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The Research & Policy Brief is published every other month and highlights research and policy-relevant work on a variety of important community development topics. CaRDI publications are designed to provide our readers with research-based, policy-relevant information to help foster dialogue at the local, regional and state-level, and to inform public and private decision-making around critical community and economic development issues.

The Research & Policy Briefs are written by university faculty, state agency representatives, and CCE Educators, among other partners and collaborators.

The Research & Policy Briefs are free for public reproduction with proper accreditation. For questions and comments about the briefs, or any other CaRDI publication, please contact Robin Blakely-Armitage at rmb18@cornell.edu.

Research Policy Briefs

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Roadside ditches

Re-plumbing New York State’s Roadside Ditches: Identifying a Critical Role for Decision-Makers

May 31, 2017

By Rebecca Schneider, Anthony Johnson, David Orr, Shorna Allred, and Sara Davis, Cornell University, Issue Number 78/May 2017

The quantity and quality of New York State’s (NYS) water resources have significant consequences for our economy, community well-being, and overall environmental sustainability. Recent analysis has highlighted the critical role that roadside ditches play in flooding, water pollution, and stream dry-outs. In NYS, networks of ditches crisscross the landscape, intercepting runoff from adjacent watersheds, rapidly shunting it farther down in the stream channel network where it is discharged as a high velocity faucet1. These inputs increase the magnitude of stream heights and peak water discharges by as much as 300 percent, contributing to flooding. Ditches are also highly efficient and rapid conduits of sediments, nutrients, de-icers, and fecal coliforms from adjacent land activities to downstream drinking water supplies2. Ditches are a significant source of sediment to streams and lakes when highway staff overscrape them and leave the bottom substrates exposed and unvegetated. As pressures from climatic extremes increase, the need for more thoughtful management of water resources and the role of roadside ditches is essential.

Leaseholder perceptions of "Fracking" in Norther Pennsylvania

Fractured Promises or Flourishing Dreams? Leaseholder Perceptions of “Fracking” in Northern Pennsylvania

Apr 13, 2017

ISSUE NUMBER 77 / MARCH 2017
By David Kay, Dylan Bugden, and Rich Stedman, Cornell UniversityWhat is the Issue?
Recently, new oil and gas reserves in the U.S. Northeast’s Marcellus shale region were unlocked through “high volume hydraulic fracturing” (“fracking”) of subsurface rock. As technology evolved and prices increased, these resources became economically accessible, drawing industry to the region. Chesapeake Energy Corporation, one of the leading natural gas companies, initiated what they referred to as a “land grab” in a race to lock up access to the valuable resource. Other companies followed suit.
In the Northeast, mineral rights are typically owned by private

Household income graph

Post-Recession Financial Strategies for Households: How to Deal with Debt

Dec 15, 2016

For two decades prior to the Great Recession, U.S. households steadily amassed significant amounts of debt and eroded their liquid asset holdings. By 2007, households were increasing debt at a rate equivalent to 6% of aggregate consumption every year. The Great Recession, which hit the U.S. and global economy in 2007, had an enormous impact on U.S. household finances. The financial crisis caused large drops in income with American median household income  declining by over 4%.

Greenmarket influence graph

Defining the Rural Wealth Impacts of Regional Food Systems

Sep 27, 2016

Policymakers increasingly view local and regional food systems as a priority for supporting rural development in America. Between 2009 and 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) invested more than $1 billion in over 40,000 local food systems projects.1 However, our ability to assess the impacts of these investments is still limited. Most existing measurement efforts focus on short-term economic impacts, but growth-focused indicators shed little light on changes to wider notions of wealth and wellbeing in rural communities. If researchers can develop more comprehensive ways to measure the broader impacts of local and regional food systems, policymakers and extension educators can more effectively design and target rural community development support.

Group of people in front of lake

Living with Water: Integrating Community Sustainability and Resilience

Aug 2, 2016

What is the Issue?
Over half of the world’s human population now lives in urban areas, and an estimated 30% to 40% of greenhouse gases produced worldwide are attributed to cities. While cities are major drivers of environmental and social change in global systems, their geography and density also make them vulnerable to stressors ranging from climate change and pollution to chronic poverty and crime. The problem is particularly acute in thousands of smaller U.S. cities that lack the technical and fiscal capacity to strengthen their aging social and infrastructure systems. Understanding the resilience of cities can help inform and guide local governments onto a more sustainable trajectory of development.

Community Wellbeing

Community Wellbeing Indicators, Beyond GDP

Jun 1, 2016

By Yunji Kim [1], Cornell University

Improving human wellbeing is a goal of most communities and nations around the world. But how do we measure it? Since the Great Recession, gross domestic product (GDP) and other growth-centric frameworks have been critiqued as not adequately capturing social welfare or progress. For example, while the GDP in the U.S. has recovered and continues to grow in recent years, unemployment and poverty remain above pre-Recession levels.

What we measure and how we measure it matters, because our goals are often specified and evaluated by these indicators. Scholars and policymakers have suggested alternative measures of progress, such as community wellbeing.
 

School lunch

The Economic Implications of Using NYS Farm Products in School Lunches

Apr 1, 2016

Research & Policy Brief / Issue 72 / April 2016
By Brad Rickard, Todd Schmit, and Pam Shapiro, Cornell University

A significant amount of food is sourced for school lunches in New York State (NYS), which is procured at a cost of more than $366 million for 281.6 million school lunches per year. Food service directors currently source food through collective bids and pooling purchases, where they are encouraged to purchase locally- produced foods, but they are not mandated or incentivized to do so. Recently, there has been interest in finding ways to increase the proportion of local food in school lunches, which is expected to increase revenues for local farmers and related businesses. Unfortunately, the directors of school lunch programs face very tight budgets, and many are not able to spend additional money to procure local foods.

One way to encourage food service directors to procure more local foods is to offer reimbursements to compensate for the added costs of purchasing local food ingredients. A group of Cornell University researchers has evaluated the benefits and costs of potential proposals that seek to incentivize local food purchases in NYS school districts. Findings from this research suggest that if NYS lawmakers provide an additional $0.05-per- lunch subsidy incentive to food service directors that use local fruits or vegetables one day per week (e.g., “Thursday is Eat NY Day”), it would likely have an overall positive economic effect for farmers and local economies in NYS.

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