Friday, June 23, 2017

The eCOWnomics of Menomonie

Two weeks have flown by and I can tell my brain is already getting bigger! Well, maybe it hasn't actually physically grown in size, but I sure am learning a lot from this experience. From my past three years of studying economics, I certainly understood that communities are complex - but real-life research gives you an entirely new perspective on the word "complex." While exploring IMPLAN (an input-output software that allows you to analyze the effects of a given shock on an economy), my team and I discovered just how many inputs go in to the development of a community project (hint: it's too many to count). For instance, we're interested in learning more about how the TMDL will affect the local economy. TMDL stands for Total Maximum Daily Load, and the Red Cedar River Water Quality Partnership created a plan for the town of Menomonie to reduce phosphorus loads that are heavily polluting the Red Cedar watershed. While this plan is good for the environment, we want to know if it's economically feasible for the community.

My overall goal for this summer is to learn more about the ways that economies interact with the environment. Since a large portion of the phosphorus comes from agricultural runoff, how will implementing conservation practices affect farmers? Will it increase their profits, or will the government need to intervene and assist in making up the losses that conservation farming may cause? Is the investment worth it for farmers to change their practices? In order to answer these questions, we must create adequate estimates of the costs of the TMDL implementation. Then, we will take those estimates and plug them in to IMPLAN, where we have data from Dunn and Barron counties. Once we run our scenario, IMPLAN will calculate the total effects on the economy from the implementation of the TMDL. We can see how incomes and employment in various sectors will increase/decrease and how taxes may fluctuate as well. Whether the result is positive or negative, we hope to gain a better understanding of Menomonie's water quality issues and how they affect different sectors of the local economy.

Oh and don't worry, this cow is going to be watching my every move so I don't make any math mistakes:

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