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ABSTRACTS - Increasing Understanding of Public Problems and Policies -- 1996

To ensure proper credit is given to all contributors, and to properly attribute the article to the Increasing Understanding of Public Problems & Policies publication,  Farm Foundation requires that you download a copy of the publication's title page. This title page must be printed and attached to any printed copies of these articles.


 The Changing Relationship
Between Federal, State and Local Governments

Timothy J. Penny
University of Minnesota

President Teddy Roosevelt once said, "Do what you can with what you have, where you are." That quote aptly describes the public mood toward government in present-day America. Big government solutions no longer are trusted. On issues from education to welfare, voters have concluded that the system is "broke and needs fixing." Americans are demanding that new approaches be devised and are turning to a new generation of leaders to help break up the status quo. A careful review of budget and electoral realities also makes clear the imperative of change in the current context. It has been said that change is good. Let us hope so, because change is here to stay.

 The Implications of Changing Federalism: The County View
Barbara Sheen Todd
St. Petersburg, Florida

The remaining years of the 20th Century inevitably will reflect significant reductions in the federal revenues and resources made available to state and local governments. As a result, counties will be challenged to develop innovative solutions for an expanded demand for services, using less revenue and resources. The critical roles counties perform in the states' service-delivery and administrative structure argue for greater empowerment of counties and more effective intergovernmental relations. As the "government of the future," counties must be considered equal partners in the intergovernmental equation, with a fair and equitable share of rights, responsibilities, and resources.

 Federal Devolution: The View From the States
Thomas E. Stinson
University of Minnesota

Every state will face major financial challenges as federal programs are devolved in order to pare the federal budget by 2002, but balancing the federal budget will affect each state and each state economy differently. The federal government plays a different role in each state, and states differ in their capacity to absorb programs if not given full funding for them. Federal devolution will bring changes so fundamental that every state needs to begin planning now, to manage the financial challenges that will be created. I will provide some census-derived background information, so you can see how important the federal sector is in your state and identify where the pressure points are likely to be.

 Thyss Town Simulation
Luane J. Lange, University of Connecticut
Timothy W. Kelsey, Pennsylvania State University
With observations from Lois M. Frey, Vermont, and Otto C. Doering, Purdue

The "Thyss Town Simulation" is a Public Issues Education (PIE) teaching tool that allows session/workshop participants to experience the use of resource information and local decisionmaking interactions, to address local fiscal issues. Participants can increase their understanding of local fiscal factors and experience some of the involvement of diverse stakeholders. The conference's federal-state-county-local issue of "Changing Federalism" provided the topic for this audience participation.


 Public Deliberation's Role in Informing Citizens
David Mathews
Kettering Foundation

Some Extension educators have a new way of increasing citizens' knowledge of emerging issues. They are "informing" the public by involving citizens in making the tough decisions characteristic of issues facing communities. They are part of a loose network of civic and educational organizations conducting National Issues Forums, which promote a kind of policy dialogue called deliberation. In forums, the challenge of making choices prompts people to look for and use information; then their "choice work" generates its own kind of public knowledge. Members of media and government are beginning to listen to the public voice that emerges from public deliberations. Forums are helping Extension build ties and find new direction.

 The Role of Religion in Public Policy Debate
Gary E. Farley
Southern Baptist Convention Home Mission Board

Religion should be a full partner in discussions of rural public policy. The vision of the kingdom of God has driven much of U.S. history, from the Puritans and Manifest Destiny doctrine to the millennialists and this century's early Country Life Movement. A dynamic interrelation between visions and values must always exist. We can draw upon the kingdom-of-God vision--and the core values of justice, love and hope it implies--to formulate, critique and implement needed policy. We can take on the very practical task of creating new forms of community across rural America, building on the emerging 30-mile communities around Wal-Mart towns. Thousands of churches with millions of members who know of the kingdom vision also long for the restoration of rural community. They will listen and respond and work with us.

 Does the Press Shape or Reflect National Values?
Hasso Hering
Albany [Oregon] Democrat-Herald

The press has to be influenced greatly by the social environment in which we all live. At the same time, our communities work partly based on the exchange of news and information--which the press makes possible on a large scale. Thus, the press cannot help but shape how the community reacts. The role of the press in any debate about issues should be to report the news, to raise questions and to dig up facts that help the public arrive at reasonable answers. But, all too often, the press merely reflects the "public view." State universities/Extension Services have the data resources to help keep the press balanced and clear up misconceptions. But that may require their overcoming academic reluctance and learning to present facts simply.


 The FAIR Act: What Does It All Mean?
Daryll E. Ray
University of Tennessee

The 1996 farm bill's effect on farm income won over ideological and budgetary concerns when Congress passed the Federal Agricultural Improvement and Reform Act (FAIR) without open debate. The FAIR brings increased planting flexibility, with increased price and income risk. Its environmental policies remain strong, but are more farmer-friendly. Projections suggest near-term net returns for the seven major crops could be higher than they would have been under a 1990 farm bill extension. They could remain above the 1990 bill's until 2002, even though the FAIR program's payments get smaller with time. By 2004, projected net returns are almost identical under each policy. For the FAIR's duration, major-crop farmers are likely to receive about $11 billion more in combined net returns; the ag sector, about $9.4 billion more.

 Impacts for Rural America
Chuck Hassebrook
Center for Rural Affairs

The 1996 farm bill supports the continued concentration of agricultural assets into fewer hands and the corresponding decline of agriculturally dependent communities. But, it also strengthens the commitment to funding agricultural conservation programs and lays a stronger foundation for stewardship of the natural resource base of agricultural communities. And, the bill created a $300 million Fund for Rural America that presents a big opportunity to maintain support for rural development, research and other initiatives that strengthen rural communities.

 Impacts for Consumers
John M. Schnittker
Public Voice for Food and Health Policy

Farmers, agribusiness and consumers will all face greater risk under the 1996 farm bill. But the consumer is the only one being assigned extra risk without receiving compensation for or having an effective means of mitigating that risk. Recently, food price increases have averaged about 2.5 percent annually. This year, the increase will be more than 4 percent. The outlook for 1997 is for increases of 4 to 6 percent--close to doubling the previous food price rate hike. When coupled with '96 bill provisions and the modest probability of moderate to severe crop shortfalls, current U. S. grain stocks levels could set off a chain of events that results in sharply higher food prices for an extended period. In my view, consumers are facing too great of a risk.

Concurrent Sessions:A.  Implications for Farmers Ronald D. Knutson, Texas A&M University, moderator;
John Keeling, American Farm Bureau Federation;
Daryll E. Ray, University of Tennessee.

Projections already are suggesting the impacts FAIR provisions will have on (1) interest rates; (2) corn, soybean, wheat, cotton, rice, hay and milk prices; (3) crops and acreage in the Midwest, Great Plains, Texas, Southeast, Delta and West; and, to some degree, (4) long-run, global U. S. competitiveness.

B.  Implications for Families/Consumers Roberta A. Moseley, Rutgers University, moderator;
Yvette Jackson, Food & Consumer Service, USDA;
John M. Schnittker, Public Voice for Food and Health Policy.

Low-income families spend 24 percent of disposable income on food, leaving little or no "slack" to meet higher costs. But, millions of people now may not qualify for Food Stamps, and the program is less responsive to changes in the economy. This may force recipients to choose between food and other daily living expenses.

C.  Implications for Rural Communities Rodney L. Clouser, University of Florida, moderator;
Mark A. Edelman, Iowa State University;
Chuck Hassebrook, Center for Rural Affairs.

The new Rural Community Advancement Program consolidates programs, but retains some federal say over how funds are used. States and communities get greater flexibility to create projects that meet their priorities; each state USDA-RDA director has to prepare a five-year strategic plan, involving state and local institutions throughout the process. The ‘96 Rural Development Title has several new provisions that can complement the formation of new value-added cooperatives and rural business ventures.


 The Changing Work Force and
Implications for Work and Family

Cali Williams
Families and Work Institute

A national study found U.S. employees are working longer and harder in a turbulent, stressful workplace. They remain committed to doing a good job--although not necessarily to "going the extra mile." They have real problems finding quality dependent care or time to do what's needed at home. Few have access to employer- provided work-family supports. At the same time, those who have such supports are more committed, loyal, satisfied and likely to take extra initiative on the job. In fact, they viewed a quality workplace--e.g., one that provides open communication, some autonomy and some schedule control--as more important than salary or advancement.

 Work-Life: An Interplay of Issues
Patricia T. Hendel
National Association of Commissions for Women

The fact we are discussing the topic of "Work-Life: An Interplay of Issues" at such an important national public policy education conference emphasizes our many recent changes. Some of the most striking have taken place since women have entered the workplace in such significant numbers. Issues such as how states are implementing public policy and, particularly, how women are meeting the challenges of the workplace are more important than ever before.


 Forms of Property Rights and
the Impacts of Changing Ownership

Bonnie J. McCay
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

In recent years a critique of the dominant "tragedy of the commons" perspective has appeared, a critique here labeled "comedy." After a discussion of arguments in that critique, I suggest ways to conceptualize regimes and forms of user participation. The goal is to clarify concepts and raise issues that may contribute to the further development of theory concerning property rights and the performance of natural resource systems. In closing, I offer some "private" concerns and a discussion of alternative metaphors and a more cultural approach for understanding the commons.

 Common Property Issues and
Alaska's Bering Sea Communities

Larry Merculieff
Central Bering Sea Fishermen's Association

The Central Bering Sea Fishermen's Association is one of six community development quota (CDQ) organizations established in 1992 as a result of action by the North Pacific Management Council through its interpretation of the Magnuson Act--which established a 200-mile exclusive economic zone that included the North Pacific High Seas Fishery. The CDQ members are all subsistence and commercial fishers in coastal communities with historical and cultural connections to the Bering Sea. Compared to other groups, their fishing quotas are limited and small. They are perhaps the most regulated of all U. S. fisheries groups. They continue to face court battles, as well as their own cultural reticence to draw attention to themselves. Yet, their accomplishments are remarkable, and they have become a prime case study in the utility of public natural-resource allocation, to encourage local self-sustaining economies.

 Maine's Lobster Fishery - Managing
a Common Property Resource

James A. Wilson
University of Maine

The State of Maine is embarked upon a new form of fisheries management. The objective is to build decentralized democratic institutions that encourage stewardship through maintenance of ecological structure. The major features of the approach are (1) an ecological approach to sustainability that emphasizes the preservation of ecosystem (spatial and population), structure and function; (2) restraints on fishing that emphasize how, when and where fishing takes place and are consistent with an ecosystem approach; and (3) a democratic decentralization (or federalization) of fisheries management that partitions authority for control of aspects of the fishery according to ecological scale--I.e., authority for local events and processes is given to local governance units; authority for broader scale events and processes is given to governance units that encompass several or many local units. Overall, the initiative is based on the idea that fisheries management is principally a social problem, involving the development of institutions for arriving at mutual restraint, mutually agreed upon.





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