Category Archives: Economic Development

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Warren Releases Plan to Invest in Rural America, Build New Farm Economy

Senator Elizabeth Warren details a plan for Rural America that “will help create a new farm economy where family farmers have financial security and the freedom to do what they do best.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren details a plan for Rural America that “will help create a new farm economy where family farmers have financial security and the freedom to do what they do best. Farmers of all backgrounds will finally have the economic freedom to pursue diverse, sustainable farming — and get paid up front for doing so. Americans will have a steady and affordable supply of food. Kids in rural communities will have healthy lunches grown in their backyards and packaged at local food hubs run by small town entrepreneurs. Taxpayers won’t pay twice — once at the grocery store and once through their taxes — for overproduced commodities. We will replenish our soil and our water to chart a path towards a climate solution and achieve the goals of the Green New Deal.”Here are the details, as provided by the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Elizabeth Warren released her plan to invest in rural America and build a new farm economy. Her plan includes creating a public option for broadband and ending government giveaways for private internet service providers, investing in rural health care, and taking strong anti-trust action against hospital mergers that threaten access to basic services. She outlines how her plans for universal child care and high-quality early education, student debt cancellation, building and rehabilitating affordable housing, and tackling the opioid crisis will restore opportunity in rural America. 

Warren also lays out how she will replace the government’s failed approach to the farm economy and address our climate crisis head-on by paying farmers for sustainable farming practices that can help us fight climate change. 

Warren released her plan before kicking of a 4-day tour across Iowa. Read more about her plan to invest in rural America here. Read more about her plan to build a new farm economy here.   

My Plan to Invest in Rural America

A strong America requires a strong rural America. Rural communities are home to 60 million people, hundreds of tribal nations, and a growing number of new immigrants who account for 37% of rural population growth. These communities feed our nation. And they are leading the country in sustainable energy, generating 99% of America’s wind energy and pioneering efforts to harness solar energy. 

But both corporate America and leaders in Washington have turned their backs on the people living in our rural communities and prioritized the interests of giant companies and Wall Street instead. Burdened by student debt, young people are leaving rural communities to find jobs elsewhere. Big broadband companies exclude entire communities – especially tribal communities and rural communities of color – from access to high-speed Internet. Rural communities are losing access to quality health care. Climate change – from more severe floods to extreme heat – is changing the rural way of life. And farmers are forced to compete with giant agribusinesses on an uneven playing field.

Our failure to invest in rural areas is holding back millions of families, weakening our economy, and undermining our efforts to combat climate change. It’s time to fix this. 

Protecting Access to Health Care in Rural Communities

Health care is a human right. But people can’t fully exercise that right in communities lacking access to basic services like primary, emergency, and maternity care. That is what’s happening across rural America, where the prevalence of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes is  higher, as is the risk of dying from the leading causes of death in the country compared to urban areas. Barriers to coverage, disappearing health facilities, and a shortage of health professionals are denying rural communities the high-quality health care they deserve. 

Insurance coverage continues to remain out of reach for many people living in rural communities – and even for those with coverage, rural America is quickly becoming a medical desert. In less than a decade, 112 rural hospitals have closed, with hundreds more teetering on the edge. Those that do remain open operate on razor-thin margins from uncompensated care, lower patient volume, and insufficient reimbursement.

That’s why I support Medicare for All, so that every person will have access to affordable care no matter where they live. That means access to primary care and lower health care costs for patients – and less uncompensated care for hospitals, helping hospitals stay afloat. We also need to increase reimbursement rates for rural hospitals and alleviate unnecessary restrictions that make it difficult for them to serve their communities. Medicare already has special designations available to rural hospitals, but they must be updated to match the reality of rural areas. I will create a new designation that reimburses rural hospitals at a higher rate, relieves distance requirements, and offers flexibility of services by assessing the needs of their communities.

But we can’t stop there. Higher rates of consolidation for both for-profit and non-profit hospitals are making it harder to access care. And yet, many hospitals can evade federal antitrust enforcement either because the value of the merger is too small to trigger mandatory review or because the Federal Trade Commission’s purview over non-profit hospitals is constrained. Vertical integration is also increasing as more hospitals acquire physician practices, and some states have deliberately sheltered hospitals from federal antitrust action. I will boost the federal government’s oversight of mergers and anti-competitive behavior to make sure that health care companies play by the rules and put the needs of patients first. 

As President, I will direct the FTC to block all future mergers between hospitals unless the merging companies can show that the newly-merged entity will maintain or improve access to care. If a proposed merger helps maintain or improve access to health care, that’s fine. But when it is a first step to closing hospitals or slashing basic services, then a Warren administration will block it.

I’ll also put forward a set of reforms to strengthen FTC oversight over health care organizations, including establishing new federal regulations and guidance to require that all mergers involving health care centers be reported to the FTC. I’ll authorize the FTC to conduct reviews of non-profit hospitals for anti-competitive behavior, update Department of Justice guidance on vertical mergers, and crack down on vertically integrated health care companies that are raising costs without improving the quality of care. And I’ll work with states to repeal Certificate of Public Advantage, or COPA, statutes that shield health care organizations from federal antitrust review and can leadto the creation of large monopolies with little to no oversight.

We also have a responsibility to make sure that places that have experienced a loss in services or are otherwise medically underserved can better meet the needs of their communities. That’s why I will increase funding for Community Health Centers by 15 percent per year over the next five years. I will also establish a $25 billion dollar capital fund to support a menu of options for improving access to care in health professional shortage areas, including: constructing a new facility like a Community Health Center, Rural Health Clinic, School-Based Health Center, or birthing center; expanding capacity or services at an existing clinic; establishing pharmacy services or a telemedicine program; supporting a diabetes self-management education program; improving transportation to the nearest hospital; or piloting models like mobile clinics and community paramedicine programs. 

Rural communities have been particularly impacted by the opioid epidemic, with the rate of opioid overdose deaths having been higher there than in urban areas in recent years. I’m pushing for $100 billion over 10 years to end the opioid crisis, including $2.7 billion for the hardest-hit counties and cities and $800 million in direct funding for tribal governments and organizations. Funding can be used for prevention and early intervention services at federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics and to train health professionals on treating substance use disorders in rural and other medically underserved areas. 

To ensure access to quality health services, we must also close the health care workforce gaps across rural America. Nearly 60% of Health Professional Shortage Areas – those lacking sufficient primary care physicians, physician assistantsnurses, dentists, pharmacists, EMTs, and home health aides – are in rural regions. More than 3,600 additional doctors are needed to close the rural physician workforce deficit today, but Congressionally-imposed caps on medical residencies and unstable funding of the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) have made this gap nearly impossible to close. What’s more, this shortage is rapidly increasing as rural physicians near retirement and fewerincoming medical students plan to practice in rural areas. 

As President, I will make sure we expand our health care workforce by investing more resources in building the pipeline of medical professionals in rural areas. This starts by dramatically scaling up apprenticeship programs as proposed in my Economic Patriotism plan to support partnerships between unions, high schools, community colleges, and a wide array of health care professionals to build a health care workforce that is rooted in the community. I’ll lift the cap on residency placements by 15,000 – and because residents are more likely to practice where they train, I’ll target half of new placements in medically-underserved areas such as rural residency programs, residency programs with Rural Training Track programs, and the Indian Health Service (IHS), while working with rural programs to ensure that they can take full advantage of these increases. I’ll also significantly expand the NHSC loan repayment program to $15 billion and the IHS loan repayment program to $1 billion over the next 10 years to cover full loan repayment for 5 years of service and to increase the number of health professionals serving rural and Native American communities.

Building Economic Security in Rural America

My plan doesn’t stop at health care. Every American is entitled to some basic financial security, no matter where they live. But people living in rural communities face challenges that can threaten that security. My plans are designed to address these challenges and allow people in rural communities to thrive economically. 

Take child care. Today, a majority of rural communities lack sufficient access to child care. On average, rural families spend more of their incomes on child care than families in urban areas. My plan for Universal Child Care will provide access to high-quality child care in every community that is free for millions and affordable for everyone. The federal government will also work closely with local providers and tribal governments to make sure there are high-quality child care options available in every community – including home-based child care services, which rural families are more likely to use.

Rural communities also face unique housing challenges. More than 150 rural counties have a severe-need for affordable rental housing and 38% of rural counties have moderately-severe rental housing needs. Home values in rural areas have also been slower to recover from the financial crisis. My housing plan invests $523 million to create 380,000 affordable rental homes in rural communities and provides an additional $2 billion to help homeowners with underwater mortgages still struggling to recover from the financial crisis. It also invests $2.5 billion to build or rehabilitate 200,000 homes on tribal lands, where overcrowding, homelessness, and substandard housing have reached crisis levels.

And the student debt crisis hits rural areas particularly hard. In part because of huge student debt burdens, young adults are leaving rural communities for jobs in cities. Just 52% of rural student loan borrowers remain in a rural area, compared to 66% of those who did not take out loans – and those with more debt are more likely to leave. My plan to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt will mean that recent graduates won’t need to flock to urban centers to find jobs that will help them pay down these loans. And my plan to provide universal free technical, two-year, and four-year public college will make sure that no student is ever put in this situation again. We need to make it possible for students to see rural communities as places of opportunity where they can live, work, and build a future for themselves. 

A Public Option for Broadband

One of the best tools for unlocking economic opportunity and advances in health care, like telemedicine, is access to reliable, high-speed Internet. In the twenty-first century, every home should have access to this technology – but we’re not even close to that today. According to the FCC, in 2017 26.4% of people living in rural areas and 32.1% of people living on tribal lands did not have access to minimum speed broadband (25 Mbps/ 3 Mbps), compared to 1.7% in urban areas. And given the notorious loopholes in FCC reporting requirements, these figures underestimate the gap. 

At the same time, while urban areas may be more likely to have access to fiber broadband, many residents can’t afford to connect to it. Nearly 27% of households in Detroit and Cleveland had no Internet access in 2017, and households with incomes below $35,000 comprise 60% of households without broadband access, despite making up just 31% of the national population. 

We’ve faced this kind of problem before. Prior to the late 1930s, private electric companies passed over rural communities they felt offered minimal profit opportunities, leaving the families living there literally in the dark. Just like the electric companies eighty years ago, today’s biggest internet service providers (ISPs) have left large parts of the country unserved or dramatically underserved. 

Not only that, they have deliberately restricted competition, kept prices high, and used their armies of lobbyists to convince state legislatures to ban municipalities from building their own public networks. Meanwhile, the federal government has shoveled billions of taxpayer dollars to private ISPs in an effort to expand broadband to remote areas, but those providers have done the bare minimum with these resources – offering internet speeds well below the FCC minimum. 

This ends when I’m President. I will make sure every home in America has a fiber broadband connection at a price families can afford. That means publicly-owned and operated networks – and no giant ISPs running away with taxpayer dollars. My plan will:
 

Make it clear in federal statute that municipalities have the right to build their own broadband networks. Many small towns and rural areas have turned to municipal networks to provide broadband access in places that the private market has failed to serve – but today, as many as 26 states have passed laws hindering or banning municipalities from building their own broadband infrastructure to protect the interests of giant telecom companies. We will preempt these laws and return this power to local governments.
 

Create an Office of Broadband Access in my Department of Economic Development that will manage a new $85 billion federal grant program to massively expand broadband access across the country. Under my plan, only electricity and telephone cooperatives, non-profit organizations, tribes, cities, counties, and other state subdivisions will be eligible for grants from this fund – and all grants will be used to build the fiber infrastructure necessary to bring high-speed broadband to unserved areas, underserved areas, or areas with minimal competition.

The federal government will pay 90 cents on the dollar for construction under these grants. In exchange, applicants will be required to offer high-speed public broadband directly to every home in their application area. Applicants will have to offer at least one plan with 100 Mbps/ 100 Mbps speeds and one discount internet plan for low-income customers with a prepaid feature or a low monthly rate.

Of these funds, $5 billion will be set aside specifically for 100% federal grants to tribal nations to expand broadband access on Native American lands. In addition to necessary “last mile” infrastructure, tribes will be able to apply for funds to build the missing 8,000 miles of middle mile fiber on tribal lands.   

Appoint FCC Commissioners who will restore net neutrality. I will appoint FCC Commissioners who will restore net neutrality, regulatinginternet service providers as “common carriers” and maintaining open access to the Internet.And I will require all telecommunications services to contribute fairly into the Universal Service Fund to shore up essential universal service programs that provide subsidies to low-income individuals, schools, and libraries to increase broadband adoption, including signing into law and building on the Tribal Connect Act, so that we can work toward every tribal library having broadband access.  

Bolster the FCC’s Office of Native Affairs and Policy. This office holds trainings, technical assistance, and consultations for Indian Country. Providing it with dedicated, increased funding to expand its capacity will help close the digital divide.  

Improve the accuracy of broadband maps. Weak FCC oversight has allowed ISPs to greatly exaggerate how many households they serve and has given ISPs added fuel to downplay their failures and protect themselves from regulation. To provide universal broadband access and crack down on anti-competitive behaviors, the government has to know how extensive the problems are. I will appoint FCC Commissioners who will require ISPs to report service and speeds down to the household level, as well as aggregate pricing data, and work with community stakeholders – including tribal nations – to make sure we get this process right. Then, we will make these data available to the public and conduct regular audits to ensure accurate reporting.   

Prohibit the range of sneaky maneuvers giant private providers use to unfairly squeeze out competition, hold governments hostage, and drive up prices. It’s time to crack down on all the anti-competitive behaviors that giant ISPs have used to steamroll the competition. We will return control of utility poles and conduits to cities, prohibit landlords from making side deals with private ISPs to limit choices in their properties, and ban companies from limiting access to wires inside buildings. We will make sure that all new buildings are fiber-ready so that any network can deliver service there, and we will also enact “Dig Once” policies to require that conduit is laid anytime the ground is opened for a public infrastructure project.   

Ensure every person has the skills to fully participate in our online economy. Even when there’s access to broadband internet – and even when it’s available at an affordable price – people may still not take advantage of it because they don’t know how to use it. That’s why I will work to pass the Digital Equity Act, which invests $2.5 billion over ten years to help states develop digital equity plans and launch digital inclusion projects. 

Creating and Defending Jobs in Rural America

Expanding broadband is just the first step to boosting economic opportunity in rural communities. We need to do more to bring high-quality jobs back to rural areas and small towns and negotiate trade agreements that keep jobs in the U.S. – and don’t ship them overseas. That’s why I’ve committed to creating a National Jobs Strategy focused specifically on regional economies and trends that disproportionately affect rural areas and small cities. And why I will spend $2 trillion in green research, manufacturing, and exporting to create more than a million new jobs, reversing the manufacturing losses that many rural communities have experienced over the last two decades. 

I’ve also called for a $400 billion commitment in clean energy research and development 
– funding that will go to land grant universities, rural areas, and areas that have seen the worst job losses in recent years. I’ll dramatically scale up worker training programs, spending $20 billion on apprenticeships and instituting new sectoral training programs to boost job opportunities for people across Rural America.

Immigration is also revitalizing local economies and reversing population decline in a number of rural communities. I’ve called for expanding legal immigration – done the right way and consistent with our principles – to grow our economy, reunite families, and meet our labor market demands. My immigration plan will raise wages for everyone and make sure that businesses won’t be able to get away with dirty tricks that undercut pay.

And I will build a new approach to our trade policy to make sure that the new, high-quality jobs we create stay right here in America.
 As part of my new plan, I’ll fundamentally change our negotiation process so that rural communities are explicitly represented at the table, and use our leverage to demand more for workers and farmers by raising standards worldwide.

Bolstering Small and Local Business

Small businesses are critical to the economic vitality of rural communities, but people in rural communities face challenges accessing capital and financial services to start, grow, and operate their businesses. The number of rural counties without a locally owned community bank has doubled since 1994, and 86 new rural banking deserts have appeared since 2008, leaving these communities with no banking services within 10 miles. That’s why I’ve proposed allowing the U.S. Postal Service to partner with local community banks and credit unions to provide access to low-cost, basic banking services online and at post offices. 

What’s more, 25% of new rural banking deserts have been in communities of color. Credit and small loans are critical to starting and growing a small business, but longer distances between a borrower and their bank are associated with more credit denials and higher interest rates on loans. That’s why I will establish a $7 billion fund to close the gap in startup capital for entrepreneurs of color, which will support 100,000 new minority-owned businesses, provide over a million new jobs, and further boost economic development in rural areas. 

Private equity firms have further harmed local businesses, buying up everything from mobile home parks to hospitals to nursing homes to local newspapers, loading them up with debt, sucking them dry, and leaving workers to pick up the pieces. I’ll rein in Wall Street to hold private equity firms accountable and keep them from destroying businesses that bring economic opportunity – and jobs – to small towns and rural communities across the country. It’s time to prioritize the long-term interests of American workers, not the short-term interests of big financial institutions.

Building a New Farm Economy

Rural America is also the home of our nation’s agriculture sector, but today, farmers are getting squeezed by giant agribusinesses that are gobbling up more land and driving down prices. In 1935, there were 6.8 million farms in the United States – but in 2017, there were just above 2 million. What’s more, as the number of farms has decreased, the size of each remaining farm has dramatically grown – from an average of 155 acres per farm in 1935 to an average of 444 acres per farm today. Meanwhile, the farmer’s share of the food dollar has plummeted to just 14.6 cents in 2017 – the lowest number since the USDA began reporting this figure in 1993.

That’s why I’ve pledged to address consolidation in the agriculture sector by reviewing – and reversing – anti-competitive mergers and breaking up big agribusinesses that have become vertically integrated. I’ll also support a national right to repair law for farmers, reform country-of-origin labeling, and restrict foreign ownership of American agriculture companies and farmland. 

And I’ll take it one step further – charting a new farm economy that replaces our government’s failed approach with one that guarantees farmers a fair price and protects our environment. 

The cost of each and every one of these investments is fully offset by my plans to make the ultra-wealthy and large corporations pay more in taxes. Those plans include my annual two-cent wealth tax on fortunes over $50 million and my plan to ensure that very large and profitable American corporations can’t get away with paying zero taxes. And the new investments I’m announcing today for universal broadband access and health care options in rural areas can be offset by changing the tax laws that encourage companies to merge and reduce competition. 

I want Washington to work for communities all over this country. From expanding access to broadband to boosting investment in quality jobs, together we can make big, structural change to create new opportunities all across rural America


A New Farm Economy


Consolidation in the agriculture sector is leaving America’s family farmers with lower prices and fewer choices. Giant corporations use their market share to squeeze farmers from both sides. Farmers are pressured into taking on huge debts to pay the high prices that a small number of large suppliers charge them for inputs like seeds and fertilizer. Then, farmers are at the whim of a market that is controlled by meatpackers and grain traders that can pay them low prices for the commodities they produce — prices that often don’t cover all the money farmers had to spend in the first place. 

All of this causes tremendous overproduction of commodities. In the face of lower and lower prices in the market, farmers are left to produce more to try and break even. But this just causes prices to go down even further, benefiting the huge corporations looking to buy goods on the cheap and leaving farmers dependent on the government to backfill their costs. 

As a consequence, the agriculture sector has become one of the largestpolluters in our economy. As farmers are pressured to plant fence row to fence row and use more fertilizer in search of a higher yield, rural communities lose their soil and water and the environment suffers

Much of this situation is the direct result of government policy. Our current system of subsidies is supposed to make up the difference between the low prices farmers get on the market and what they have to pay to grow food. But instead it lets big corporations at the top of the supply chain get away with paying artificially low costs while farmers struggle and taxpayers make up the difference. It encourages overproduction by guaranteeing revenue regardlessof prices or environmental conditions. And it feeds climate change. 

Farmers are stewards of the land, and they know this system of overproduction is unsustainable — but without a change in incentives, they have no other choice. 

To fix this problem, we need big, structural change. That’s why I’m calling for a complete overhaul of our failed approach to the farm economy. Instead of subsidizing industrial agriculture and starving farmers and rural communities, my new approach will guarantee farmers a fair price, reduce overproduction, and pay farmers for environmental conservation.  

By making this shift, we can raise farm incomes and reduce taxpayer expenditures. We can break the stranglehold that giant agribusinesses have over our farm economy, and expand economic opportunities for small- and medium-sized farmers, family farmers, women farmers, and farmers of color. We can also provide consumers with affordable, high-quality, and often local food, while protecting our land and water and combating the existential threat of climate change.

Replacing our government’s failed approach to the farm economy

Our agriculture markets are badly broken. American farmers spend their days toiling over their crops, but at sale time, more than half report negative income from their farming activity. In 2018, the median income farmers made from farming activity before federal subsidies was negative $1,316. Why? Because the market is paying farmers far less than what it costs them to produce their goods.

And it gets worse. Farm subsidies that are necessary to keep farms afloat in this market function as an incentive to overproduce by guaranteeing payments only for certain commodities and encouraging farming on marginal land. This squeezes small farmers, undermines sustainable farming for the long-term, and damages our environment. 

It hasn’t always been this way. During the New Deal, FDR’s administration recognized the critical role farmers would play in getting our country out of the Great Depression. His administration set up a system that guaranteed farmers fair prices, tackled overproduction, and reversed environmental degradation. And it worked: for decades, this system gave farmers the security they needed to thrive, kept consumer prices stable, and helped restore our country’s farmland.

But starting in the 1970s, giant agribusinesses convinced the Nixon Administration to change the system. Corporations called it “deregulating” the farm economy, but of course, this didn’t actually mean reducing government intervention. It just meant shifting that intervention from advancing the interests of farmers, consumers, and the environment to protecting the bottom line of giant agriculture corporations.

Now, the Department of Agriculture budgets over $10 billion each year on post-sale subsidies that are supposed to make up for the low prices that big corporations and livestock giants pay farmers on the market. Meanwhile, Big Ag pockets the profit: one study shows industrial livestock giants, for example, have saved $35 billion over twenty years from buying feed below the cost of production. 

We need a new approach that uses taxpayer money more wisely, provides stable access to food,  and accounts for the complexities of the agriculture markets. Just like workers need a living wage, farmers need a fair price — one that covers the costs they have to pay to produce their goods. We need to replace our failed system with a tried-and-true method that guarantees farmers that fair price and ends overproduction. Building on the successful model of the New Deal, my plan calls for a new supply management program — which studies show would be billions cheaper for taxpayers than our current subsidy program, yet provide farm incomes that are higher.  

Here’s how it will work. First, we guarantee farmers a price at their cost of production. To do that, the government would offer farmers a non-recourse loan that covers most of their costs of production — essentially, an offer to buy their products at cost if a farmer can’t get a better price from a private purchaser on the market before the end of the loan period. Farmers can either repay the loan by selling their products or they can forfeit the products they used as collateral for the loan at the end of the loan period. 

If the farmer does not sell those products to a private buyer during that time period, then the government will store the products in reserves. As supply comes off the market as a result, prices will rise. And if prices rise beyond a certain point, the government can release the supply from the reserves back onto the market, stabilizing prices once again. This mechanism guarantees farmers a fair price at a far lower cost than the current subsidy system. 

In addition, to address overproduction, farmers will have the option of bidding acres of land currently used to produce commodities into conservation programs. USDA will offer attractive prices based on the environmental benefit that repurposing the land towards conservation programs would provide. This will provide farmers with the choice — and revenue — to diversify their farms, rather than face mounting pressure to produce more and more of the same. . 

This approach has advantages beyond guaranteeing farmers a fair price for their goods. It gives us the tools to stabilize farm income where farmers aren’t getting prices at the cost of production, like commodity crops and dairy. It enhances our food security by giving the government access to reserves if needed — a particularly important consideration as climate change continues to disrupt food production. It addresses our overproduction problem and helps reduce environmental damage. And it keeps consumer prices relatively stable

It would also save taxpayers billions. Because a supply management program only pays for the amount of commodities that it takes off of the market, it would substantially reduce costs for taxpayers who, in the current subsidy approach, can end up paying for every single bushel and bale that farmers grow.

Paying farmers to fight climate change 

To transition to a sustainable farm economy, we also need to diversify our agriculture sector. As President, I will lead a full-out effort to decarbonize the agricultural sector by investing in our farmers and giving them the tools, research, and training they need to transform the sector — so that we can achieve the objectives of the Green New Deal to reach net-zero emissions by 2030. 

This begins with paying farmers for embracing techniques that promote a sustainable future for all of us. Farmers are already adopting climate-friendly practices — including proven and profitable techniques like cover crops. But today, there are far more farmers who want to join land conservation programs than there are funds available to support them. That’s because we have continually underfunded a tried-and-true program — the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) — that provides funding for farmers eager to transition to sustainable practices, and that delivers substantial returns to taxpayers.  

My plan will make it economically feasible for farmers to be part of the climate change solution by increasing CSP’s payments for sustainable farming practices from around $1 billion today to $15 billion annually – and expanding the types of practices eligible for compensation – so that every farmer who wants to use their land to fight climate change can do so. This will put our future investment in conservation above the level we currently fund commodity programs. And I will support staff at USDA to empower them in the fight against climate change, from scientists in Washington all the way down to the county-level offices tailoring solutions to challenges in their local communities.

Research and innovation are also essential in supporting a transition to sustainable farming. I will dedicate resources from the $400 billion R&D commitment in my Green Manufacturing Plan towards innovations for decarbonizing the agriculture sector, including a farmer-led Innovation Fund that farmers can apply to use towards pioneering new methods of sustainable farming, like agroforestry

Our land grant universities also have a critical role to play – but first, we need to reclaim our land grant universities from Big Ag and restore them to their core purpose of supporting our family farmers. My Administration will reinvest inour land grant universities and focus their agricultural efforts in part on evaluating farmers’ ideas to decarbonize the agricultural sector and training a new generation of farmers. 

Take on Big Ag to level the playing field for family farmers

We also must take on Big Ag head on if we want to create a new farm economy. When Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture told farmers to “get big or get out,” he paved the way for the giant agribusinesses that have eroded America’s rural communities and turned the agricultural sector into one of the largestpolluters, all while making huge profits.

That ends now. I will use every tool at my disposal to level the playing field for family farmers and hold agribusinesses accountable for the damage they’ve wrought on our farmland. 

Break up Big Agribusinesses. Under my plan to level the playing field for America’s farmers I’ll use every tool I have to break up big agribusinesses, including by reviewing  — and reversing — anti-competitive mergers. 
 

Strengthen rules and enforcement under the Packers and Stockyards Act.In 1921, Congress passed the Packers & Stockyards Act (P&S Act) to protect independent farmers. But Trump has eliminated Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) — the office responsible for upholding the P&S Act —  as an independent office. My administration will restore GIPSA and make it easier for farmers to bring suits against unfair practices — including by clarifying that they do not have to prove harm across the entire sector to bring a claim. 
 

Make sure programs benefit independent family farmers, not the rich and powerful. Agribusinesses exploit loopholes to put taxpayer dollars that should be going towards family farmers into their own pockets instead. The Trump administration has handed over billions more into the pockets of the wealthiest through trade war bailouts. On average, the top 1% of recipients received over $180,000, and the bottom 80% percent received less than $5,000.  — all without Congressional authorization. I will prevent huge factory farms from accessing funds intended to benefit family farmers, like those for payment limitations and for programs like EQIP, and ban companies that violate labor and environmental standards from accessing funds, too. 
 

Hold Big Ag accountable for environmental abuses. Agribusinesses are the likely culprits for polluting hundreds of thousands of miles of rivers and streams and causing dead zones in our waters, including in the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. I will make agribusinesses pay the full costs of the environmental damage they wreak by closing the loopholes that CAFOs use to get away with polluting and beefing up enforcement of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts against them, including by working with state and local officials.  

Build out local and regional food systems that support rural farmers and their communities

Because giant agribusinesses control entire supply chains, many small farmers today must send their products to huge packaging and distribution centers that are hundreds of miles away from their farms and from the end consumer. This deprives rural communities from access to produce, contributing to food desertsand obesity.

I will provide farmers and rural communities with the resources they need to build thriving local and regional food systems so that every community has access to healthy food — and the billions in economic opportunities that come with it.

I will use the full power of federal and state procurement to ensure access to local, sustainable produce in all communities. My administration will expand the “Farm-to-School” program a hundredfold and turn it into a billion-dollar “Farm to People” program in which all federally-supported public institutions — including military bases and hospitals — will partner with local, independent farmers to provide fresh, local food.

To meet this additional demand, farmers will need access to local and regional supply chain infrastructure. USDA’s Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) currently invests $50M a year in local infrastructure-building projects — which experts estimate falls far short of meeting the substantial demand. I will increase LAMP’s funding ten-fold, investing $500M a year over the next decade to fund food hubs, distribution centers, and points-of-sale that our rural and small town communities can use.

Create opportunities for diverse and beginning farmers 

Farmers of color have experienced a long history of discrimination, some of it at the hands of the federal government. From 1910 to 1997, black farmers were stripped of 90% of black-owned farmland. They received a mere fraction of the value of the land they lost —  a staggering loss of wealth that is a major contributor to the racial wealth gap. My plan will end the policies that have perpetuated this discrimination and help rural families of color build wealth and sustainable livelihoods.

Addressing the systematic dispossession of land in communities of color, including Black farmers and Native American communities. Over the past century, Black farmers were stripped of 90% of black-owned farmland and received a mere fraction of the value of the land they lost – largely because they held the land as “heirs’ property,” an unstable and much-exploited form of ownership.  I will establish programs to assist heirs’ property owners and make sure they retain access to their land, including building on successes in the 2018 Farm Bill to allow heirs’ property owners to present additional types of documentation to not only access USDA programs, but also other federal programs in FEMA and HUD. I will also fully fund the relending programenacted in the 2018 Farm Bill to expand support services for farmers of color, including legal and technical assistance to help farmers hold on to their land – and prioritize lending organizations operating in states that have enacted model legislation that protects heirs’ property ownership.

Native American communities have also experienced challenges related to fractionated land ownership. This problem was caused by a destructive federal policy from the late 1800s that  allotted tribal lands held in common to individual tribal members and sold additional tribal lands to non-Native settlers and commercial interests. This policy eventually led to roughly two-thirds of all reservation lands being taken from tribes without compensation. Several generations later, individual tribal allotments are now co-owned by many people — sometimes hundreds or thousands — making it difficult to use the land or coordinate activities on it.

Government policy created this problem, and government must help fix it. That’s why I will expand funding for the Indian Tribal Land Acquisition Loan Program and the Highly Fractionated Indian Land Loan Program, USDA programs that help tribal governments acquire land and preserve it for future generations. And I will also push Congress to provide another infusion into the Trust Land Consolidation Fund..

Expand access to credit and land for new and diverse farmers. Women and farmers of color have been disproportionately excluded from accessing the credit and land they need to farm. The Farm Credit System was founded a century ago as a government-sponsored enterprise to provide credit for farmers — but it has strayed from its central mission and instead is pocketing big profits. I will require FCS to allocate 10% of its $5 billion in annual profits towards supporting new and diverse farmers through regional lending mechanisms. I will make sure that farmers can access land, too, by stopping foreign interests from buying up American farmland and expanding the use of programs like the transition incentives program. Native American Community Development Financial Institutions also provide crucial access to credit in underbanked areas and for underbanked businesses, especially farmers. We should provide significant financial support to Native CDFIs.

Invest in protecting the civil rights of farmers of color. I will fully fund and staffUSDA’s Office of Civil Rights and administrative law courts — so that they have the resources necessary to resolve discrimination complaints at a reasonable pace. I will direct regular audits of USDA to ensure that it is not discriminating against farmers of color in issuing loans or subsidy grants. And I will increase the agency’s transparency by creating an online civil rights database that would regularly report on the complaint process.  

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My plan will help create a new farm economy where family farmers have financial security and the freedom to do what they do best. Farmers of all backgrounds will finally have the economic freedom to pursue diverse, sustainable farming — and get paid up front for doing so. Americans will have a steady and affordable supply of food. Kids in rural communities will have healthy lunches grown in their backyards and packaged at local food hubs run by small town entrepreneurs. Taxpayers won’t pay twice — once at the grocery store and once through their taxes — for overproduced commodities. We will replenish our soil and our water to chart a path towards a climate solution and achieve the goals of the Green New Deal.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Biden’s Plan for Rural America

Vice President Joe Biden, running for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, presented his plan for Rural America © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Vice President Joe Biden has presented his plan for Rural America. This summary is provided by the Biden campaign:

Rural America is home to roughly 20% of Americans, but we are all connected to rural communities in many ways. Rural Americans fuel us and feed us. Rural lands provide us with places to spend time outdoors with friends and family and relax.

A healthy, vibrant rural America is essential to the success of our country. Yet in small town after small town, parents watch their kids and grandkids leave rural communities because there just is not enough opportunity for them at home. For too many rural Americans, a pathway to the middle class is out of reach if they stay in their rural communities.
 
The moral obligation of our time is rebuilding the middle class, so that this time everyone comes along regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or zip code.  It should not be dependent on whether they live in a city center, a small town, or a remote area. Everyone means everyone.
 
As president, Biden will build a pathway to the middle class for rural Americans, in rural America. He will pursue a rural economic development strategy that partners with rural communities to invest in their unique assets, with the goal of giving young people more options to live, work, and raise the next generation in rural America. It’s not just good for those in rural America, it’s good for everyone across our country.

I. FUNDAMENTALLY REVITALIZE RURAL ECONOMIES

Rural America is asset-rich. It feeds and fuels the rest of the country, gives us places to enjoy the outdoors and spend time with friends and family, and is home to creative, hard-working Americans. Yet rural America’s economy is traditionally based on extraction, taking the resources out of rural communities and never returning the profits.
 
The Biden strategy for rural economic development will be to partner with rural communities, invest in their unique assets, and make sure the wealth created in rural America stays in rural America.
 
Under this strategy, Biden will:

Strengthen our agricultural sector by:

Pursuing a trade policy that works for American farmers. More than 20% of all crops grown and products raised in the United States are exported, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs and helping to stabilize farm income. But America’s farmers and rural communities have paid a heavy price for President Trump’s tariffs. While Trump is pursuing a damaging and erratic trade war without any real strategy, President Biden will stand up to China by working with our allies to negotiate from the strongest possible position. And, he’ll make sure our trade policy works for American farmers.

Supporting beginning farmers. America tries to make it easy to start a business, but unless you inherit the land, it’s much more difficult to start a farm. The Biden Administration will expand the Obama-Biden Administration’s microloan program for new and beginning farmers, doubling the maximum loan amount to $100,000. And, it will increase funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s farm ownership and operating loans that typically serve beginning farmers who grew up on a family farm but need low-cost capital to add to their family’s operation to support another household.

Fostering the development of regional food systems. The Biden Administration will partner with small and mid-sized farmers to help them collectively create supply chains to deliver fresh produce and other products to schools, hospitals, and other major state and federal institutions, including the Defense Department. This will allow these farmers to negotiate their own prices. And, it will help farmers identify markets for specialty crops and secondary products, like ice cream produced by dairy farmers to bring in additional revenue.

Re-investing in land grant universities’ agricultural research so the public, not private companies, owns patents to agricultural advances. The Biden Administration will reinvest in agricultural research by bolstering funding for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Our farmers need new technologies to compete in world markets while protecting our soil and water. These new technologies – and the next new seeds – should be developed and owned by the American people, not private companies who can use patents to expand profits.

Partnering with farmers to make American agriculture first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions, giving farmers new sources of income in the process. Many farmers are some of the best stewards of our land, air, and water. The government needs to partner with them to accelerate progress toward net-zero emissions. As president, Biden will ensure our agricultural sector is the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions, and that our farmers earn income as we meet this milestone. Toward this end, the Biden Administration will dramatically expand and fortify the pioneering Conservation Stewardship Program, created by former Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Tom Harkin, to support farm income through payments based on farmers’ practices to protect the environment, including carbon sequestration. In addition to seeking full federal funding for the program, the Biden Administration will ensure the program can participate in carbon markets. Corporations, individuals, and foundations interested in promoting greenhouse gas reductions could offset their emissions by contributing to Conservation Stewardship Program payments to farmers for those sequestering carbon — for example, through cover crops. This will not only help combat climate change, which Vice President Biden has called an existential threat, but also create additional revenue sources for farmers at a time when many are struggling to make ends meet. And, this approach will create a whole series of new businesses that survey, measure, certify, and quantify conservation results. In addition, the Biden Plan will make a significant investment in research to refine practices to build soil carbon while maximizing farm and ranch productivity. Soil is the next frontier for storing carbon.

Strengthening antitrust enforcement. From the inputs they depend on – such as seeds – to the markets where they sell their products, American farmers and ranchers are being hurt by increasing market concentration. The Biden Administration will protect small and medium-sized farmers and producers by strengthening enforcement of the Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Acts and the Packers and Stockyards Act.

Expand bio-based manufacturing to bring cutting-edge manufacturing jobs back to rural America. The Biden Administration will create a low-carbon manufacturing sector in every state in the country, but not just in cities. As president, Biden will grow the bioeconomy and bio-based manufacturing to bring cutting-edge manufacturing jobs back to rural America. This means taking every aspect of agricultural production – from corn stock to manure – to create chemicals, materials, fabrics, and fibers in a process that is good for the environment and creates new sources of revenue for farmers. Key to this strategy will be connecting research universities, community colleges, incubators and accelerators, manufacturing institutes, employers, unions, and state and local governments – alone or as part of a regional pact. The federal government will provide them with significant funding for deployment of a place-based plan to help their state or region build a competitive and low-carbon future in manufacturing that reflects climate impacts in their local communities.

Promote ethanol and the next generation of biofuels. Joe Biden believes renewable fuels are vital to the future of rural America – and the climate. The Biden Plan will invest $400 billion in clean energy research, innovation, and deployment – more than twice what America spent to put a man on the moon. And, as part of this effort, developing the next generation of biofuels will be a top priority. The Biden Plan will invest in research to develop cellulosic biofuels in a manner that protects our soil and water and addresses the challenge of climate change, while turning grass, crop residues, and other biomass into fuel. Doubling down on these liquid fuels of the future will not only make value-added agriculture a key part of the solution to climate change – reducing emissions in planes, ships, and other forms of transportation – but will also create quality jobs across rural America. From day one, President Biden will use every tool at his disposal, including the federal fleet and the federal government’s purchasing power, to promote and advance renewable energy, ethanol, and other biofuels.

Invest in wind and solar energy. President Obama put Vice President Biden in charge of the Recovery Act, which invested more than $90 billion in clean energy technology. Those investments contributed to a doubling of the share of domestically produced wind turbine components and produced a dramatic decrease in solar costs, making wind and solar power cost-competitive. Biden will build on the Recovery Act by setting an ambitious but essential goal for America to achieve a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050. His clean energy plan will accelerate the already dramatic growth of solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources.

Invest $20 billion in rural broadband infrastructure, and triple funding to expand broadband access in rural areas. High-speed broadband is essential in the 21st Century economy. Yet far too many rural communities still don’t have access to it. Rural Americans are over 10 times more likely than urban residents to lack quality broadband access. At a time when so many jobs and businesses could be located anywhere, high-speed internet access should be a great economic equalizer for rural America, not another economic disadvantage. Investing $20 billion in rural broadband infrastructure has the potential to create more than a quarter million new jobs. The Biden Plan will triple Community Connect broadband grants and partner with municipal utilities to bring cutting-edge broadband connections to communities across rural America.

Invest in green infrastructure nationwide. As president, Biden will make smart infrastructure investments to rebuild the nation and to ensure that our buildings, water, transportation, and energy infrastructure can meet America’s economic needs and withstand the impacts of climate change. The Biden Administration will use this infrastructure funding to ensure that rural communities across the country have access to clean, safe drinking water. It will modernize the lock and dam system vital to getting rural products to markets, leveraging the federal resources to the maximum extent possible with the private sector. And, it will build the roads to give farms and small town businesses access to markets and an efficient means to participate in the world economy. 

Expand access to credit for new and small businesses. Entrepreneurs in small towns and rural areas should have access to the capital they need to realize their dreams. The Biden Administration will dramatically expand funding for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program to help rural entrepreneurs. Biden will expand the number of Rural Business Investment Companies to help rural companies obtain capital.

II. PARTNER WITH RURAL COMMUNITIES TO HELP THEM FULLY ACCESS FEDERAL RESOURCES

A contributing factor to place-based inequality across the U.S. is the simple fact that some communities are more successful at accessing federal dollars and technical assistance than others. The federal government’s programs are too often too challenging to navigate for cities and towns that do not have the ability to hire highly qualified professionals to engage with the system.
 
The Biden Administration wants to fundamentally change how the federal government interacts with rural communities that so often do not have access to federal programs. The Biden Administration will partner with these communities to help them fully access federal resources to create jobs, build wealth, and give rural Americans who live in poverty the chance to join the middle class.
 
The Biden Administration will do this in two ways:

Create a White House “StrikeForce” to partner with rural communities to help them access federal funds. The Biden Administration will create a White House StrikeForce consisting of agency leaders who will partner with community-building organizations in persistent poverty rural communities and help them unlock federal resources. This approach is modeled on the StrikeForce Secretary Tom Vilsack successfully established in the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the Obama-Biden Administration.

Prioritize persistent poverty rural communities. Approximately 85% of roughly 350 persistent poverty counties in the United States fall outside of a metropolitan area. To tackle persistent poverty in all communities, but especially rural America, Vice President Biden supports applying Congressman James Clyburn’s 10-20-30 formula, which will allocate 10 percent of funding to areas “where 20 percent or more of the population has been living below the poverty line for the last 30 years,” to all federal programs.

III. PROTECT AND BUILD ON THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO QUALITY HEALTH CARE IN RURAL COMMUNITIES

The Affordable Care Act was a big deal in rural America, and it should be protected and built upon. As president, Biden will protect and build on Obamacare – not get rid of it and start over with something new. He will not support any policy that means getting rid of Obamacare, whether proposed by a Democrat or Republican.
 
Vice President Biden believes that every American has a right to the peace of mind that comes with knowing they have health insurance and access to affordable, quality health care. He believes that it’s a right, not a privilege. It should not be dependent on whether they live in a city center, a small town, or a remote community.
 
Rural America faces unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to access to quality health care. In many rural communities, the local hospital is one of the largest – if not the largest  – employers. Keeping our rural hospitals open is critical not only for saving lives, but also for supporting local economies in rural America. Yet, since 2010, more than 100 rural hospitals across the United States have closed. Combined, these closures represent the loss of over 10,000 jobs. And, they could mean life or death for patients in rural communities. Already, someone injured in a rural area has to travel, on average, nearly twice as far to get to the closest hospital as someone injured in an urban area. These critical moments lost in travel time are one reason an estimated 60% of all trauma fatalities occur in rural communities.
 
This problem is at risk of getting even worse. Roughly 1 out of 3 rural hospitals are at risk of shutting down. And that’s only part of the story. Rural clinics and rural nursing homes are closing as well.
 
You can read Vice President Biden’s full health care plan here. To specifically help rural Americans, his plan will also:

Keep our rural hospitals open by:

Defending the Affordable Care Act. The first step to save our rural hospitals is to defend the Affordable Care Act. In fact, one proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act would have caused $1.7 billion in cuts to rural hospitals, 181 additional rural hospitals “forced into the red,” and nearly 38,000 lost jobs.  President Biden isn’t going to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, he’s going to build on it.

Finishing the job of expanding coverage to low-income adults. Research found that, in states that took up the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, the expansion was a critical tool in keeping rural hospitals open. Yet, 14 states have still not expanded Medicaid eligibility, and an estimated 4.9 million individuals would be eligible for coverage but for their state’s inaction. Vice President Biden’s plan will enroll all of these individuals in a new public option, without a premium and with benefits like those offered in Medicaid. This isn’t just the right thing to do, it will help rural hospitals remain solvent. And, under the Biden Plan, which preserves individuals ability to choose private insurance, these hospitals won’t be threatened by having to get by on low Medicare reimbursement rates for all.

Giving rural hospitals the flexibility they need to keep their doors open and care for their patients. The Biden Administration will provide rural health care providers with funding and flexibility necessary to identify, test, and deploy innovative approaches to keeping their doors open and providing care for the unique needs of rural communities. The Affordable Care Act supports this type of innovation, for example through demonstration projects like the Pennsylvania Rural Health Model, which is giving rural hospitals in the state more flexibility to decide how best to spend dollars to improve the health of the population they serve. The Biden Plan will expand funding for these types of demonstration projects, and then accelerate efforts to replicate proven models to other rural hospitals across the country. And, the Biden Plan will identify and eliminate federal rules making it harder for rural hospitals to serve their communities. For example, many rural hospitals serving small populations do not have enough patients to maintain inpatient care, but those communities still need a 24/7 emergency department. One approach to ensure they can keep their doors open is to create a new designation, the Community Outpatient Hospital, as proposed in the bipartisan Save Rural Hospitals Act. The Biden Administration will make sure the federal government is helping rural hospitals meet community needs, not serving as a roadblock.

Adequately funding our rural hospitals. To help hospitals keep their doors open, President Biden supports the elimination of payment cuts and additional payments for rural hospitals as detailed in the bipartisan Save Rural Hospitals Act.

Expand primary care and innovative health care delivery models in rural communities by:

Doubling funding for community health centers. Community health centers  provide primary, prenatal, and other important care to underserved populations. The Biden Plan will double the federal investment in these centers, expanding access to high quality health care for the populations that need it most. More than half of community health centers are in rural areas.

Equipping rural community health centers to be hubs for healthy communities. As president, Biden will establish a grant program to help community health centers hire social workers or other professionals to coordinate resources necessary for community health, such as transportation to get patients to health centers and connections to housing and nutrition services.

Expanding the pipeline of rural health care providers. The Biden Administration will use a comprehensive approach to increase the number of rural individuals going to medical school or other training programs and returning or staying in rural communities to provide care, with a focus on primary care physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and other in-demand providers. This initiative will include additional funding for residency programs in rural areas, expanding theNational Health Service Corps, and developing high school-community-college-health-center partnerships to inspire rural youth to pursue jobs in health care and pursue the advanced credits or industry credentials that will put them on the path to success in the field.

Building new health clinics and deploying telehealth in rural America. The Obama-Biden Administration successfully used the USDA Community Facility Direct Loan & Grant Program to build rural hospitals and mental health clinics across rural America and equip them with the best technology. As president, Biden will expand this grant funding, with a focus on accelerating the deployment of telehealth for mental health and specialty care. Telehealth – the use of videoconferencing and other technology to provide remote care – can be a vital resource for rural communities with limited access to providers.

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Previously Released Biden Plans & Rural America  

To Protect & Build on the Affordable Care Act, including a public option, which will give rural Americans a new health insurance choice, and other policies to lower health care costs.
 
For Educators, Students, and Our Future, which will triple funding for Title I schools, including those in rural communities, and expand high school-community college-business partnerships to prepare students for good jobs.
 
For a Clean Energy Revolution and Climate Justice, which commits our country to fulfilling our obligation to all workers impacted by the energy transition, like coal miners and power plant workers and their communities.
 
In the months ahead, Biden will release a higher education proposal which will include a policy to support small, low-endowment private colleges that are often anchor institutions in rural communities.

NYS Accepting Applications for Luminate Accelerator to Spur Optics, Photonics, Imaging Enterprises, Key Initiative in ‘Finger Lakes Forward’ Revitalization

Former knitting mill being repurposed in Seneca Falls, gateway to the Finger Lakes. New York State is accepting new applications for Illuminate NY, one of  the world’s largest business accelerators for startup firms in the optics, photonics and imaging industries, with a $1 million the top prize. Illuminate is one of the initiatives to revitalize the Finger Lakes economy © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

New York State has just announced that Luminate NY – one of  the world’s largest business accelerators for startup firms in the optics, photonics and imaging industries is now accepting applications for Round III of the innovative competition. Selected teams will compete for one of 10 available slots in the third cohort of companies.

The Luminate NY accelerator, located in Rochester, assists promising optics, photonics and imaging companies with advancing their technologies and businesses through the assistance of a six-month mentoring program. Once selected, teams will compete for follow-on funding, including a $1 million top prize; $500,000 second prize; and two $250,000 prizes that will be awarded to two teams. The Luminate NY program is funded by the transformative Finger Lakes Forward Upstate Revitalization Initiative.

“Luminate NY is a globally recognized competition and resource for the most promising new companies in the cutting-edge fields of optics, photonics and imaging,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “This accelerator represents just one of the many strategic industry investments New York is making to foster new business growth and improve job opportunities as we continue working to propel the Finger Lakes economy forward.”

“Our business plan competitions have proven to be a catalyst for driving great ideas and job growth across the state,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.”Luminate NY is part of our strategy to encourage collaboration and provide support to the growing OPI industry in the Finger Lakes region. As we begin a new round, we remain committed to embracing Rochester’s spirit of innovation to deliver ambitious plans focused on the future.”

Luminate NY, which is administered by NextCorps, is looking for entrepreneurs from around the globe who are interested in solving OPI challenges, including but not limited to: machine vision, inspection, biophotonics, security, surveillance, augmented and virtual reality and autonomous vehicles. The winning teams must commit to remaining in the region for at least 18 months.

Applicants for Luminate NY must be incorporated, have at least two full-time employees and should have proven their core technology, preferably having developed a working prototype. Once admitted, companies will receive assistance, including capital, access to comprehensive lab facilities for technology development, education, and business mentoring. Applications will be accepted now through September 23, 2019.

The recruitment for new OPI-enabled technologies comes just one week before Luminate NY’s second cohort of companies competes for $2 million in follow-on funding. The free “Light Tomorrow with Today” Demo Day event will be held on June 27, 2019, at the CGI Big Tent at the Rochester International Jazz Festival. One company will be awarded $1 million, with the additional $1 million to be awarded to three companies based on judges’ ratings.

Luminate NY continues to build on the region’s historically strong OPI industry sector. Rochester is home to the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics’ Test, Assembly and Packaging facility at Eastman Business Park, the University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics, the Rochester Institute of Technology and to more than 100 local OPI companies and 17,000 employees who are building on the region’s legacy as a global imaging leader.

For more information about Luminate NY, click here.

Accelerating Finger Lakes Forward 

Today’s announcement complements “Finger Lakes Forward,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. New York State has already invested more than $6.1 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan—investing in key industries including photonics, agriculture and food production, and advanced manufacturing. Today, unemployment is down to the lowest levels since before the Great Recession; personal and corporate income taxes are down; and businesses are choosing places like Rochester, Batavia and Canandaigua as a destination to grow and invest in.

Now, the region is accelerating Finger Lakes Forward with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, announced by Governor Cuomo in December 2015. The State’s $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion; and, the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 8,200 new jobs. More information is available here.

Warren ‘Economic Patriotism’ Agenda: Address Climate Change With $2 Trillion Plan for Green Manufacturing and Create 1 Million Jobs

Democratic candidate for President, Senator Elizabeth Warren unveiled an Economic Patriotism Agenda that includes $2 trillion in investment in green manufacturing which would create 1 million jobs © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Charlestown, MA – Elizabeth Warren, Democratic Senator from Massachusetts who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, laid out her vision of economic patriotism, calling for using new and existing tools to defend and create quality American jobs and promote American industry. Warren will continue to release individual plans reflecting how economic patriotism should shape our approach to specific parts of the American economy. She released the first plan: A bold $2 trillion investment of federal money over 10 years in American green research, manufacturing, and exporting — which includes ambitious new ideas to link American innovation directly to American jobs, and focuses on achieving not only the ambitious domestic emissions targets in the Green New Deal, but also spurring the kind of worldwide adoption of American-made clean energy technology needed to meet the international targets of the Green New Deal.

The plan is designed to ensure that American taxpayer investments in combating climate change result in good American jobs. The plan makes a historic $400 billion investment in clean energy research and development, and includes a provision that any production stemming from that federally-funded research should take place in the United States. It also makes a massive $1.5 trillion commitment to federal procurement of clean, green, American-made products over the next 10 years, and requires that all companies that receive federal contracts pay all employees at least $15 per hour, guarantee 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, let employees exercise collective bargaining rights, and maintain fair schedules at a minimum. According to an independent analysis from Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, these provisions ensure that Warren’s Green Manufacturing Plan would boost economic growth and create more than a million new jobs right here at home.

Warren’s plan also includes a Green Marshall Plan — a commitment to using all the tools in our diplomatic and economic arsenal to encourage other countries to purchase and deploy American-made clean energy technology. It creates a new federal office dedicated to selling American-made clean, renewable, and emission-free energy technology abroad, with a $100 billion commitment to assisting countries to purchase and deploy this technology — supporting American jobs while supplying the world with the clean energy products needed to cut global emissions.

Warren’s plan also identifies specific cost offsets that, according to the Moody’s economic analysis, cover nearly the entire cost of her plan: her Real Corporate Profits Tax, ending subsidies for oil and gas companies, and closing tax loopholes that promote shipping jobs overseas.

Warren’s Green Manufacturing Plan comes after her Public Lands Plan, two in a series of proposals as she continues to lay out her vision for how we implement the Green New Deal.

“The climate crisis demands immediate and bold action. Like we have before, we should bank on American ingenuity and American workers to lead the global effort to face down this threat — and create more than a million good jobs here at home,” Warren said.

Read more about Warren’s vision of Economic Patriotism here.

Read more about Warren’s Green Manufacturing Plan here.

What I Learned From Traveling Around the World in 23 Days

Inle Lake, Myanmar. A trip around the world affords an opportunity to meet people on their own turf. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Bill Chalmers, the “ringmaster” and Chief Experience Officer of the Global Scavenger Hunt, launches us on this around-the-world-in-23-days mystery tour with what he calls a “chimpanzee test” – a test where a chimpanzee is likely to get more answers right than a human being who has news and information available to them. The test basically demonstrates that unlike the gloom-and-doom of headlines, the trendlines are positive and these are actually the best of times for human society.

Throughout this Global Scavenger Hunt, “A Blind Date With the World” – where we don’t know where we are going next until we are told when to go to the airport or get ourselves there, and along the way, complete scavenges and challenges –  we are encouraged, even forced, to “trust in the kindness of strangers.” To interact with local people even when we can’t understand each other’s language. To learn and understand for ourselves.

For me, it is an incomparable opportunity to see in close proximity and context what is happening in countries literally around the globe – to examine this notion of American Exceptionalism, America First; to see the scope of such hot-button issues as trade, technology, migration and how they have played out over the longer course of human civilization. (I have a theory that 98% of Trump’s so-called hard-core base have never traveled beyond their own provincial border.)

As Chalmers notes, it is conceit to think we can parachute into places and understand the nuances of complex issues, but still, travel is about seeing for yourself, but also gaining an understanding of one another, disabusing stereotypes or caricatures, and most significantly, not seeing others as “other”, which works both ways. In very real ways (and especially now), travelers are ambassadors, no less than diplomats. Isolating people is not how change happens – that only hardens points of view, and makes people susceptible to fear-mongering and all the bad things that have happened throughout human history as a result. “See for yourself,” Chalmers tells us.

This is particularly poignant when we arrive in Myanmar:  One of the first things I see upon arriving in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly known as Rangoon in its colonial days) is the National Human Rights Commission which at this juncture, strikes as ironic. But despite the awful headlines, we all find the people of Myanmar to be kind, gentle, considerate. And a complete lack of politics or angst.

And just after returning home, the two prizewinning Reuters journalists imprisoned for their reporting of the deadly crackdown on the Rohingya, were released.

War Remnants Museum, Ho C hi Minh City, Vietnam. Press photos from international journalists from the time of the Vietnam War document the atrocities committed and go unpunished © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vietnam is a testament to the resiliency of human society to rebound after wars and other crises (as we see everywhere, in fact – in Spain, in Portugal, in Greece, places that suffered during World War II, and you reflect on the success of the alliances that set the stage for 70 years of progress, now being weakened). In Vietnam, visiting the Chu Chi Tunnels and the War Remnants Museum, you cannot help but feel ashamed at the war crimes that remain unpunished because of the wealth and power of the United States.

In Gibraltar, still a colony of Great Britain, I come upon a May Day labor rally that could have been New York City: Privatization. Nonconsultation and lack of transparency. Unfair distribution. Wage increases that don’t keep up with the cost of living.

May Day Rally in Gibraltar © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Abu Dhabi is like a fantasy of a society built on oil wealth, conspicuous ostentation, a gallery of skyscrapers that defy physics; Amman, Jordan, on the other hand, is the real world. But my side trip to Petra – a fantastic city carved out of the rock faces, showed how greatness is made possible by innovations in engineering a water supply. Petra was able to dominate (and protect) the caravan routes, and the result was fabulous art and culture.

This theme picked up again in Athens, visiting the National Archaeological Museum, where I am struck by the artistry from 2500 years ago (themes and imagery that I will see again repeated throughout history on our final stop in New York City, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and realize that the human species is not smarter or better than thousands of years ago, we just have better tools and technology.

But this panel about 6th Century Greece stood out that notes the nexus between trade, migration, innovation, democracy and culture and rise of empire:

“The nature of the economy underwent a radical change as a result of the growth of trade. A new class of citizens emerged who were conscious of liberty and its potential and now demanded the right to play an active role in the running of public affairs….The liberty that was characteristic of the Greek way of life and which governed their thinking finds eloquent expression in their artistic creations. …Works of art and artists moved freely along the trade routes. The wealth and power of the city-states were expressed in the erection of monumental, lavishly adorned temples and impressive public welfare works.

“Greeks turned their attention to the natural world and to phenomena that gave rise to philosophical speculation, formulative ideas such as those of matter, the atom, force, space and time, and laying the foundations of science…”

But then came the rise of the Persian Empire and the Persian Wars.

Banquet Relief of Malku with Two Attendants, ca early 3rd C, artifact from Palmyra. The ancient site has been destroyed by ISIS and the artifacts looted © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

These themes are repeated in New York City  where our “Global Scavenger Hunt” ends. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art where the challenge I take is to find objects from five of the countries we visited, and this leads me to a fascinating exhibit, “The World Between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East.” The museum rarely (if ever) becomes political, but in this exhibit, archaeologists comment on the destruction of Palmyra and other ancient sites by ISIS.

“It may seem frivolous to focus on monuments, museums when people are enslaved and killed. But to wipe out, destroy culture is a way of destroying people. We must protect heritage as well.”

Palmyra only exists now “on paper” and in photos after the destruction by ISIS © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is a humbling experience, to be sure, to go to the origins of the great civilizations, fast forward to today. How did they become great? How did they fall? Greatness is not inevitable or forever.  Empires rise and fall. Rulers use religion, art and monuments to establish their credibility and credentials to rule; successors blot out the culture and re-write history. Traveling around the world, you appreciate just what a small world it is, how interdependent we are, how vulnerable our societies are, and that individuals do have impact. Also, that people everywhere are more similar than different.

I come back to a monstrously disturbing New York Times headline: “Humans Are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an ‘Unprecedented’ Pace:”

“Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.”

The Barbary Macaques delight visitors to Gibraltar but the loss of 1 million species due to human activity and development is more threatening to society and civilization than the impact on tourism revenue © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In this case, headlines are trendlines. And it isn’t just about aesthetics or seeing animals like the Barbary Macaques that delight tourists in Gibraltar, but whole economies and sustenance. It is a matter of national security, peace and progress. It is about food and water supply, disease, habitable spaces. Sea level rise alone is expected to trigger 300 million climate refugees, competing for dwindling resources. There have been periods of mass extinction in the past – in fact, homo sapiens (us) were touch and go there for awhile.

Chalmers started off our “Blind Date With the World” with the Nicholas Kristof model, that these are actually the best of times for human society despite the gloom and doom headlines. But I disagree: the trendlines are not that hopeful. We may well be living in a golden age of human capacity, but we must recognize that we now have the power of the Gods to shape, to destroy or to create. And we seem too short-sighted to see that.

“Governments must start putting people and the planet ahead of corporate interests and greed and act with the urgency this report illustrates,” writes Annie Leonard, Executive Director, Greenpeace USA. “Leaders must adopt strong targets and implementation plans to protect biodiversity with the active participation and Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Instead of plundering the forests and seas for short-term profit we need to shift our system into one that respects planetary boundaries.”

The Greek Gods may well have the last laugh at the extraordinary ability humans have to destroy themselves.

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Elizabeth Warren Releases Plan to Rein in Big Tech, Giant Corporations

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a declared 2020 candidate for 2020 presidential nomination, came to Long Island City, where local activists rejected Amazon, to propose a plan to rein in big tech and other giant multi-national companies that use their economic power to stifle competition and intimidate government. Here is her proposal — Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy. They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation. 

I want a government that makes sure everybody — even the biggest and most powerful companies in America — plays by the rules. And I want to make sure that the next generation of great American tech companies can flourish. To do that, we need to stop this generation of big tech companies from throwing around their political power to shape the rules in their favor and throwing around their economic power to snuff out or buy up every potential competitor

That’s why my Administration will make big, structural changes to the tech sector to promote more competition—including breaking up Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

How the New Tech Monopolies Hurt Small Businesses and Innovation

America’s big tech companies provide valuable products but also wield enormous power over our digital lives. Nearly half of all e-commerce goes through Amazon. More than 70% of all Internet traffic goes through sites owned or operated by Google or Facebook. 

As these companies have grown larger and more powerful, they have used their resources and control over the way we use the Internet to squash small businesses and innovation, and substitute their own financial interests for the broader interests of the American people. To restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it’s time to break up our biggest tech companies. 

America’s big tech companies have achieved their level of dominance in part based on two strategies: 

  • Using Mergers to Limit Competition. Facebook has purchased potential competitors Instagram and WhatsApp. Amazon has used its immense market power to force smaller competitors like Diapers.com to sell at a discounted rate. Google has snapped up the mapping company Waze and the ad company DoubleClick. Rather than blocking these transactions for their negative long-term effects on competition and innovation, government regulators have waved them through.
     
  • Using Proprietary Marketplaces to Limit Competition. Many big tech companies own a marketplace – where buyers and sellers transact – while also participating on the marketplace. This can create a conflict of interest that undermines competition. Amazon crushes small companies by copying the goods they sell on the Amazon Marketplace and then selling its own branded version. Google allegedly snuffed out a competing small search engine by demoting its content on its search algorithm, and it has favored its own restaurant ratings over those of Yelp. 

Weak antitrust enforcement has led to a dramatic reduction in competition and innovation in the tech sector. Venture capitalists are now hesitant to fund new startups to compete with these big tech companies because it’s so easy for the big companies to either snap up growing competitors or drive them out of business. The number of tech startups has slumped, there are fewer high-growth young firms typical of the tech industry, and first financing rounds for tech startups have declined 22% since 2012. 

With fewer competitors entering the market, the big tech companies do not have to compete as aggressively in key areas like protecting our privacy. And some of these companies have grown so powerful that they can bully cities and states into showering them with massive taxpayer handouts in exchange for doing business, and can act — in the words of Mark Zuckerberg — “more like a government than a traditional company.” 

We must ensure that today’s tech giants do not crowd out potential competitors, smother the next generation of great tech companies, and wield so much power that they can undermine our democracy. 

Restoring Competition in the Tech Sector

America has a long tradition of breaking up companies when they have become too big and dominant — even if they are generally providing good service at a reasonable price. 

A century ago, in the Gilded Age, waves of mergers led to the creation of some of the biggest companies in American history — from Standard Oil and JPMorgan to the railroads and AT&T. In response to the rise of these “trusts,” Republican and Democratic reformers pushed for antitrust laws to break up these conglomerations of power to ensure competition.

But where the value of the company came from its network, reformers recognized that ownership of a network and participating on the network caused a conflict of interest. Instead of nationalizing these industries — as other countries did — Americans in the Progressive Era decided to ensure that these networks would not abuse their power by charging higher prices, offering worse quality, reducing innovation, and favoring some over others. We required a structural separation between the network and other businesses, and also demanded that the network offer fair and non-discriminatory service. 

In this tradition, my administration would restore competition to the tech sector by taking two major steps:

First, by passing legislation that requires large tech platforms to be designated as “Platform Utilities” and broken apart from any participant on that platform

Companies with an annual global revenue of $25 billion or more and that offer to the public an online marketplace, an exchange, or a platform for connecting third parties would be designated as “platform utilities.”

These companies would be prohibited from owning both the platform utility and any participants on that platform. Platform utilities would be required to meet a standard of fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory dealing with users. Platform utilities would not be allowed to transfer or share data with third parties.

For smaller companies (those with annual global revenue of between $90 million and $25 billion), their platform utilities would be required to meet the same standard of fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory dealing with users, but would not be required to structurally separate from any participant on the platform.

To enforce these new requirements, federal regulators, State Attorneys General, or injured private parties would have the right to sue a platform utility to enjoin any conduct that violates these requirements, to disgorge any ill-gotten gains, and to be paid for losses and damages. A company found to violate these requirements would also have to pay a fine of 5 percent of annual revenue.

Amazon Marketplace, Google’s ad exchange, and Google Search would be platform utilities under this law. Therefore, Amazon Marketplace and Basics, and Google’s ad exchange and businesses on the exchange would be split apart. Google Search would have to be spun off as well. 

Second, my administration would appoint regulators committed to reversing illegal and anti-competitive tech mergers. 

Current antitrust laws empower federal regulators to break up mergers that reduce competition. I will appoint regulators who are committed to using existing tools to unwind anti-competitive mergers, including: 

  • Amazon: Whole Foods; Zappos
     
  • Facebook: WhatsApp; Instagram
     
  • Google: Waze; Nest; DoubleClick
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Unwinding these mergers will promote healthy competition in the market — which will put pressure on big tech companies to be more responsive to user concerns, including about privacy.   

Protecting the Future of the Internet

So what would the Internet look like after all these reforms?

Here’s what won’t change: You’ll still be able to go on Google and search like you do today. You’ll still be able to go on Amazon and find 30 different coffee machines that you can get delivered to your house in two days. You’ll still be able to go on Facebook and see how your old friend from school is doing.

Here’s what will change: Small businesses would have a fair shot to sell their products on Amazon without the fear of Amazon pushing them out of business. Google couldn’t smother competitors by demoting their products on Google Search. Facebook would face real pressure from Instagram and WhatsApp to improve the user experience and protect our privacy. Tech entrepreneurs would have a fighting chance to compete against the tech giants. 

Of course, my proposals today won’t solve every problem we have with our big tech companies.

We must give people more control over how their personal information is collected, shared, and sold—and do it in a way that doesn’t lock in massive competitive advantages for the companies that already have a ton of our data.

We must help America’s content creators—from local newspapers and national magazines to comedians and musicians — keep more of the value their content generates, rather than seeing it scooped up by companies like Google and Facebook.

And we must ensure that Russia — or any other foreign power — can’t use Facebook or any other form of social media to influence our elections.

Those are each tough problems, but the benefit of taking these steps to promote competition is that it allows us to make some progress on each of these important issues too. More competition means more options for consumers and content creators, and more pressure on companies like Facebook to address the glaring problems with their businesses.

Healthy competition can solve a lot of problems. The steps I’m proposing today will allow existing big tech companies to keep offering customer-friendly services, while promoting competition, stimulating innovation in the tech sector, and ensuring that America continues to lead the world in producing cutting-edge tech companies. It’s how we protect the future of the Internet.

See: Warren Brings 2020 Campaign to Long Island City to Call for Breaking Up Big Tech, Corporate Giants

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

New York State Strategy: Turn Long Island into Leader for Nascent Offshore Windpower Industry

Long Islanders advocate for offshore windpower outside of Long Island Power Authority offices. NYSERDA is investing millions of dollars to ease the way for private entities to develop a windpower industry on Long Island © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Governor Andrew Cuomo sees the opportunity to create a new industry centered largely on Long Island to take advantage of the offshore windpower in an area of the Atlantic Ocean, considered “the Saudi Arabia of windpower.” In this, the state is acting much like other nations which jumpstart new industries by funding critical studies, research centers, workforce development. This is all to ease the way, lessen the risk and increase likelihood of success for the private companies which are expected to vie for leases from the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).

Cuomo has set a standard of the state generating 50% of its energy needs through renewable by 2030, and offshore wind, in addition to solar, hilltop windpower, hydroelectric and other sources (“all of the above”) are considered essential to meeting that goal, which Cuomo has proudly declared the most ambitious in the nation.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation just released proposed regulations to require all power plants in New York to meet new emissions limits for carbon dioxide (CO2), a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. The regulations, a first in the nation approach to regulating carbon emissions, will achieve the Governor’s goal to end the use of coal in New York State power plants by 2020.

Environmental groups including Sierra Club have long advocated offshore wind, especially as Long Island faces a crucial transition juncture of expanding or upgrading fossil-fuel based power plants to meet its energy needs, versus investing and transitioning to renewable energy.

The state is targeting acquiring 2,400 megawatts of energy from offshore wind – the equivalent of what is generated by the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant – enough to power 1.2 million households. The associated industries that would develop to manufacture the wind turbines and platforms, construct ports and stage the equipment, install the turbines, operate and maintain the systems are expected to employ some 5,000 people in relatively high-paying jobs, and generate $6 billion for the region. What is more, over time, windpower will bring down the cost of electricity on Long Island, where high costs of energy are considered impediments to economic growth.

At the same time, the state has invested in new research programs at State Universities, including Stony Brook to address key issues such as storage batteries (for when the wind does not blow), and transmission.

The master plan, being unveiled in public hearings, has been developed over a period of years by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

The strategy is to be the furthest along in order to be first in line to contract for the electricity, which could be sold to New Jersey and other regions, to reduce cost and risk to private entities which will bid for the rights to construct and operate the wind turbines. The state is not actually seeking to  be the winning bidder for the leases, but to be the customer for the power for those that do. And the state is also aware that other customers – New Jersey, as one example (though the former governor Chris Christie showed little interest, the new governor Phil Murphy is) – will also be bidding. But there is great confidence because of proximity and the sheer market size, that New York City and Long Island residents will be the beneficiary.  And there is so much energy potential from this area, there is “enough for all.” Indeed, NYSERDA is eyeing 3,200 MW of production from the sites it has targeted, of which it would contract for 2,400.

NYSERDA has conducted studies in 20 areas –literally every environmental, biologic, economic and engineering aspect – in order to  define every aspect of locating the best places to position turbines and cables, where to stage construction, where to manufacture the turbines and components, even where to invest in workforce development. All along the way, the agency has engaged stakeholders – from municipalities and environmentalists to labor unions to consumer advocates, to commercial fishing interests.

The state has allocated $15 million to spend on workforce development and infrastructure advancement (for example, building port facilities), and is allocating up to $5 million for multi-year research studies that will assist project developers with the data will be made available by NYSERDA in real time to public. For example, data on wind speeds particularly impact economics of projects and will improve the certainty of bids to state. 

“We are seeking to invest $20 million or more, kicking off in 2018, for research and development – component design, systems design, operational controls, monitoring systems, manufacturing processes,” said Doreen Harris, Director, Large Scale Renewables, NYSERDA.

To attract private investment in port infrastructure and manufacturing, the state is hoping to spotlight promising infrastructure investments (60 sites have been identified), helping jumpstart project development and “secure its status as the undisputed home for the emerging offshore wind industry in the US.”

Think of it: Long Island used to be the center for America’s aerospace industry. Now it can be a leader in a global offshore windpower industry. What is more, off shore windpower can also bring down Long Island’s historically high utility rates which are considered an impediment to business development and economic growth.

“We’ve established technical working groups to determine best use of funds – to insure new Yorkers well prepared to serve offshore wind industry and connected to the global Industry.” Indeed, offshore wind is brand new for the US, but has been in force in Europe for 25 years.

The United States projects will have the benefit of leap-frogging over earlier technology, with more efficient, productive, and less environmentally risky structures.

The state is estimating that the near-term incremental program cost would be less than 30 cents a month for a typical homeowner – the cost of windpower is front-loaded in the initial construction, as opposed to fossil-fuel generated energy which continues to get more expensive over time because it is a finite resource that is increasingly more difficult and costly to obtain and needs to be transported from further distances to users. Electricity generated from wind is already competitive with fossil-fuel generated power, but over time, as usage thresholds and technology improvements are reached, the costs will go down. And this does not even factor in the environmental  and public health benefits of transitioning from carbon-based fuel.

The only kicker is that while New York State is being pro-active, it is BOEM that ultimately controls the leases and is undertaking similar studies, so people are concerned this can be unnecessarily time-consuming and duplicative. And while BOEM under the Obama Administration was full-speed ahead and keen to develop offshore windpower, concern was raised after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke declared the entire continental shelf open for drilling, and this prime windpower area used instead for drilling rigs or equally horrible Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminals such as the Port Ambrose that had been beaten back by Governor Cuomo.

But BOEM’s Energy Program Specialist Luke Feinberg, who attended NYSERDA’s May 8 public hearing in Melville expressed enthusiasm for offshore wind in this area (not to mention the area does not seem to have much potential for oil). BOEM presented a timetable that projects out two to five years before actual construction can begin; BOEM intends to hold its next lease auction no later than 2019.

BOEM is taking comments on the proposed “New York Bight” Call Area by May 29. Submit comments and view documents at boem.gov/New-York/

The New York Public Service Commission is now considering a number of options for the state to advance solicitations once the leases are awarded; send comments or view materials at http://documents.dps.ny.gov.

To get more information on the New York State Offshore Wind Master Plan visit nyserda.ny.gov/offshorewind.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin