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 www.rooseveltcampusnetwork.org 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: 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 Weston R. Laabs Localizing School Lunches to Nourish Students Andrew C. Hobaugh Integrating Environmental Education into Middle School Curricula Alixandra Hallen Green Success: A Collaboration Between Michigan State University and Lansing Public Schools Gabriel A. Buzinski Bringing Green Collar Jobs to the Midwest Valerie Bieberich Green-Based Career Training Cory Connolly Youth Unemployment Act: Creating Stable Job Opportunities through Co-Ops Vijay Singh Building Municipal Fiber-to-Home Internet Connections Kevin Atherton A Bicycle-Based Mass Transit System Theresa Gasinski Ending Corn Subsidies: A Small Step toward Sustainable Farm Policy Gareth Collins 3

6 8 11


15 17 19

21 23 29

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 regional 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 locally 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 environmental impact.3 • Local consumption can create twice as many jobs.4 • Unlike USDA Organic, the Wholesome Heartland certification process focuses on stimulating specifically Midwestern agricultural production and consumption. Background 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, revitalization, and the creation of new markets in the Midwest. Through the development of the Wholesome 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 tailored 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 consumers, retailers, and restaurants to identify and buy local foods.6 ‘’Jersey Fresh’’ has been successful 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 initiative 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 econo3

my, to reduce the negative environmental impacts of food production, and to increase Missouri consumer health consciousness. Analysis The Wholesome Heartland certification standards would first be set by a Missouri state commission 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 Following 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 industry 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 evidence 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 consumers 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 certification 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 certification 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 reduced 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 4

can generate three dollars for every dollar lost to the national brand.13 Endnotes
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. John Ikerd, How does eating locally grown food help the environment? (2006). <http://environment.about.com/od/ greenlivingdesign/a/locally_grown.htm> (accessed 27 January 2010). Industry Statistics and Projected Growth (2008). Available from: Organic Trade Association < http://www.ota.com/ organic/mt/business.html> (accessed 27 January 2010). L. Hunter Lovins, Energy and Sustainable Agriculture. 2005 John Pesek Colloquium on Sustainable Agriculture. 9 March 2005. <http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/pubs/other/files/2005PesekColloquium_Lovins.pdf> (accessed 27 January 2010). Media Centre, The New Economics Foundation. 22 May 2006. < http://www.neweconomics.org/press-releases/ markets-create-twice-many-jobs-supermarkets-and-food-half-price> (accessed 27 January 2010). David Swenson, The Economic Impacts of Increased Fruit and Vegetable Production and Consumption in Iowa: Phase II. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture (Ames, IA) <http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/pubs/staff/files/ health_0606.pdf> (accessed 27 January 2010). Industry Statistics and Projected Growth. Organic Trade Association. 2008. http://www.ota.com/organic/mt/business.html> (accessed 27 January 2010). Organics in the News. Rodale Institute, 21 April 2005. <http://newfarm.rodaleinstitute.org/columns/org_ news/2005/0405/missouriorgcert.shtml> (accessed 27 January 2010). 2007 Census Publications, USDA. <www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2007/Full_Report/Volume_1,_Chapter_1_ State_Level/Missouri/index.asp> (accessed 23 February 2010). Industry Statistics and Projected Growth. Organic Trade Association. <www.ota.com/organic/mt/business.html> (accessed 23 February 2010). Laura Thornquist, Organic Farming in Minnesota Proves Profitable. Public News Service, 9 February 2010. <http:// www.publicnewsservice.org/index.php?/content/article/12613-1> (accessed 23 February 2010). California Consumers Quickly Embrace New Real California Milk Seal. California Milk Advisory Board. April 3, 2008. <californiadairypressroom.com/Press_Releases/2008-04-03> (accessed 23 February 2010). Shaffer. Fresh Trends. 2002. Lincolnshire, IL: Vance Publications. John Ikerd. Eating Local: A Matter of Integrity <www.tierramiguelfarm.org/files/20081126_Eating%20Local.pdf> (accessed 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 switchout 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 alternative.2 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 charging 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

Analysis 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 available 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, house6

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 voltage necessary to quickly charge a car is currently unavailable in the United States. The EV industry 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 charging 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 between 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 support 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 malnourished 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 vegetables a day. • Starting in 2011, Illinois’ newly created Farm Fresh Schools Program will begin to distribute 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 demographics 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), processed 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. Background 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 healthful foods and increased school revenue.


Analysis 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 collaborate 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, decreases 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 causing 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. Stakeholders 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 essential 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 implementation 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 9

have a right to high quality food and produce; hopefully establishing guidelines as to what students 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. <http://www.ecoliteracy.org/downloads/rethinking-schoollunch-guide>. ‘’Eat less Processed Foods, Experts Say,’’ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/2814253.stm, March 3, 2003. Elsener, Megan, Debra Eschmeyer, and Sheilah Davidson. “Nourishing the Nation One Tray at a Time:Farm to School Initiatives in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization.” (2006). Farm to School. National Farm to School Network, Community Food Security Coalition, School food Focus. Web. <http://www.farmtoschool.org/files/publications_192.pdf>. 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. edu/uepi/publications/a_growing_movement.pdf>. 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). http://www.ecoliteracy.org/essays/school-food-public-policy-and-strategies-change Pirog, Rich. “Checking the food odometer: Comparing food miles for local versus.” Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture (2003): 1-6. Leopold Center. Jan. 2003. Web. <http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/pubs/staff/files/food_travel072103. pdf>. 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 literacy. 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. Background In the United States, especially in the Midwest, we need to start taking an interest in environmental 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 environmental 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 curriculum 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 Protection Agency came out with their second report to Congress on the state of environmental education 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 studies.9 • 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. Analysis Middle school, which includes grades 6 through 8, should be where we begin to integrate environmental 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 challenges 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 example 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 Environmental education is essential. When students graduate, they will need to be able to not only understand the world around them, but to be able to solve the problems our environment faces. Stakeholders 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 education 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 authorization 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 Environmental 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, parents 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. Endnotes
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 Successes: A Report to Congress on the Status of Environmental Education in the United States,” March 2005 3. Center for Ecoliteracy, “Interdisciplinary Learning,” http://www.ecoliteracy.org/strategies/interdisciplinary-learning 4. The National Environmental Education Advisory Council, “Setting the Standard, Measuring Results, Celebrating Successes: 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 Successes: 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. project2061.org/publications/2061Connections/2009/2009-05a.htm 7. American Association for the Advancement of Science, “Project 2061 Connections: September/October” http://www. project2061.org/publications/2061Connections/2009/2009-05a.htm 8. American Association for the Advancement of Science, “Project 2061 Connections: September/October” http://www. project2061.org/publications/2061Connections/2009/2009-05a.htm 9. The National Environmental Education Advisory Council, “Setting the Standard, Measuring Results, Celebrating Successes: A Report to Congress on the Status of Environmental Education in the United States,” March 2005


Green Success: A Collaboration Between
Gabriel A. Buzinski
Michigan State University

Michigan State University & Lansing Public Schools

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. Michigan 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 authorizing 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. Establishing 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 Lansing, 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 occurred 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. Obstacles 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 13

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 investment for the MSU community, the Lansing community, and the state of Michigan as a whole. Endnotes
1. 2. 3. Charter Public Schools, Michigan Department of Education. http://www.michigan.gov/mde/0,1607,7-1406530_30334_40088---,00.html 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. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3654837. Starting a Charter, Michigan Department of Education. www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/StartingaCharter_217885_7.pps


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 offer 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 commitment to work with the company led them to choose Battle Creek over nearby sites.3 Background 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 incentives such as shovel-ready sites and government support for green jobs. Without these enticements, 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 deciding 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 characteristics 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 installed 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 15

Analysis 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 develop 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 relative 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 transition 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 independent 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 benefits 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 physically, by offering them available state and federal tax incentives and developing sites with shovelready infrastructure. Endnotes
1. Yung, Katherine. “United Solar picks Battle Creek.” Freep.com. 14 Oct. 2008. Detroit Free Press. 5 Nov. 2008 <http:// www.freep.com/article/20081014/BUSINESS06/810140319>. 2. “BREAKING: United Solar to build in BC.” BattleCreekEnquirer.com. 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.” BattleCreekEnquirer.com. 13 Oct. 2008. 5 Nov. 2008. 8. “Green Jobs 101.” Center for American Progress, 11 Dec. 2008. Web. 1 Feb. 2010. <http://www.americanprogress.org/ issues/2008/12/green_jobs101.html>. 9. United Solar Ovonic, n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2010. <http://www.uni-solar.com>.


Green Career-Based Training
Cory Connolly
Michigan State University
Creating a green career-based training partnership between public high schools and private 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 million 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 Michigan, 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 positions in the automotive industry.8 This strategy of first-hand training can be transferred to careerbased education for the green economy. Analysis A similar partnership should be developed for renewable energy manufacturing training in public 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 private 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 companies 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, 17

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 secondary level does not have to come at the expense of other forms of career-training or education, 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 Midwestern States’ Departments of Labor and Education to identify green manufacturing companies 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 environment-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. Endnotes
1. “Employment Status of the Civilian Population 25 Years and over by Educational Attainment.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Web. 06 Mar. 2010. <http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t04.htm>. 2. Measuring Up 2008. Rep. The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2008. Web. 6 Mar. 2010. <http:// measuringup2008.highereducation.org/print/NCPPHEMUNationalRpt.pdf>. 3. Mapping Green Career Pathways: Job Training Infrastructure and Opportunities in Michigan. Rep. Apollo Alliance, Jan. 2010. Web. 6 Mar. 2010. <http://apolloalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/mappingreportmichiganjan27. pdf>. 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. <http://www.michigan.gov/documents/nwlb/ GJC_GreenReport_Print_277833_7.pdf>. 5. “Economy in Shambles, Midwest Goes Green.” Michigan Land Use Institute Web. 06 Mar. 2010. <http://www.mlui.org/ landwater/fullarticle.asp?fileid=17354>. 6. “Careertech : Michigan.” Careertech : National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium. Web. 06 Mar. 2010. <http://www.careertech.org/state_profile/show/Michigan>. 7. “Careertech : State CTE Profiles.” Careertech : National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium. Web. 06 Mar. 2010. <http://www.careertech.org/state_profile/>. 8. “Automotive Youth Educational Systems.” Automotive Youth Educational Systems. Web. 06 Mar. 2010. <https://www. ayes.org/news>. 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, Webcasts, Blogs, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter @Schwarzenegger. Web. 06 Mar. 2010. <http://gov.ca.gov/fact-sheet/11753>. 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. <http://www.michigan.gov/documents/nwlb/ GJC_GreenReport_Print_277833_7.pdf>. 11. ibid 12. “RE-ENERGYSE America: Obama’s Proposal for Clean-energy Education.” Americans for Energy Leadership. Web. 06 Mar. 2010. <http://leadenergy.org/2010/02/obama-re-energyse-proposal-2011>.


Youth Unemployment Act:
Vijay Singh
Northwestern University

Creating Stable Job Opportunities through Co-Ops

By creating a co-op job program in high schools involving both private and public investment, policy makers can reverse the trend of rising youth unemployment. Background 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 generation. 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 graduating college seniors with the effects being more severe for youth without a college degree.7 • 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. Analysis 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 higher wages.4 However, these companies are also most likely to fire youth. A public-private partnership 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 opportunity 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 19

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 Stakeholders 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 program 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. Additionally, 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. Endnotes
1. “Employment and Unemployment Among Youth Summary.” Bureau of Labor Statistics. 27 Aug 2009. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2 Nov 2009 <http://www.bls.gov/news.release/youth.nr0.htm>. 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 <http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/blog/09/10/22/Birth-datebusiness-cycles-and-lifetime-income/>. 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 internet broadband deployment.1 One way to increase broadband penetration is for municipalities 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 Background 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 being 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. Analysis 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 cost.9 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 21

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 fiber 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, nonmunicipal 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. Endnotes
1. Paczkowski, John. The Median U.S. Broadband Speed? South Korea’s Divided by Four. August 26, 2009. 2. LusFiber. aboutus. 2010. http://www.fiberforthefuture.com/aboutus/ (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. http://www.google.com/appserve/fiberrfi/ (accessed February 15, 2010). 7. LusFiber. aboutus. 2010. http://www.fiberforthefuture.com/aboutus/ (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. 14.Ibid. 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, decongest traffic, and encourage active, healthy lifestyles. Executive Summary Despite the expansion of public transportation, pedestrians and bicyclists continue to be isolated. Consequently, this isolation discourages the use of public transportation, causes greater traffic 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 create a progressive multi-modal public transit system, which would include non-motorized alternatives. 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 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 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. 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. 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 lesssophisticated 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 company, 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 maintenance, upkeep on existing bicycle paths) – vary greatly depending on the system, population density, service area, fleet size, and existing infrastructure. Introduction 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 businesses.1 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 Enhancement grant to construct 1.4 miles of bike paths along the 1-69 Business Loop3 and will be adopting 23

a non-motorized pathway study conducted by the Greenways Collaborative at the end of February 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 bikeshare 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 development. While this proposal advocates for a bike-share program for the greater Lansing area, it is important 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. Description 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 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. 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 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. 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 company, 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 program “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. Other well-known programs include Bicing in Barcelona (6,000 bicycles), Hangzhou Public Bicycle 24

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 Caen, France12 Córboda, Spain13 Santander, Spain14 Population Size 115,000 300,000 180,000 # Bicycle Hubs 40 4 15 # Bicycles 350 35 200

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

35,000 (winter), 58,000 (summer)

Benefits Increased Mobility: Bike-share programs expand existing public transportation and provide increased 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 accessibility 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 bikeshare 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-development 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 contributes 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 bikeshare 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 estimates 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 25

Alliance for Biking & Walking, “Bicycling and Walking in the United States: The 2010 Benchmarking 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 individuals who use only public transportation save an average of $9,190 annually.23 Analysis 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 accessibility 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 (http://www.lansing.org/map-it)

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 maintenance, 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 producing/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 26

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 Transportation 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 distribute 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 continually transporting their own bicycles from their permanent homes. Next Steps To implement a bike-share program successfully, local municipalities must first survey pedestrian 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. Endnotes
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 Coalition, [n.d.], http://walkbikelansing.com/index.html. 3. For more information, visit “News Releases,” City of East Lansing, 15 October 2009, http://www.cityofeastlansing. com/NewsReleases/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/314/Saginaw-Pathways-Project-to-Break-Ground-in-2010/. 4. There is currently a downloadable draft available – visit “East Lansing’s Non-motorized Plan,” The Greenway Collaborative, Inc., 14 December 2009, http://www.greenwaycollab.com/EastLansingNonmoto.htm 5. To learn about upcoming public forums, as well as other information, visit “Michigan/Grand River Avenue Transportation Study,” Capital Area Transportation Authority, 29 January 2010 http://www.migrtrans.org/home.html. 6. To download this document, visit “Campus Master Plan Update,” Campus Planning and Administration, [n.d.] http:// prod.gis.msu.edu/construction/pdf/final_executive_summary.pdf


7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13.

14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24.

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. To read more about the benefits of public transportation, visit “Facts on Public Transportation,” American Public Transportation Association, [n.d.] http://www.publictransportation.org/facts/. 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 http://bike-share.blogspot.com/. CityRyde, “Bicycle Sharing Systems Worldwide: Selected Case Studies.” Powerpoint Presentation, http://www. cityryde.com/products/ 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). City of Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development Department, “Non-Profit Business Plan for Twin Cities Bike Share System,” Powerpoint presentation, http://www.niceridemn.com/index.php?option=com_cont ent&view=category&layout=blog&id=42&Itemid=58 “Welcome to the City’s Bicycle Sharing Page,” City of Portland Office of Transportation, 2010, http://www.portlandonline.com/Transportation/index.cfm?c=50814 and “Barcelona’s Bicing Bike Rental Scheme Beats All Expectations,” Bike Europe: Website for Bike Professionals, 2010, http://www.bike-eu.com/news/3440/barcelona-s-bicing-bikerental-scheme-beats-all-expectations.html “Welcome to the City’s Bicycle Sharing Page,” City of Portland Office of Transportation, 2010, http://www.portlandonline.com/Transportation/index.cfm?c=50814 “The Benefits of Public Transportation: Essential Support for a Strong Economy,” Transportation Riders United, [n/d], http://house.michigan.gov/SessionDocs/2007-2008/Testimony/Committee4-10-23-2007.pdf Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks “The Top Ten Facts on Biking and Walking in the United States,” America Bikes, [n/d], http://www.americabikes.org/ Documents/Top-10-Facts.pdf “Ideas and Action for a Better City,” San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, 2010, http://www.spur. org/publications/library/report/critical_cooling/option23 City of Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development Department, “Non-Profit Business Plan for Twin Cities Bike Share System,” Powerpoint presentation, http://www.niceridemn.com/index.php?option=com_cont ent&view=category&layout=blog&id=42&Itemid=58 “National Traffic Scorecard,” INRIX, [n/d], http://scorecard.inrix.com/scorecard/request.asp “Public Health Benefits of Bike-Sharing,” The Bike Sharing Blog, 27 August 2009, http://bike-sharing.blogspot. com/2009/08/public-health-benefits-of-bike-sharing.html “Bicycling and Walking in the United States: The 2010 Benchmarking Report; Quick Fact Sheet,” The Alliance for Biking and Walking, http://www.peoplepoweredmovement.org/site/images/uploads/2010_Benchmarking_Report_ Fact_Sheet-FINAL.pdf “Public Transportation Takes Us There,” American Public Transportation Association, 10 November 2009, http:// www.publictransportation.org/facts/091110_transit_savings.asp “Bike-Share Opportunities in New York City, 2009,” New York City Department of City Planning, 2010, www.nyc. gov/html/dcp/pdf/transportation/bike_share_complete.pdf


Ending Corn Subsidies:
Gareth Collins
University of Michigan

A Small Step Toward Sustainable Farm Policy

Introduction 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 fertilizer use, cheap fossil fuels for easy transport, and a revolution in agricultural science and technology. 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. Background 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 problem. 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 administration. The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, the nation’s first farm bill, marked the beginnings 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. Findings 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 farreaching environmental impacts, but also fails to reward the individual farmers themselves.3 Instead, 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 production 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. 29

Modern farming practices contribute heavily to environmental problems like water pollution, hypoxia 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 contributes 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 administered 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 farmers. 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 accelerating environmental costs of industrialized commodity crop farming discussed in detail earlier, suggest that corn is being overproduced. How do these negative externalities manifest themselves? America’s expanding waistline gives a strong indication 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 being 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 compromise 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 30

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 subsidy 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 agribusiness lobbyists who consistently exhibit rent-seeking behavior, it is sound policy fiscally, economically, environmentally, and nutritionally. The recent expansion of the SNAP program (formerly 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) subsidies, 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 lowincome 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 environmental and health problems outlined above. Because 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.


Conclusion Political support for commodity crop subsidies rarely falters, but recent high prices (many commodities 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 narrowly 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 reform. 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 tremendous 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 happen, 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 encouraged 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 subsidies 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. Sources
1. Hughes, Monica. “A Brief History of U.S. Farm Policy and the Need for Free-Market Agriculture.” The Objective Standard 4.2 (2009). Web. <http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2009-summer/us-farm-policy.asp#_edn37>. 2. Howard, Robert West. The Vanishing Land (New York: Villard Books, 1985), p. 105. 3. Carr, Donald. “Obama Stands Firm on Push for Farm Program Reform.” Environmental Working Group. 7 May 2009. Web. <http://www.ewg.org/node/27881>. 4. Keeney, Dennis, and Loni Kemp. A New Agricultural Policy for the United States. The Minnesota Project. North Atlantic Treaty Organization, July 2003. Web. 5. Winter, Allison. “Water Pollution: Farm Runoff in Nine States Linked to Gulf ‘Dead Zone’” Environmental Working


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