Re: Uncompensated values that farmers provide community
2005-11-03 17:28:43 UTCI don't know how they assign value to farmland in New Jersey, but that's what the State Agriculture Development Committee does. Visit them at http://www.state.nj.us/agriculture/sadc/sadc.htm. We didn't enter a philosophical discussion on the metaphysical value of farmland: we were just embarrassed that the "garden state" was being paved. The farmers banded together to form a convincing business lobby. Their complaint was that their profits might be as high as ever, but they couldn't afford to pay taxes at the rate assessed to land next door that had been developed, and they could not afford to pass the land to their children to farm because, once assessed at residential rates, the land was worth so much that the children would have to sell it to raise the inheritance taxes. What farmers could well afford to do was to sell to large developers and retire to Florida. So the State developed ways to have municipalities buy the land and lease to farmers, and for farmers to get a permanently low assessment in exchange for losing the rights to sell for development (they could sell to young farmers.) This top-down method may seem a little heavy-handed, but not many people outside New Jersey can imagine the population density here, or the endless desire of more people to move here. Where do they all come from? Ohio must be empty.
reply: next blue box
2005-10-28 09:53:28 UTC
What's a blue box? Peta Wellstead is correct. I field questions like "should I use cloth diapers?" People really want to know what's important. Of course the answer is "do as you please: kids have to poop, and diapers make up only 1% of landfill waste. Go for the discretianary and more important decisions, like buying efficient appliances." But I only know that because I read Rathje's "Rubbish". Government can't afford research. Universities do research better. It's my job to get it and share it. Other venues do this: Grist's "ask Umbra" column sets manageable and accurate information in a "Miss Lonelyhearts" format. But Umbra has trouble with those "which is better" questions, because they're really hard. Is it more sustainable to buy fresh potatoes, frozen tater tots, canned potatoes, potato flakes? Who the hell can figure it out? Lifecycle analysis is not only hard, it keeps changing with fuel efficiency and location. If we want a broadly useful message, we need to stay away from these choices and go for the easy ones: yes, it is always worth installing a low-flow shower head. The Union of Concerned Scientists came up with a book about how to really achieve sustainability, and naturally, the most substantive things are hard and expensive. (Not that my peers don't have money: they would just rather spend it on personal watercraft than low-flow washing machines.) If you want something that young and old can manage, how about paperless commerce? Reject hard catalogs, pay bills on line, publish newsletters on line, opt out of junkmail, etc. There is already momentum, and it doesn't require deprivation. It's pure source reduction. No question about whether newsprint is more sustainable than glossy. It offers few barriers, and builds initial buy-in. If we had a unified "next message", how would we promote it?
Principal Environmental Specialist
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Response to SME barriers
2005-10-25 10:30:46 UTC
Now that I've figured out that SMEs are what we call small businesses, I can add to the discussion. It is true that costs of innovation are greater for SMEs and that they often don't speak English. They also lack expertise. I am not willing to say that regulatory approaches are not appropriate for them: they must have sprinkler systems, fire exits, etc., and must pay their taxes. They can comply with environmental requirements as well. But professional land management agents can do it for them more efficiently. My agency wants SMEs to recycle. I want to explain that, here in New Jersey (for those of you far away, that's the most densely populated of the United States, and the one with the highest per capita income, and one of the oldest of the states, thus one of the most industrial), our method of regulation adds barriers. We are a "home rule" state, in which each town makes its own rules under state law. This makes statewide outreach less useful, since there can be no real statewide content. Some towns offer drop-off points, and some don't. Some offer curbside pickup, but no one offers it at what we used to call "shopping centers" and now call "strip malls" (rows of connected shops set back from the street allowing for a big ugly parking lot, all owned by one landlord). We feel that, given a region where a huge proportion of the SMEs are in strip malls, the property managers are a barrier, because each one wants to offer cheap space, and so will include garbage pickup in the rent, but not recyclable hauling beyond cardboard. It makes more sense to incentivize a few hundred large management companies that thousands of shopkeepers speaking hundreds of languages. The towns must act, since the state law does not grant such power to the state agency: If each town put the landlord on the hook to provide service, it would be fair, and the SMEs would likely get the service cheaper than if they shopped for it themselves. The towns would then have to build a relationship with a few people, (and those would speak English), in order to encourage compliance, and address non-compliance. A few towns have done so. Of course, towns could do the pickup and obviate the need for paid service. Given a new source of revenue, the state could incentivize them. I admit, we haven't done this yet. Another thing we haven't done but will do is to require by state regulation that all local planning boards review new construction and major renovation for recycling space. You could do this for any kind of green building. State law already requires it, but the new rule will allow the state to fine a town for failing to comply. That's an incentive! Again, rather than incentivizing thousands of small entities, we are incentivizing 563 towns. It incentivizes building contractors, who wish to be approved quickly. So, if you live in a strip-mall kind of place, consider obligating the landowners, not the tenants.
Principal Environmental Specialist
Solid and Hazardous Waste Programs
New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection
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