Volume 11 (2014)

Michigan Journal of Public Affairs Volume 11 (complete volume)


Masthead and Table of Contents


Honey Bee Population Decline in Michigan: Causes, Consequences, and Responses to Protect the State’s Agriculture and Food System

Michael Bianco, Jenny Cooper, and Michelle Fournier

Michigan’s current level of food production and its agricultural economy are in jeopardy due to drastic honey bee population declines across the state over the past seven years. This problem should be a priority for policy makers; honey bee losses affect almost everyone in the state because over a third of the food we consume is pollinated by bees. The causes of honey bee population decline are multiple and interconnected. A growing body of research shows that the principal factors involved are parasites and pathogens, environmental stressors, and monocrop farming, widespread use of pesticides, and industrial beekeeping practices within the paradigm of conventional industrial agriculture. In addition to individual stressors, there are synergetic interactions between some stressors that increase the vulnerability of managed honey bee colonies.

Many of Michigan’s agricultural products—such as soybeans, dry beans, apples, blueberries, cherries, cucumbers, and other produce—depend on honey bee pollination to produce a good crop. Michigan is a state that relies heavily on pollination services to maintain its agricultural production, but it has been hard hit by honey bee population declines. Honey bee losses of more than 30% annually have been reported by Michigan beekeepers over the past few years, with the 2013/2014 winter poised to be even worse. Honey bee population declines in Michigan will likely not improve, and could continue to worsen, unless the problem is addressed by policy makers and other stakeholders in a substantive way. Because the problem involves many different causal factors and actors spanning agricultural production and consumption, potential solutions are also complex. There are various local-level mitigation measures that beekeepers, farmers, and the general public can implement, such as improving communication with beekeepers about pesticide application, reducing or eliminating the use of insecticides, and improving the area of habitat for bee-friendly forage. Initiatives to connect and support Michigan beekeepers using sustainable practices are also promising. But on their own, local steps are likely not enough to stem honey bee population declines; higher-level institutional approaches are also needed. A combination of facilitated dialogue among key Michigan stakeholders, legislation, and litigation originating at the state or national level could provide the additional impetus needed to rein in and reverse honey bee colony losses in the state. This paper provides recommendations for effectively implementing a multi-stakeholder dialogue process, and proposes modifications to legislation targeted at improving honey bee populations nationally.


Red Dirt, Red Alert: How Oklahoma State Energy Policy Harms National Security

Charles Dickerson

In 2008, the Defense Science Board released a report that found multiple points of vulnerability in the U.S. electrical grid, which include cascading power outages caused by accidental overload, severe weather, and sabotage. Despite its frailty, domestic military installations derive nearly all of their electricity from the commercial grid. By conducting an analysis of pertinent government and private-sector reports, this paper argues that the state of Oklahoma can have a substantial effect on installation energy security by changing its utility regulation and renewable energy policies. Because of its inadequate renewable energy policy and critical military installations, Oklahoma provides a telling example of how individual states can affect both national and international security. This paper finds that renewable energy sources are uniquely suited to provide energy security to military bases.


Agency Politicization and the Implementation of Executive Order 13514

Aaron Ray

Federal agencies are responsible for implementing policies created by the United States Congress and the president. However, a tension exists between an agency’s independence and its responsiveness to the preferences of elected officials. Berry and Gersen (2010) argue that the more political appointees there are in control of an agency, the more influence political principals have over that agency. The implementation of a presidential requirement that agencies engage in climate change adaptation planning allows for a test of this hypothesis. This paper uses the variation in implementation of this requirement across agencies to test factors which may explain that variation. Results of this analysis indicate that the degree of agency politicization is a significant predictor of responsiveness to the president’s preferences.


Disorganization and Network Institution: A Possible Source of Economic Downturn

Endrizal Ridwan

This article considers the roles of networks on investment decisions to explain the existence of a possible economic downturn during a transition period from a dictatorship towards a democracy. A supplier is willing to invest in a state production only if there are enough other suppliers taking part such that the return on investment is at least equal to their private alternatives. The suppliers build knowledge of others’ private alternatives through a communication network. The investment model presented here shows that a decision to invest not only depends upon knowledge about others, but also, more importantly, understanding of others’ knowledge. When networks fail to fully disseminate knowledge, investment decisions are suboptimal. These suboptimal decisions consequently lead to a decline in output in the early stage of market decentralization as the state loses power to force suppliers into joining state production.


Big Ag Talks Going Green: Public Opinion Research on Large Scale Farmer Attitudes and Activities on Conservation Practices on Illinois Farms

Betsy Riley

This research looks at farmers’ opinions toward conservation measures, specifically those related to the environmental movement. Two versions of a mail survey, altered slightly to determine language preferences, were distributed to a randomly selected group of Illinois farmers. Participants were asked whether they agree with certain statements about environmental management. Results of the study suggest that farmers are sensitive to word choice such as “sustainable,” which is traditionally associated with the environmental movement. Additional differences were found due to demographic preferences, such as political affiliation. Farmers also demonstrated an awareness of scientific vocabulary and concepts, seeing no difference between the terms “global warming” and “climate change,” and preferring terms such as “ecosystem” to equivalent laymen terminology. Results indicate that conservationists working with farmers should strongly consider word choice and issue framing.


Street-Level Bureaucrats Shirking to Success: An Application of Principal-Agent Theory to the Implementation of Florida’s Third Grade Retention Policy

Rachel White

Policymakers have aimed to increase early reading skills for decades, yet in recent years state governments have placed particular emphasis on the mastery of reading proficiency by the third grade – a pivotal year in a child’s education since it is typically when students shift from learning to read to reading to learn (Hernandez 2011). Research provides mixed results as to whether retaining students based on the results of a state standardized test will benefit the student in the long run. This study utilizes principal-agent theory and street-level bureaucracy theory to better understand the ways in which school district teachers and administrators, as street-level bureaucrats, respond to a state-mandated test-based third grade retention policy in Florida. While both policymakers and practitioners may have the same end goal – to increase third grade reading proficiency rates – evidence from regression analyses suggest that street-level bureaucrats use their informational advantage to pursue means other than retention to achieve this end. For example, street-level bureaucrats may be able to shirk around the policy by providing students with exemptions from the state-mandated policy. Thus, while it appears as though a certain percent of students are proficient on the third grade reading exam, these statistics may distort the actual scenario and our understanding of the policy effects. By providing more students with good cause exemptions, these students’ FCAT scores are not included in the interpretation of the increase in third grade reading proficiency levels.


State Charter Law and Charter School Outcomes

Audrye Wong

Despite federal initiatives encouraging the expansion of charter schools, there remains a limited understanding of the empirical relationship between state charter school laws and charter performance. In this study, I categorize state legislation across three dimensions – permissibility, autonomy, and accountability – and investigate each dimension’s statistical relationship with the number of schools as well as NAEP performance. Results suggest that a state’s legal environment may play a large and significant role in charter school students’ academic outcomes. Permissibility and autonomy are associated with a greater number of charter schools, while higher accountability standards may restrict and reverse growth. Although greater autonomy has some positive correlation with academic outcomes, the negative correlations of increased permissibility and increased accountability with student outcomes are greater in magnitude. These findings suggest that policymakers may want to consider tightening permissive charter laws and overhauling current accountability frameworks while encouraging a reasonable degree of autonomy. Furthermore, expanding charter school programs through permissive laws may adversely affect academic outcomes. Accountability standards seem to restrict charter school growth without necessarily improving student performance.