to Congress on the Status of Environmental Education in the United States,” March 2005
6. American Association for the Advancement of Science, “Project 2061 Connections: September/October” http://www.
7. American Association for the Advancement of Science, “Project 2061 Connections: September/October” http://www.
8. American Association for the Advancement of Science, “Project 2061 Connections: September/October” http://www.
9. The National Environmental Education Advisory Council, “Setting the Standard, Measuring Results, Celebrating Suc-
cesses: A Report to Congress on the Status of Environmental Education in the United States,” March 2005

Green Success: A Collaboration Between
Michigan State University & Lansing Public Schools
Gabriel A. Buzinski
Michigan State University

Michigan’s workforce is struggling to adapt to the post-automotive job market, and the
Great Lakes State is searching for a way to redefine its economy and to boost its public
education. Green energy and Green education are the solution to these problems.

Michigan State University should collaborate with the Lansing School District and the Michigan
Department of Education to create a K-8 charter school focused on Green education. Michi-
gan State University should act as the “authorizing body”, which, according to Michigan law, any
public university is permitted to do, and issue a charter school contract for the establishment of
a Public School Academy (PSA). According to part 6A of the Michigan Revised School Code, a
PSA is one of three classifications of legal charter schools.1

This charter school, or The Green School, would benefit immensely from MSU acting as its au-
thorizing body. As all charter schools within the state of Michigan, The Green School would be
required to fully teach all aspects of the core curriculum. At a school that focuses on Green
education, but is still serious about the core subject areas, The Green School would give an
environmentally conscious and well-rounded education to any student within the Lansing School
District. The Green School will be Green in many ways; the school building itself will be energy
efficient, the curriculum will focus on alternative energy and environmental sustainability, and the
student body will engage in recycling, composting, gardening, nutritional awareness, etc. Estab-
lishing a Green environment both in and out of the classroom may create a Green shift in ideals,
lifestyles, and the entire Lansing economy. By locating The Green School within the city of Lan-
sing, similar to standard public schools, the commute to and from school would not be strenuous
for Lansing residents.

The primary reason that MSU hosting The Green School would be so effective is that MSU’s
College of Education would be fundamentally involved with every aspect of teaching that oc-
curred within the school. As the home of a large Teacher Preparation Program, MSU would have
the opportunity to place hundreds of Michigan State students within The Green School each
semester. The Green School would act as another location for Teacher prep students at MSU,
who are required to perform up to 100 hours of classroom involvement before they graduate,
to participate in tutoring programs, provide teacher assistance within the classroom, plan units,
develop curriculums, etc. This presence of educational figures within The Green School would
increase the intensity of the educational atmosphere and improve the quality of education for
The Green School students.2 Additionally, MSU departments such as the College of Natural
Science and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources would be intimately involved in
the curriculum development of The Green School by influencing what equipment and resources
would be used to teach sustainable and alternative energy, gardening, nutrition sciences, and all
other aspects of the curriculum.

When a charter school is established through an authorizing body it costs money for the school
to be created and established. According to the Michigan Department of Education, the start up
costs for a PSA are generally over $250,000.3 Although this initial amount may be startling for
MSU, there are many federal grants that can provide up to an initial $160,000, and if this initial
amount yields success there may be an additional $300,000 available.3 Furthermore, The Green
School will qualify for state funding, similar to public schools, of $7,000 per student annually.3
Since The Green School will be working with high-risk students, it may qualify for funding through
Title I, II, III, V, and VI.3

Next Steps
The Green School will be an investment. Yes, it will cost some money up front, but this will be
well worth the amount of educational success that it will yield. MSU should look for financial
support within the university itself, within the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the
Michigan Department of Energy, and the Lansing city offices. Community organizations, as well
as grants from the National government may also be useful. The Green School is a worthwhile in-
vestment for the MSU community, the Lansing community, and the state of Michigan as a whole.

1. Charter Public Schools, Michigan Department of Education.,1607,7-140-
2. Using Noncertified Tutors to Work with At-Risk Readers: An Evidence-Based Model, Darrell Morris. The Elementary
School Journal, Vol. 106, No. 4 (Mar., 2006), pp. 351-362.
3. Starting a Charter, Michigan Department of Education.

Bringing Green Collar Jobs to the Midwest
Valerie Bieberich
University of Michigan
The Midwest can utilize its pre-existing infrastructure and human capital to attract green
collar jobs that will diversify its economy and put the unemployed back to work. If the
region fails to attract jobs with promise for the future, this capital will remain under-utilized
and workers will remain unemployed.

Key Points
• Green collar jobs use blue-collar level skills in an environmentally conscious and energy
efficient setting and hold enormous potential for the future.
• The Midwest has strong worker and resource bases for these industries, and should of-
fer strategic economic incentives such as already-developed business facilities to bring
these companies, jobs and revenue back into the region.
• One success story can be found in United Solar Ovonic’s decision to locate their new
factory in Battle Creek, Michigan,1 promising to create at least 350 alternative energy
jobs.2 The natural and built environment of the site as well as the city’s stated commit-
ment to work with the company led them to choose Battle Creek over nearby sites.3

The Midwest’s leaders are searching for strategies to revitalize the economy, and high tech,
‘green’ companies hold promise for future development. City and state governments must make
attracting green jobs a priority and must publicize this commitment through initiatives that focus
on and work to improve the Midwest’s natural resources, existing labor, and physical capital. This
is essential to create a foundation for innovation and high-tech job creation and demonstrate the
government’s commitment to fostering a favorable business climate. In addition to these and
other structural factors, the Midwest may attract promising companies with shovel-ready sites
developed in collaboration with development corporations.

One group, Battle Creek Unlimited, was instrumental in bringing such a business into the state
by deliberately adopting specific economic policies. The case of Battle Creek and United Solar
Ovonic shows that competitive jobs can still be brought into our region, if given strategic incen-
tives such as shovel-ready sites and government support for green jobs. Without these entice-
ments, companies will choose to locate elsewhere and the Midwest will continue its downward
economic trend. We now have the opportunity to diversify our economy and invest in the future,
and policies should be adopted that foster this goal.

Case Study: United Solar

United Solar Ovonic is a solar-technology company based in Auburn Hills, Michigan. When de-
ciding where to build its new factory, it searched for friendly markets with sufficient numbers of
skilled workers as well as access to airports and reliable suppliers.4 The production of sensitive
solar equipment also requires specialized sites far from site disturbances.5 Battle Creek’s Fort
Custer Industrial Park provides such an environment and beat out competitors with similar char-
acteristics in large part because it had pre-existing infrastructure.

The infrastructure of the Battle Creek site, including utilities, water and sewers, was already
in place and “shovel ready,” eliminating uncertainty about when these necessities would be in-
stalled or how much it would cost to do so.6 Battle Creek Unlimited, the developers of the
industrial park, strategically developed this infrastructure to make the site more attractive and
distinctive in a fast-moving business climate. Ultimately, United Solar’s CEO Mark Morelli said
that the support and economic benefits offered by the Battle Creek site played a key role in their
decision to build in the city.7

The measures taken by Battle Creek Unlimited and the city of Battle Creek should be adopted
on a larger scale to bring more green jobs into the state. Green jobs offer an opportunity to de-
velop a more technology- and information-based economy while investing in the future. Green
jobs are not only in research and development of technology but also in manufacturing, taking
the place of the disappearing automotive and other factory jobs. The jobs are well-paying rela-
tive to skill level, just as the factory jobs they replace, and use many of the same skills, but are
more specific to location and difficult to outsource.8 Workers may require some training to transi-
tion into these jobs, but it should be minimal because the jobs are in an industry in which Midwest
workers already have experience, whether at the ‘green-collar’ or white-collar level.

The industrial park in Battle Creek was developed and publicized by BC Unlimited, an indepen-
dent development corporation. The site was also able to take advantage of a number of tax
credits, including the Brownfield Michigan Business Tax credit, a Community Development Block
Grant through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, qualification for a state-level
Renaissance Zone, and tax abatements from the city. By working with commercial developers
and taking advantage of federal and stage incentive programs, cities may shift many of the costs
of attracting green jobs to the private sector or higher levels of government. The potential ben-
efits of working with and incentivizing developers to build these sites far outweigh the costs of
their development and maintenance by creating wealth and revitalizing the state’s economy. It is
hard to quantify the impacts of United Solar yet because the Battle Creek facility has yet to begin
production, but the fact that the company continues to expand9 in the midst of this economic
crisis stands testament to its promise of opportunity and profitability.

Next Steps
The steps taken in Battle Creek should be followed by other Midwestern cities in order to attract
green jobs. Cities should publicize their commitment to working with businesses and partner
with local economic development firms to create a favorable environment, financially and physi-
cally, by offering them available state and federal tax incentives and developing sites with shovel-
ready infrastructure.

1. Yung, Katherine. “United Solar picks Battle Creek.” 14 Oct. 2008. Detroit Free Press. 5 Nov. 2008 <http://>.
2. “BREAKING: United Solar to build in BC.” 13 Oct. 2008. 5 Nov. 2008.
3. Hettinger, James. Personal interview. November 1, 2008.
4. Hettinger, James. Personal interview. November 1, 2008.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. “BREAKING: United Solar to build in BC.” 13 Oct. 2008. 5 Nov. 2008.
8. “Green Jobs 101.” Center for American Progress, 11 Dec. 2008. Web. 1 Feb. 2010. <
9. United Solar Ovonic, n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2010. <>.

Green Career-Based Training
Cory Connolly
Michigan State University
Creating a green career-based training partnership between public high schools and pri-
vate companies will provide entry-level training for workers and help move the Midwest
toward a low carbon economy.

In January 2010, the unemployment rate for college graduates was 4.9 percent, while 10.1 percent
of those with only a high school diploma, or the equivalent, were unemployed.1 According to
the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, the costs of college have increased
nearly three times the rate of the cost of living since 2000, causing higher-level education to
become more of a financial burden.2 With seeming inevitability, the United States and the world
are moving toward more environmentally sustainable forms of energy generation and energy use.
This transition to a green economy is projected by the Apollo Alliance to create three to five mil-
lion new jobs in the next 10 years, requiring a wide array of professions.3 To make this a reality,
investments require corresponding support for the human capital that drives green industries.
In this evolving economy, vocational and career-based training for high school students must
adequately focus on green careers, so as to prepare a young workforce for a new economy in the
Midwest, moving the region toward new and vibrant forms of labor.

According to the Apollo Alliance, approximately 72% of energy professionals believe that there
will be a shortage in workers in the green economy in the next five years.4 For states like Michi-
gan, Ohio, and Iowa to reorient the Midwestern manufacturing base and make their renewable
energy industries viable, a well trained green workforce is critical.5 Career-based training in high
school is an often overlooked level of education, but could prove invaluable in transitioning the
Midwest to a low carbon economy. In 2007, just fewer than 200,000 high school students in the
state of Michigan were enrolled in career-based education.6 Throughout the Midwest, more than
112 public career and technical schools provide training for a variety of occupations.7 For years
the automotive industry has employed many high school graduates from career-based programs.
For example, Automotive Youth Education Systems (AYES) is a partnership between 348 public
schools and automotive companies throughout the US that trains students for entry level posi-
tions in the automotive industry.8 This strategy of first-hand training can be transferred to career-
based education for the green economy.

A similar partnership should be developed for renewable energy manufacturing training in pub-
lic schools in the Midwest. California is starting a 20 million dollar youth training program for
such skills, but is not using existing high school infrastructure or the expertise provided by pri-
vate companies.9 Forging a partnership between high schools and, for example, solar and wind
manufacturers would provide entry-level skills and provide well-trained workers for participating
companies. In Michigan, from 2006-2016, an average of 12,000 job openings are anticipated per
year in green occupations.10 It is expected that most companies in the green sector will utilize
some form of formal training with the rest of the training coming on the job; this program would
combine these two strategies.11 The program, housed in existing career-tech centers throughout
the Midwest, would provide job-shadowing, professional expertise and internship opportunities
for students. State governments, career-tech centers, and interested renewable energy compa-
nies should collaborate to develop an educational and applicable green-training curriculum. Such
a program would be beneficial for students seeking entry-level placement after high school or
advanced study in college, and for companies seeking well-equipped and prepared workers.

A major obstacle, now more than ever, is the economic cost of developing these programs and
the infrastructure that is necessary for this type of education. High school students will need
wind turbine parts, solar panels, batteries, and other technologies that are expensive. However,

by partnering with companies, students should have ready access to resources, technology, and
potentially additional funding. Additionally, by using the existing infrastructure of career-tech
centers, costs will be limited.

Another potential counter-argument is that focus should be placed on post-secondary training,

on-the job training, and college education. Remodeling existing career-based training at the sec-
ondary level does not have to come at the expense of other forms of career-training or educa-
tion, but can be used as a stepping stone for other training and education.

Next Steps
The next step in addressing environmental issues in career-based training should be for the Mid-
western States’ Departments of Labor and Education to identify green manufacturing compa-
nies and public schools suited for such a program. Once interested companies and schools are
identified, the US Department of Education, Association for Career and Technical Education,
and Departments of Education at the state-level must collaborate with companies to develop a
curriculum and standardized requirements for these partnerships.

Re-ENERGYSE America (“Regaining our Energy Science and Engineering Edge”), is a proposal
by the Obama administration that requests seventy-four million dollars for science and environ-
ment-based education at the university, community college, and K-12 levels.12 If approved, part
of this funding could be used to jump-start a public-private partnership for green career-based
training in secondary education. Building a public school-private company partnership will teach
skills for entry-level green jobs, increase the pool of applicants for such positions, and help spur
the growth of the green Midwest economy.

1. “Employment Status of the Civilian Population 25 Years and over by Educational Attainment.” U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics. Web. 06 Mar. 2010. <>.
2. Measuring Up 2008. Rep. The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2008. Web. 6 Mar. 2010. <http://>.
3. Mapping Green Career Pathways: Job Training Infrastructure and Opportunities in Michigan. Rep. Apollo Alliance,
Jan. 2010. Web. 6 Mar. 2010. <
4. Michigan Green Jobs Report:Occupations & Employment in the New Green Economy. Rep. Michigan Department
of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth, May 2009. Web. 6 Mar. 2010. <
5. “Economy in Shambles, Midwest Goes Green.” Michigan Land Use Institute Web. 06 Mar. 2010. <
6. “Careertech : Michigan.” Careertech : National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consor-
tium. Web. 06 Mar. 2010. <>.
7. “Careertech : State CTE Profiles.” Careertech : National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education
Consortium. Web. 06 Mar. 2010. <>.
8. “Automotive Youth Educational Systems.” Automotive Youth Educational Systems. Web. 06 Mar. 2010. <https://www.>.
9. “California Green Corps: Putting Federal Economic Stimulus Dollars to Work Training California’s Youth to Excel in
Emerging Green Jobs - Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.” Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger - Breaking News, We-
bcasts, Blogs, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter @Schwarzenegger. Web. 06 Mar. 2010. <>.
10. Michigan Green Jobs Report:Occupations & Employment in the New Green Economy. Rep. Michigan Department
of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth, May 2009. Web. 6 Mar. 2010. <
11. ibid
12. “RE-ENERGYSE America: Obama’s Proposal for Clean-energy Education.” Americans for Energy Leadership. Web.
06 Mar. 2010. <>.

Youth Unemployment Act:
Creating Stable Job Opportunities through Co-Ops
Vijay Singh
Northwestern University
By creating a co-op job program in high schools involving both private and public invest-
ment, policy makers can reverse the trend of rising youth unemployment.

From July 2008 to July 2009, the number of unemployed youth, aged 16 to 24, rose by 1 million
to a total of 4.4 million, resulting in a youth unemployment rate of 18.5%.1 Youth unemployment is
now at its highest since 1948 (when it was first tracked), presenting a serious problem for this gen-
eration. Lack of experience makes finding a job after leaving school extremely difficult. Lack of
stable employment promotes delinquency and violence among youth. The Office of Management
and Budget estimates that a 1% increase in unemployment results in a 6 to 7% decrease in the
wages of college graduates that remains significant for 15 years.2 The effects are believed to be
more severe for high school graduates entering the workforce. Given the extremely low six-year
degree attainment rate for Chicago Public Schools (15%) and severe unemployment, a program is
needed to immediately address these issues.3

Key Facts
• A 1% rise in unemployment causes at least 6 to 7% decrease in future wages for gradu-
ating college seniors with the effects being more severe for youth without a college
• Chicago’s youth employment rate decreased by 20% between 2000 and 2009.8
• Only 39% of Chicago Public School graduates matriculate at a college.9
Talking Points
• Only 15% of Chicago Public School graduates obtain a college degree within six years
of graduating high school.10
• Much of the funding could be obtained by applying for federal money set aside by the
stimulus package for youth employment programs.
• Increased tax revenues could help a state that is already facing huge spending cuts,
affecting education opportunities and other issues.

The ideal solution combines both public- and private-sector job opportunities combined into a
two-year co-op program. Since private companies provide most job opportunities, inclusion of
the private sector is key. These jobs offer the best opportunities for internal promotion and high-
er wages.4 However, these companies are also most likely to fire youth. A public-private partner-
ship that trains students for a job and includes government subsidies for students’ wages makes
young employees more attractive and raises the opportunity cost of firing them.

Students would enter the program during their junior year in high school. The weekly schedule
would consist of two-hour classes taught by a company employee and eight hours of hands-on,
paid work. Participating companies would be required to take at least 25% of the students in their
class as summer employees with at least 20-hour workweeks. Other students would have the op-
portunity to apply for government-supplied jobs in their field. In their senior year, students would
continue on a similar schedule, with classes cut to one hour a week. Seniors would use the hour
to talk to juniors about their experience in the program.

School-year wages would be set at minimum wage and provided by the government for the first
year a company participates. In subsequent years of participation, companies would pay 25% and

then 50% of wages. The long-run benefits would exceed the short-run costs: higher wages would
lead to higher tax revenue and consumption.5 The best option for funding the program would be
to tax an externality present in schools, such as soft-drink sales. A 5% tax on all soft-drinks sold in
schools would provide tax revenue that could be immediately redirected to benefit the school. In
addition, such a tax would not reduce sales since demand for soft-drinks is inelastic and beverage
companies make large profits in the school market.6

This program offers incentives for all parties involved: private companies have a pool of future
employees and can pay comparatively cheap wages for labor; students get jobs and increased
potential for stable future employment, and the government gets a lower unemployment rate
and higher tax revenues. The program would favor companies that have shown steady revenues
and engaged in responsible practices, such as an energy company that produces green energy
or a company that works with local charities. Students would be accepted through an admission
process that favors indicators of dedication such as attendance, extra-curricular participation,
and volunteer experience. This would ensure that the students in the program are not likely to
drop-out before the end of two years. This admissions process would guarantee that the program
will aid students without the opportunity of going to college. This program would be handled by
the state’s department of education since it will be conducted through public schools.

Next Steps
This program should start with a few pilot schools. Schools should be targeted based on low rates
of both college matriculation and six-year degree attainment. These targets ensure that the pro-
gram benefits non-college bound students. The second step in determining pilot schools would
be an assessment of which communities have the highest rates of interested companies. Ad-
ditionally, specific calculations of the program’s cost would be run along with potential revenues
from different taxes to make sure that the program will not run out of money partway through
its initial cycle.

1. “Employment and Unemployment Among Youth Summary.” Bureau of Labor Statistics. 27 Aug 2009. Bureau of Labor
Statistics. 2 Nov 2009 <>.
2. Peter R. Orzag, “Birth Date, Business Cycles, and Lifetime Income.” Office of Management and Budget. 22 Oct
2009. Office of Management and Budget. 2 Nov 2009 <
3. Melissa Roderick and Jenny Nagaoka, “Increasing College Access and Graduation Among Chicago Public High School
Graduates,” in College Success: What It Means and How to Make It Happen, ed. Michael S. McPherson and Morton
Owen Schapiro (The College Board, New York, 2008), 25.
4. Orszag, Peter R. “Birth Date, Business Cycles, and Lifetime Income.” Office of Management and Budget.
5. Jonathan Gruber, Public Finance and Public Policy. (New York: Worth Publishers, 2010) 624.
6. William Neuman, “Proposed Tax on Sugary Beverages Debated.” The New York Times. September 16, 2009. Web. 17
Feb., 2010.
7. Peter R. Orzag. “Birth Date, Business Cycles, and Lifetime Income.” Office of Management and Budget.
8. Julie Wernau, “Illinois Teen Employment at New Low,” Chicago Tribune, Jan 26, 2010, Business Section.
9. Melissa Roderick and Jenny Nagaoka, “Increasing College Access and Graduation Among Chicago Public High School
Graduates,” in College Success: What It Means and How to Make It Happen, ed. Michael S. McPherson and Morton
Owen Schapiro (The College Board, New York, 2008), 54.
10. Ibid, 25

Building Municipal Fiber-to-Home
Internet Connections
Kevin Atherton
University of Wisconsin

The internet can be used to grow our economy by creating jobs and allowing for increased
access to education resources. Unfortunately, America is ranked 13th in the world for inter-
net broadband deployment.1 One way to increase broadband penetration is for municipali-
ties to build a high speed fiber optic network.

Key Points
· Fiber-to-home connections offer up to 50 megabits per second (Mb/s) of bandwidth; the
current average bandwidth in America is 5.1 Mb/s.2
· “As of October, 2009, there are 57 public providers operating Fiber to the Home systems
in North America, 16 (28%) of which are in the Midwest.3
· Many municipalities suggest that their fiber networks help retain and expand businesses
in their city, particularly within high-tech industries.4

The, fastest, most technologically advanced type of network connection is known as a fiber optic
network, or fiber for short. Fiber networks operate by using light signals to transmit data over
fiber strands. Fiber is primarily used as a long distance network device, but a movement has
started to bring fiber connections to individual homes. As proof that these systems can exist,
Google recently announced that they will build a fiber-to-home network, encouraging companies
and municipalities to do the same.5 Google reports that their fiber network will be competitively
priced, will offer speeds of up to 100 Mb/s and that other communities could build initiatives to
do the same. Many communities want high internet speed in order to attract businesses or to
make their city more appealing. However, local ISPs may not have an incentive to invest in this
type of service since they do not have significant competition. A municipal fiber system could
compete with local ISPs to spur growth in the internet infrastructure.

Municipal fiber networks charge users a monthly rate, which is almost always less than what an
ISP will charge.6 These monthly charges pay down the initial installation cost and enable the
networks’ operation. Jobs would be created to install the new fiber networks and to operate it
thereafter. Furthermore, cities can advertise their fiber network to businesses as a perk of be-
ing located within the municipality, which would help create and retain more jobs.7 Additionally,
ordinary citizens can use the high-speed network to access learning materials online, thereby
creating new opportunities for continued education and future employment.

Municipal fiber networks grew out of smaller communities’ need for high-speed internet access.
Monticello, Minnesota recently built one of these networks; for this town of 11,000 people, the
cost came to 25 million dollars.8 While the cost is high and varies by population size, density,
and local geography, no community has defaulted on their bond payments, and the resulting
increased economic activity has generated the tax revenue necessary to pay off the installation

Local governments can start the process by holding town meetings, since educating taxpayers
about the benefits of a fiber system could generate enough support for referenda. Once these
referenda pass, local governments pay for building networks by issuing municipal bonds,10 which
will be paid back as people subscribe to the new internet service. After the bonds are issued, the
local government can bid out contracts to construct the fiber network. Construction can take
from six months to two years depending on community layout, population density, and number of

connections. After construction is done, a tech center will be needed to run operations smoothly,
and this tech center will also be funded through monthly subscriber fees.

At first, Monticello’s installation process did run into legal hurdles. TDS Telecom sued the city
when voters approved a measure to build their own fiber-to-home network. The city beat TDS in
a series of appeals, and TDS eventually built a fiber system to compete with the municipal run fi-
ber network. The end result for consumers are 25-50 Mb/s internet connections costing less than
$100 per month.[11] After Monticello’s legal victories, ISPs are no longer able to file injunctions
to halt municipal fiber networks’ construction. However, if an ISP is willing to build its own, non-
municipal fiber-to-home network, then the city should allow them to do so. Only when an ISP is
unwilling to make the necessary investment should the city consider a municipal fiber network.

Municipal networks can be very successful, as the 57 current public providers prove.11 Companies
like Yahoo, Cooper, Northrup Grumman, and Colgate have cited fiber deployments as a reason
for which they moved their businesses into particular communities.12 If Midwestern municipal
governments take it upon themselves to build these networks, the Midwest can lead the way to
a new era of high speed internet, revolutionary new products, and quality technology jobs that
will help America continue to grow.

1. Paczkowski, John. The Median U.S. Broadband Speed? South Korea’s Divided by Four. August 26, 2009.
2. LusFiber. aboutus. 2010. (accessed January 29, 2010).
3. Paczkowski, John. The Median U.S. Broadband Speed? South Korea’s Divided by Four. August 26, 2009.
4. John, David. Municipal Fiber to the Home Deployments: Next Generation Broadband as a Municipal Utility. FTTH
Council, 2009.
5. Ibid.
6. Google. Google Fiber for Communities. 2010. (accessed February 15,
7. LusFiber. aboutus. 2010. (accessed January 29, 2010).
8. John, David. Municipal Fiber to the Home Deployments: Next Generation Broadband as a Municipal Utility. FTTH
Council, 2009.
9. Cauley, Leslie. “Bells Dig in to Dominate High-Speed Internet Realm.” USA Today, 2005.
10. John, David. Municipal Fiber to the Home Deployments: Next Generation Broadband as a Municipal Utility. FTTH
Council, 2009.
11. Anderson, Nate. “Monticello, MN beats the phone company; Internet a “utility”.” ars technica, 2009.
12. Ibid.
13. John, David. Municipal Fiber to the Home Deployments: Next Generation Broadband as a Municipal Utility. FTTH
Council, 2009.
15. Paczkowski, John. The Median U.S. Broadband Speed? South Korea’s Divided by Four. August 26, 2009.

A Bicycle-Based Mass Transit System
Theresa Gasinski
Michigan State University
A local non-profit organization should implement and administer a bike-share program to
improve mobility, stimulate economic growth, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, decon-
gest traffic, and encourage active, healthy lifestyles.

Executive Summary
Despite the expansion of public transportation, pedestrians and bicyclists continue to be isolat-
ed. Consequently, this isolation discourages the use of public transportation, causes greater traf-
fic congestion, contributes to environmental degradation, and creates an inaccessibility to local
businesses. To enhance and expand existing public transportation with minimum infrastructure,
local municipalities should implement a bike-share program. By doing so, authorities would cre-
ate a progressive multi-modal public transit system, which would include non-motorized alterna-
tives. A bike-share program will promote flexibility and mobility, will stimulate economic growth,
will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and will reduce traffic congestion. Additionally, bike-share
programs promote active, healthy lifestyles.

Through the implementation of this system, a network of bicycles would be distributed strategi-
cally around a city for low-cost use. These bicycles can be picked up at any 24 hour self-serve
bicycle station and returned to any other bicycle station. People can sign up for daily, weekly or
annual memberships, which can be purchased online or at any bicycle station. Users swipe their
card or enter their password at the bicycle station, select a bicycle from the rack, and ride. On-
roll, a Spanish bike-share program, allows users to rent and return their bikes via text message. To
discourage theft, many programs consider bicycles kept for over 24 hours to be stolen and charge
the user’s credit card. However, not all programs require such sophisticated technology. Some
can be as simple as the distribution of uniformly painted bikes throughout a city, which would
permit citizens to obtain and return the bicycles at their convenience. Unfortunately, these less-
sophisticated programs tend to fail, because the bicycles cannot be monitored and thus succumb
to vandalism and theft.

Bike-share programs can be organized through a number of different entities: the government, a
quasi-governmental transport agency, a university, a non-profit organization, an advertising com-
pany, or a for-profit private business.

Start-up costs for bike-share programs – which include direct capital costs (bicycles and bicycle
hubs), direct operating costs (maintenance, electricity to power bicycle hubs), associated capital
costs (infrastructure construction), and associated operating costs (bicycle repairs and mainte-
nance, upkeep on existing bicycle paths) – vary greatly depending on the system, population
density, service area, fleet size, and existing infrastructure.

Despite the recent expansion of public transit, the lack of centralized non-motorized alternatives
to light-rail and bus routes continues to create an inconvenience that: 1) discourages the use of
public transportation – making it more difficult to reach bus stops and train stations without cars
or taxis, 2) degrades the environment, 3) congests traffic, and 4) creates inaccessibility to local

Local governments have begun recognizing the need for more comprehensive non-motorized
transportation system. For example, in August of 2009, the City of Lansing adopted a ‘Complete
Street’ ordinance, which mandated that a non-motorized network plan be created and updated
every five years;2 the City of East Lansing recently received a Federal Transportation Enhance-
ment grant to construct 1.4 miles of bike paths along the 1-69 Business Loop3 and will be adopting
a non-motorized pathway study conducted by the Greenways Collaborative at the end of Febru-
ary of 2010;4 CATA has partnered with local communities to conduct a Michigan/Grand River
Avenue Transportation Study and to discuss possible alternative modes of transportation;5 and
Michigan State University, in its ‘20/20: Vision’ campus master plan, has cited bicycles and other
non-motorized forms of transportation as one of its top transportation priorities.6

To encourage non-motorized transportation, a non-profit organization should implement a bike-

share program within the greater Lansing area. This bike-share program would provide flexibility
and mobility, would stimulate economic growth,7 would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, would
decongest traffic,8 and would encourage active, healthy lifestyles. Moreover, this program would
provide local authorities with an opportunity to re-envision public transportation by creating
a multi-modal public transit system, and become a progressive leader in green urban develop-

While this proposal advocates for a bike-share program for the greater Lansing area, it is impor-
tant to note that such a program can be applicable in medium and larger cities across the United
States, especially the Midwest (due to its traditionally flat landscape). As a student at Michigan
State University, I have witnessed the lack of mobility between Lansing and East Lansing. I believe
bike-share programs would be more successful in ‘college towns’ such as East Lansing, because it
is densely populated with a younger, pedestrian/bicyclist friendly residents.

A network of bicycles would be distributed strategically around a city for low-cost use. These
bicycles can be picked up at any 24 hour self-serve bicycle station, and returned to any other
bicycle station. People can sign up for daily, weekly or annual memberships, which can be pur-
chased online or at any bicycle station. Users swipe their card or enter their password at the
bicycle station, select a bicycle from the rack, and ride. Onroll, a Spanish bike-share program,
allows users to rent and return their bikes via text message. To discourage theft, many programs
consider bicycles kept for over 24 hours to be stolen and charge the user’s credit card.9 However,
not all programs require such sophisticated technology. Some can be as simple as the distribu-
tion of uniformly painted bikes throughout a city, which would permit citizens to obtain and re-
turn the bicycles at their convenience. Unfortunately, these less-sophisticated programs tend to
fail, because the bicycles cannot be monitored and thus succumb to vandalism and theft.

Highly developed, densely populated areas, such as the greater Lansing area, have little room for
road expansion. Thus, programs with minimal infrastructure, such as a bike-share, enable the city
to supplement and enhance existing public transportation without such expansion. Additionally,
bike-share stations can be installed for use in months rather than years. Paris’s Vélib program
took 4 ½ months to implement, and Montreal’s Bixi program estimates that installing one bicycle
hub takes only forty-five minutes.10

Bike-share programs can be organized through a number of different entities: the government, a
quasi-governmental transport agency, a university, a non-profit organization, an advertising com-
pany, or a for-profit private business.11 I propose a non-profit ownership model for the bike-share
program. This will ensure that the organization aligns itself with the interests of the public, making
decisions based on user needs rather than profitability. It can obtain funding for start-up capital
costs via federal and state grants, and private donations and sponsorships. The bike-share pro-
gram “Nice Ride Minnesota” follows this non-profit model, and Lansing’s program will use their
program as a reference guide.

In recent years, bike-share programs have proven successful, from the established Vélib in Paris,
with over 20,600 bicycles, to the up-and-coming Nice Ride Minnesota, with 1,000 bicycles. Oth-
er well-known programs include Bicing in Barcelona (6,000 bicycles), Hangzhou Public Bicycle

System in China (10,000 bicycles), Washington DC (120 bicycles), and Bixi in Montreal (5,000
bicycles). Moreover, Denver, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix and New York City
are all considering bike-share programs as well.

Lansing and East Lansing’s combined population size of approximately 200,000 to 300,000 is
better comparable to smaller cities:

City Population Size # Bicycle Hubs # Bicycles

Caen, France12 115,000 40 350
Córboda, Spain13 300,000 4 35
Santander, Spain14 180,000 15 200

As the table shows, it is difficult to determine the accurate number of bicycles needed within a
city, based solely on its population size. However, many vendors estimate that successful pro-
grams can sustain 13 to 20 subscribers per bicycle.12 Additionally, while little data exists on how
many people are serviced per bicycle per day, information exists about the number of trips taken
per bicycle per day:13

Program # Bicycles # Trips per day # Trips per bike per day
Vélib (Paris, France) 20,600 100,000 5
Velo’v (Lyon, France) 3,000 22,000 7
Bicing (Barcelona, Spain) 6,000 35,000 (winter), 58,000 (summer) 10 (winter), 20 (summer)

Increased Mobility: Bike-share programs expand existing public transportation and provide in-
creased mobility with minimum infrastructure. It can partner with a transit system such as CATA
to expand its coverage to areas that may not warrant the creation of a new bus route, but still lack
necessary transportation. Additionally, it would reduce travel time and would increase accessibil-
ity towards existing public transportation, such as CATA bus stops. Barcelona’s Bicing program
reported that 76 percent of users also use another form of transportation.14 Moreover, a bike-
share program fills the gap between trips too far to walk and too short to drive or take the bus.

Economic growth: Improving public transportation stimulates development and re-develop-

ment by providing easier accessibility to businesses. Studies estimate that every dollar invested
in public transportation in public transportation returns six dollars in economic benefit.15

Reduced emissions: The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that transportation con-
tributes 28 percent of total emitted greenhouse gases.16 Additionally, according to the Federal
Highway Administration’s 2001 National Household Travel survey, 40 percent of all trips taken in
the United States are two miles away or less, 74 percent of which are traveled by car.17 A bike-
share program could help reduce these kinds of medium-distance car trips – trips that many
Americans view as too far to walk. The San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association
estimates that a bike-share program could replace 31 percent of driver trips, which would result
in 4,400 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions reduced annually.18 Nice Ride Minnesota esti-
mates that its program will reduce emissions by 1,596 metric tons.19

Reduced traffic congestion: A bike-share program would decrease the amount of cars driven.
For example, in 2008 the number of vehicle miles traveled dropped by 3 percent, which resulted
in a 30 percent reduction in congestion during peak hours.20

Healthier lifestyles: The health benefits of bicycling are well-documented. Bicycling builds
strength and stamina, increases muscle tone, improves cardiovascular fitness, and burns calories.
One active user of Paris’s Vélib lost 15 pounds, taking a total of 3,813 trips.21 A new report by the

Alliance for Biking & Walking, “Bicycling and Walking in the United States: The 2010 Benchmark-
ing Report,” found that states with the highest levels of bicycling and walking have the lowest
levels of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.22

Direct User Benefits: The American Public Transportation Association estimates that individu-
als who use only public transportation save an average of $9,190 annually.23

No bike-share program would be successful without a high concentration of bike stations, and
widespread coverage. In order to ensure the program’s safety and viability, cities also need a
comprehensive system of off-road bike paths, along with extensive studies of traffic patterns and
commuter travel behavior. City planners must strategically place bike stations, to ensure acces-
sibility and meet transportation needs. Phase 1 of the bike-share program should target the 7.5
miles of densely populated business and residential districts within Lansing and East Lansing, as
the map below showcases.

Bicycle hubs should be installed every 4 to 5 blocks, or approximately every half-mile, to ensure
that users can find a bicycle when needed and easily return it when finished. At the start, it may
be easiest to place bike stations next to existing bus stops.

Interactive Visitor Map – Greater Lansing area (

Start-up costs for bike-share programs – which include direct capital costs (bicycles and bicycle
hubs), direct operating costs (maintenance, electricity to power bicycle hubs), associated capital
costs (infrastructure construction), and associated operating costs (bicycle repairs and mainte-
nance, upkeep on existing bicycle paths) – vary greatly depending on the system, population
density, service area, fleet size, and existing infrastructure. Clear Channel Outdoor’s SmartBike
system estimates $3,600 per bicycle (this includes capital costs – such as the cost of produc-
ing/installing/distributing bicycles, hubs and a centralized computer system). Cyclocity estimates
$4,400 per bicycle, and Bixi estimates $3,000 per bicycle.24 San Francisco estimates its start-up
costs to be between $400,000 and $500,000, while Chicago Mayor Daley claimed a bike-share

program would cost his city more than $5 million. The Nice Ride program in Minneapolis will cost
$3.39 million to launch, and about $1.57 million annually. A similar bike-share program within the
Lansing area would cost less, depending on the size of the program. The average operating cost
for a bike-share program is around $1,600 per bicycle. Such costs may also rise with expansion, an
estimated 20 percent increase in operating costs for every 3 percent increase in bicycles.

Assuming a conservative market size of 2,000 initial subscribers, and a 100 bicycle fleet at $3,000
per bicycle, the program will require approximately $300,000 in start-up funds. Assuming no
increase in size, the program will cost $160,000 annually to maintain. To cover operational costs
with membership fees alone, annual membership fees must be $80. Private contributions and
public government funds can be used to cover part of the operational costs, allowing this annual
fee to be lowered.

A variety of funding opportunities exist through the federal and state governments, including the
Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (U.S. Dept. of Energy), the Trans-
portation Enhancement Program (Michigan Dept. of Transportation), and the Rebuild Michigan:
Community Partners Program (Michigan Dept. of Labor and Economic Growth).

Another obstacle, more unique to ‘college towns’ like the City of East Lansing, is its high turn-over
rate. While student populations foster greater demand for alternative programs like bike-share,
the yearly influx of new students creates safety concerns. Education and training, particularly for
freshmen and transfer students, must be made a top priority. East Lansing should partner with
Michigan State University, through programs such as the Community Relations Coalition, to dis-
tribute posters, send out emails, and host training sessions about bike safety and traffic laws.

However, the high turnover rate can also be seen as a benefit. Students know that they will be
living in East Lansing temporarily, which make such programs more enticing than buying or con-
tinually transporting their own bicycles from their permanent homes.

Next Steps
To implement a bike-share program successfully, local municipalities must first survey pedes-
trian and bicyclist traffic flow to determine how many bike hubs would be needed and where to
place them. Additionally, cities should analyze existing bike paths to locate the areas that require
the most improvement. Ultimately, cities should create a comprehensive system of off-road bike
paths, especially in areas with the heaviest traffic flow and most businesses.

Despite its obstacles, the authorities in the greater Lansing area should adopt a bike-share
program to increase transportation efficiency and city mobility, provide new opportunities for
economic growth, decongest traffic, and improve environmental quality. Moreover, by creating
a multi-modal public transit, which includes both motorized and non-motorized transportation,
cities can better meet the ever-changing transportation needs of their citizens.

1. For example, since its inception in 1972, CATA, the Capital Area Transportation Authority, has increased the amount
of bus routes available by 50 percent.
2. For more information on this ordinance, as well as the grassroots ‘Walk and Bike Lansing’ campaign in support of it,
visit “Walk and Bike Lansing!,” Walking and Biking Lansing Task Force c/o Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Coali-
tion, [n.d.],
3. For more information, visit “News Releases,” City of East Lansing, 15 October 2009, http://www.cityofeastlansing.
4. There is currently a downloadable draft available – visit “East Lansing’s Non-motorized Plan,” The Greenway Col-
laborative, Inc., 14 December 2009,
5. To learn about upcoming public forums, as well as other information, visit “Michigan/Grand River Avenue Transpor-
tation Study,” Capital Area Transportation Authority, 29 January 2010
6. To download this document, visit “Campus Master Plan Update,” Campus Planning and Administration, [n.d.] http://

7. Bike-share is cheaper to both implement and use, costing both the city government and its residence less money.
Additionally, this program enhances mobility within a city and accessibility to local businesses, helping to attract and
retain a larger customer base within East Lansing and Lansing.
8. To read more about the benefits of public transportation, visit “Facts on Public Transportation,” American Public
Transportation Association, [n.d.]
9. For continual updates and helpful resources about new and established bike-share programs across the world, visit
“The Bike-Sharing Blog,” MetroBike, LLC, 24 January 2010
10. CityRyde, “Bicycle Sharing Systems Worldwide: Selected Case Studies.” Powerpoint Presentation, http://www.
11. For more information about different types and analysis of bike-share programs, read DeMaio, Paul “Bike-share:
History, Impacts, Models of Provision, and Future” in The Journal of Public Transportation (downloadable via The
Bike-Sharing Blog).
12. City of Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development Department, “Non-Profit Business Plan for
Twin Cities Bike Share System,” Powerpoint presentation,
13. “Welcome to the City’s Bicycle Sharing Page,” City of Portland Office of Transportation, 2010, http://www.portland- and “Barcelona’s Bicing Bike Rental Scheme Beats All Expectations,”
Bike Europe: Website for Bike Professionals, 2010,
14. “Welcome to the City’s Bicycle Sharing Page,” City of Portland Office of Transportation, 2010, http://www.portland-
15. “The Benefits of Public Transportation: Essential Support for a Strong Economy,” Transportation Riders United,
16. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks
17. “The Top Ten Facts on Biking and Walking in the United States,” America Bikes, [n/d],
18. “Ideas and Action for a Better City,” San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, 2010, http://www.spur.
19. City of Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development Department, “Non-Profit Business Plan for
Twin Cities Bike Share System,” Powerpoint presentation,
20. “National Traffic Scorecard,” INRIX, [n/d],
21. “Public Health Benefits of Bike-Sharing,” The Bike Sharing Blog, 27 August 2009, http://bike-sharing.blogspot.
22. “Bicycling and Walking in the United States: The 2010 Benchmarking Report; Quick Fact Sheet,” The Alliance
for Biking and Walking,
23. “Public Transportation Takes Us There,” American Public Transportation Association, 10 November 2009, http://
24. “Bike-Share Opportunities in New York City, 2009,” New York City Department of City Planning, 2010,

Ending Corn Subsidies:
A Small Step Toward Sustainable Farm Policy
Gareth Collins
University of Michigan

In response to the increasing global demand for fuel and calories, corn producers have scaled
production to industrial levels to facilitate maximum productivity — with significant assistance
from government subsidies. These efficiency gains have been made possible by intensive fertil-
izer use, cheap fossil fuels for easy transport, and a revolution in agricultural science and technol-
ogy. Unfortunately, the over-production of commodity crops, most notably corn, creates negative
externalities in the form of environmental pollution, disease, and deadweight loss from taxation.

Curtailing the federal government’s heavy subsidization of corn, and other commodity crops,
would partly remedy these ills, and free up federal funding for a smarter farm program, one
that emphasizes sustainable land use, fair trade, and healthy nutrition. At present, no subsidy
program currently exists for fruit and vegetable farmers, while corn growers receive billions of
dollars every year from the USDA, regardless of market prices. Reform could shift some of these
resources towards better uses, and thereby eliminate some of the problems created by a food
market flooded with cheap corn.

To understand the origins of agricultural subsidies in the United States, one must look to the
history of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Though the Department of Agriculture has been
existence since the Hatch Act of 1887, rapid expansion of the Department’s regulatory authority
didn’t begin in earnest until the 1920’s. USDA farm policy (or perhaps more accurately, the lack
thereof) facilitated an era of farm overproduction beginning in World War I. By the time the
Great Depression struck in 1929, the economic collapse only served to exacerbate the prob-
lem. Because farm incomes were collapsing along with demand and prices, the USDA began to
purchase commodities to decrease market supply and thus maintain prices. This backfired, as
farmer’s continued to produce even more to take advantage of the new government program.
After prices inevitably collapsed again, many of these farmers went bankrupt, and sought further
relief from the government.

The march towards heavy subsidization of farm commodities continued through FDR’s adminis-
tration. The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, the nation’s first farm bill, marked the begin-
nings of a “permanent plan for government-controlled agriculture” (Hughes) and normalized the
subsidization of agriculture. By 1939, the New Deal expansion of the USDA allocated an annual
budget of $1.3 billion.1 The USDA’s prominent new role in supplementing farm incomes would give
way to an era of intense lobbying for government resources.

Today, more than ten omnibus farm bills later, almost 90% of farm subsidy payments go towards
the production of just 5 commodity crops.2 The heavy subsidization of commodity crops has
dramatically shifted the American farm landscape away from the small family farm, towards the
large-scale industrialization of agriculture. This new, industrialized structure not only has far-
reaching environmental impacts, but also fails to reward the individual farmers themselves.3 In-
stead, farm payments are increasingly concentrated, with a majority of the payments going to
only a small number of wealthy individuals. This concentration of market share in the food pro-
duction industry has vast implications for the way our food is grown, which in turn affects not only
the health of food consumers, but also the health of the planet.

There are numerous environmental impacts associated with large-scale commodity crop farming.

Modern farming practices contribute heavily to environmental problems like water pollution, hy-
poxia zones, biodiversity loss, and soil erosion. Each of these problems are heavily interrelated,
and are exacerbated by a farming philosophy that emphasizes productivity over sustainability.
The current structure of farm payments rewards quantity over quality, which invariably contrib-
utes to even more farm pollution.

Furthermore, large factory-style commodity crop farms generally have a harsher impact on the
environment than smaller farms that grow less fertilizer intensive crops. And the gap is widening;
small farmers are at the forefront of the sustainable food movement, while bigger operations lag
behind (more on this point to come).

And thus a pattern begins to emerge; industrialized commodity crop farming is putting strains
on natural systems. Efforts to encourage sustainable farming practices through regulation are
underway, but participation is voluntary. The Conservation Security Program (CSP), first admin-
istered by the USDA through the 2002 Farm Bill, provides financial and technical assistance for
sustainable farming practices to eligible landowners. This policy, though effective for those who
choose to enroll, is at odds with the rest of the farm bill, which continues to heavily subsidize the
practices that the CSP is trying to combat. Meanwhile, it’s business as usual for commodity crop

Corn growers in particular have profited off the current subsidy structure, because corn is not
only a heavily subsidized food source, but also a heavily subsidized energy source. Despite this
status quo policy reality, corn (the way it’s grown and consumed today) is an unhealthy food, and
an expensive and resource-intensive biofuel.4 These considerations, in addition to the acceler-
ating environmental costs of industrialized commodity crop farming discussed in detail earlier,
suggest that corn is being overproduced.

How do these negative externalities manifest them-

selves? America’s expanding waistline gives a strong in-
dication that cheap calories are far too plentiful. Corn
is the food input of choice for the American diet; it’s
used to make high fructose corn syrup, as cheap feed
for cattle, and a plethora of other food additives.5 The
cheapness of corn—which is made more pronounced
by corn subsidies—thus makes high sugar, high fat, low
nutrition foods more widely available. Corn subsidies,
coupled with the lack of a fruit and vegetable subsidy
program, make unhealthy foods more attractive by be-
ing relatively less expensive.6 Consumers are forced to
make nutrition decisions based on budget constraints daily, and in a country where “the cost of
fresh fruits and vegetables increased nearly 40 percent while the price of soft drinks decreased
by almost 25 percent.7 From 1985 to 2000, they are often forced into making decisions that com-
promise their health.

Corn subsidies also have other negative societal effects. Subsidy payments are concentrated
among only the largest growers: “six out ten American farmers get no federal money, while 10%
of farmers get 72% of it.”8 By making commercial farming even more profitable than it would
otherwise be, farm subsidies inflate farm values (creating higher barriers for entry for average
Joe farmer) and give commercial farms ample capital to buy out family farms.

For a farm subsidy program that does more than just enhance the profits of agribusiness giants
like Monsanto, policy makers should take a radical new approach. Their goal should be to shift
subsidy resources from commodity crop farming to small farmers. Small farmers grow healthier

foods, like fruits and vegetables, and what’s more, enhancing the livelihood of small farmers is
politically popular (see figure below), and supported by think tanks across the political spectrum.9
Furthermore, the urgency of the environmental, societal, and health effects of the current sub-
sidy structure underscore the need for a radical agricultural policy shift.

Policy Recommendations

Although admittedly, this recommendation flies in the face of a political reality marked by agri-
business lobbyists who consistently exhibit rent-seeking behavior, it is sound policy fiscally, eco-
nomically, environmentally, and nutritionally. The recent expansion of the SNAP program (for-
merly known as food stamps) is a step in the right direction, but the federal government should go
even further. The creation of a Supplemental Nutrition Improvement Program (SNIP) exclusively
for the purchase of fruits and vegetables would act as a subsidy to small farmers, and should be
funded by a corresponding reduction or elimination of corn (and other commodity crop) subsi-
dies, thereby making it budget neutral from a fiscal standpoint, and would be accompanied by
significant savings in terms of avoiding environmental damage that the government will be forced
to alleviate sooner or later.

The Department of Agriculture would administer the program at the federal level through its
Food and Nutrition Service. State agencies would then administer the program at state and local
levels, including determination of eligibility and allotments, and distribution of benefits. Each
family’s allotment through SNIP will be determined from their allotment provided by the SNAP
program. SNIP would have two methods of benefit disbursement. Firstly, additional funds would
be made available on the SNAP debit card (the primary SNAP disbursement method), reserved
exclusively for purchases of fruits and vegetables. Secondly, SNIP coupons similar to the ones
made available by the Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) will be made available to all
SNAP recipients. Currently, the FMNP limits coupons for farmer’s market purchases to low-
income women and children.11 SNIP would make said coupons available for use by every SNAP
participant, regardless of age and sex. This would be an effective expansion of benefits for those
who need it most: families who are already utilizing the SNAP program.

Source: WPO, 4/0910 Policy makers will have an opportunity to get creative
with how to steer SNIP benefits away from large-scale
commodity crop farming, the source of most of the en-
vironmental and health problems outlined above. Be-
cause the SNIP program rewards produce farmers and
is funded by a reduction in corn subsidies, the program
would have a “Robin Hood” effect by taking from those
already outlandishly rewarded by the subsidy structure
and distributing it to farmers whose farming practices
and products have a more beneficial effect on society.
Policy makers can look to precedents set by earlier
laws like the estate tax (and other forms of IRS data)
that define small businesses to determine farmers who
would qualify as small enough to receive the farmer’s
market coupons. The FMNP already has undercover
USDA agents that test coupon usability; these agents could also make observations and create
reports on who is participating in the farmer’s market programs. Deriving ways to limit the SNIP
program solely to small farmers would help to stimulate the local food movement to an even
greater extent, which seeks to provide healthy and affordable food to all. Imagine low-income
enrollees, who might otherwise spend their money at fast food chains using their SNIP dollars, at
farmer’s markets, where healthy food that is grown locally is sold for reasonable prices.

Political support for commodity crop subsidies rarely falters, but recent high prices (many com-
modities have seen historical peaks) have forced some lawmakers to call into question the merits
of the current farm subsidy structure. According to Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), a farmer and
former chairman of the Senate agriculture committee, “federal farm subsidies are already nar-
rowly focused on certain crops and are excessive. They become ridiculous given the exploding
possibilities to grow crops for biofuels production”. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) agrees: “It’s a
bonus program, not a safety net. Farmers I talk to know it’s not politically sustainable to ask
taxpayers to make payments to them in highly profitable years.”12 This suggests shifting attitudes
towards USDA policy in the power corridors of Washington, and an opportunity for significant

The benefits to ending, or at the very least significantly scaling back, commodity crop subsidies,
particularly corn, and shifting them towards a fruit and vegetable subsidy program would be
significant. The environmental impacts discussed in detail above would certainly be reduced
by a large commodity crop production cut. Fertilizer runoff, soil erosion, and the problems they
create (like that giant hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico) would be eased, though far from
completely alleviated. Shifting subsidy resources from large factory farming operations to small
farmers would be better for the environment, because small farms tend to farm more sustainably.
Additionally, subsidizing small farmers would stimulate the local food movement, which would in
turn reduce emissions and transportation costs.

Critics will say that this amounts to a welfare expansion, and that farmers will suffer tremen-
dous economic hardship. In response, I would argue—and my research suggests—that the current
subsidy structure is overwhelmingly benefiting multi-million dollar factory-style operations that
have negative effects on both human health and the natural environment. The sad truth is that
individual farmers aren’t profiting from the current system, instead, corporations, landowners,
and distributors are.

One might argue that factory-style commodity crop farms will simply shift production to fruits
and vegetables to position themselves as recipients of the SNIP subsidy. Even if this were to hap-
pen, such a shift in the way large farms operate should be welcomed, as it would correspondingly
represent a shift towards more sustainable crops and practices. Instead of farming corn, they
would be growing fruits and vegetables, and would have to sell them at the grassroots local level
to have access to all of the SNIP dollars being spent. This seems unlikely, but should be encour-
aged regardless. This policy seeks to healthily realign the incentives for American farmers, not
make dogmatic pronunciations about the moral superiority of one farm over another.

The USDA has a poor record of reshaping the American farm landscape, but farmers have always
responded with resilience to new regulation, and they will do so again. Before they’ve received
any subsidies at all, the large companies that produce and process most of the food we eat are
already not paying the full cost of their business operations. Instead of giving bailouts and subsi-
dies to large banks and other massive corporations, we should be supporting our country’s small
farmers, who are leading the way on sustainability and healthy food. Doing so would go a long
way towards creating a stronger, cleaner, and healthier America.

1. Hughes, Monica. “A Brief History of U.S. Farm Policy and the Need for Free-Market Agriculture.” The Objective Stan-
dard 4.2 (2009). Web. <>.
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Web. <>.
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