Friday, November 23, 2012

Call for Papers - The Fifth Annual Conference of the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis: Increasing the Utility of Benefit-Cost Analysis

February 21–22, 2013 
at the
FHI360 Conference Center 
1825 Connecticut Ave., NW, 8th Floor 
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 884-8279
Abstracts due November 30, 2012

The Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis promotes the development and appropriate application of benefit-cost analysis to a broad range of public policy issues. In 2013, the fifth annual conference and meeting will continue to focus on the practical use of benefit-cost analysis (BCA) in a variety of institutional and national settings. The Society welcomes abstracts and panel proposals on any topic related to improving the use of benefit-cost analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis, risk-benefit analysis, applied welfare economics, and damage assessment in policy settings, from scholars, practitioners, and others interested in these areas who wish to present research at the conference. Submit your abstract online now at  Some examples of areas of interest including the following:
- Developing innovative analytic tools and testing their application in case studies
- Extending the use of BCA to new policy areas
- Improving the use BCA in decision making
- Interpreting research on happiness and life-satisfaction within the BCA framework
- Addressing the implications of behavioral economics for prediction and valuation
- Developing principles and standards for BCA
- Predicting costs and benefits and assessing distributional impacts
- Incorporating moral sentiments and equity considerations into BCA
- Considering the use of retrospective BCA in program evaluation and policy analysis
- Assessing the use of BCA in practice in the U.S. and other countries
- Communicating analytic results effectively
- Estimating shadow prices of potentially general use in BCA
Abstracts should be 200–300 words in length and provide adequate detail on the content of the research. Proposals for panels that include three to four speakers are also welcome, and should include a summary of the overall focus of the panel as well as a 200–300 word abstract for each presentation. Note that the program committee reserves the right to select the panel abstracts and to reorganize the panels as needed. Submission of a paper/panel is viewed as a firm commitment to participate in the conference if accepted.

Entries received after November 30, 2012, are not guaranteed consideration by the program committee.

For more information about the annual conference or the Society in general, please visit or contact

2013 Conference Program CommitteeDavid Weimer, Coordinator (University of Wisconsin), Joseph Cordes (The George Washington University), Lisa Robinson (Independent Consultant), Trudy Ann Cameron (University of Oregon), Clark Nardinelli (FDA), Kip Viscusi (Vanderbilt)
Society for Benefit Cost Analysis (SBCA)

The Valuation of Biodiversity Conservation by the South African Khomani San “Bushmen” Community

Abstract:The restitution of parkland to the Khomani San “bushmen” and Mier “agricultural” communities in May 2002 marked a significant shift in conservation in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and environs in South Africa. Biodiversity conservation will benefit from this land restitution only if the Khomani San, who interact with nature more than do other groups, are good environmental stewards. To assess their attitude toward biodiversity conservation, this study used the contingent valuation method to investigate the values the communities assign to biodiversity conservation under three land tenure arrangements in the Kgalagadi area. For each community and land tenure arrangement, there are winners and losers, but the winners benefit by more than the cost that losers suffer. The net worth for biodiversity conservation under the various land tenure regimes ranged from R928 to R3,456 to R4,160 for municipal land, parkland, and communal land respectively for the Khomani San, compared to R25,600 to R57,600 to R64,000 for municipal land, parkland, and communal land respectively for the Mier. Both communities have the highest preference for the implementation of the biodiversity conservation programme on communal land. There are no significant differences in the WTP between the two communities when adjusted for annual median household income; hence, the Khomani San can be trusted to become good environmental stewards. However, in order for all members of the local communities to support biodiversity conservation unconditionally, mechanisms for fair distribution of the associated costs and benefits should be put in place.
by Johane Dikgang and Edwin Muchapondwa
Resources For the Future (RFF)
RFF Discussion Paper EfD 12-10; October, 2012
Keywords: Ecosystem Management, Land Use

The economics of carbon taxes: Full Free Webcast Available - Cosponsored by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Brookings Institution, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and Resources for the Future (RFF)

Event Summary
With the growing need for reform in the US fiscal system, the idea of a tax on carbon has emerged as a possible solution. On November 13, 2012 at AEI, four panels explored the merits and challenges of implementing a tax on carbon, discussing topics ranging from its distributional effects to its potential impact on international trade.

Roberton Williams of Resources for the Future began by highlighting three advantages that a carbon tax has over outright regulation, while AEI's Aparna Mathur explained the economic reasoning behind a theoretical tax on carbon to correct for externalities of pollution. Panelists also discussed how carbon taxes would function in an international framework and their potential macroeconomic effects.

Karen Palmer of Resources for the Future emphasized the difficulties posed by the complex structure of American government for a carbon tax. Donald Marron of the Urban Institute argued that carbon tax revenues could be used to lower corporate tax rates to increase economic efficiency in the US. Panelists overwhelmingly agreed that more research on the effects of a carbon tax is needed, but that it raises important questions for academics and policymakers alike.

Event Materials

Event Description
The pros and cons of introducing a carbon tax in the US are the topic of many spirited debates, yet discussion of the consequences from alternative tax designs remains largely confined to academia. In an effort to shed more light on this topic and its budgetary impact, AEI, the Climate and Energy Economics Project at the Brookings Institution, the International Monetary Fund, and Resources for the Future cohosted a conference to discuss ideas for US carbon tax design and options for the potential use of carbon tax revenues. The conference featured four panels with presentations of policy briefs by leading experts, each of which tackled a particular design or implementation issue. Speakers took audience questions following their remarks.

American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
November 13, 2012 

Organic Dairy Farms Benefit Farmers and Local Economies, Report Finds

The organic dairy sector provides more economic opportunity and generates more jobs in rural communities than conventional dairies, according to a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The first-of-its-kind study, “Cream of the Crop: The Economic Benefits of Organic Dairy Farms,” calculated the economic value of organic milk production. 

“Over the past 30 years, dairy farmers have had a choice: either get big or get out. Dairy farmers either had to expand dramatically and become large industrial operations or they went out of business,” said Jeffrey O’Hara, agricultural economist for the Food and Environment Program at UCS and author of the report. “However, organic dairy production offers farmers another option – one that is better for the environment, produces a healthier product, and leads to greater levels of economic activity.”

Based on 2008 - 2011 financial data from two major milk-producing states—Vermont and Minnesota— the report evaluated the economic impact of organic dairy farms. Vermont’s 180 organic farms contribute $76 million annually to the state’s economy and support 1,009 jobs. In Minnesota, 114 organic farms add $78 million to Minnesota’s economy annually and have created 660 jobs.

The report also compared the economic value that would be generated by conventional and organic farms in the two states if both experienced the same hypothetical level of increased sales. In Vermont, organic dairy farms under that scenario would be expected to contribute 33 percent more to the state’s economy than conventional farms, and employ 83 percent more workers. Similarly, in Minnesota, organic dairies would increase the state’s economy by 11 percent more and employment by 14 percent more than conventional dairy farms.

Consumer demand for organic milk has jumped dramatically over the last decade, driven largely by ample evidence that it is more nutritious and less damaging to the environment than milk produced in crowded, polluting CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations). Organic dairy farming is now a $750 million industry, and annual U.S. organic milk sales increased 12 percent in 2010, 13 percent in 2011, and 5 percent in the first seven months of 2012. In some regions, consumer demand is so significant that retail grocery chains are having a hard time keeping organic milk in stock.
Despite organic dairy farms’ benefits and rising consumer demand, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (UDSA) farm programs and taxpayer subsidies favor big CAFOs. The Farm Bill, which reauthorizes USDA farm programs every five years, currently provides relatively little support for organic dairy farmers. Worse, Congress failed to act on the now-overdue 2012 Farm Bill before the election, putting programs that currently help dairy producers and organic farmers at risk. Now that the election is over, Congress has the opportunity to address this glaring discrepancy in its lame duck session. O’Hara’s report makes four primary policy recommendations for legislators:
  • The USDA should revise the federal milk marketing orders, which establish the minimum prices dairy processors must pay to farmers. The antiquated minimum-pricing order policies were written in the 1930’s and fail to account for the ways that organic milk production differs from conventional dairy farming. 
  • Congress and the USDA should offer a subsidized insurance program that is customized to the needs of organic dairy farmers. Insurance programs proposed in Farm Bill deliberations are only designed to support conventional dairies. 
  • Congress should increase funding for organic agriculture programs. 
  • Congress should fund and the USDA should implement programs that support regional food system development, such as rural development grants.
This modest federal support would help organic dairy farmers who are already contributing to and stabilizing regional economies, and support farmers who want to transition to organic farming.
“More and more consumers across the country are choosing organic milk, but Washington hasn’t gotten the message,” said O’Hara. “Investing in organic dairy production would pay off in multiple ways by keeping small farm businesses afloat, promoting local economic growth, reducing farm pollution, and meeting growing consumer demand.”