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President’s 2018 Budget Undercuts Rural Communities


Center for Rural Affairs Policy Associate Anna Johnson said today that President Trump’s 2018 budget does not support rural America and its communities. The budget was released in its final form this morning.

“The president’s budget demonstrates President Trump’s lack of understanding and prioritization of the struggles of rural communities,” she said. “Although President Trump won the presidency with broad support from rural voters, his budget proposes to zero out several programs that address the challenges of rural communities. Proposed cuts include reducing or eliminating support for rural small businesses and entrepreneurs and compromising anti-poverty programs that lead to healthy families.”

“Economic opportunity is a central struggle in rural communities: 85 percent of counties with persistent poverty are in rural areas and rural communities still have not recovered the jobs they lost during the recession,” she continued. “Nearly one in four nonelderly rural residents are covered by Medicaid, a figure that grew nearly six percent with Medicaid expansion. Programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) also serve as a lifeline for those living with limited incomes in rural areas, where an estimated 15 percent of households receive SNAP assistance. These critical assistance programs are both slated for decimating cuts under the proposed budget.”

Johnson stated the budget retains deep cuts to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) discretionary spending included in the budget blueprint, including eliminating activities of the government agency that builds rural economic opportunity: the Rural Business-Cooperative Service.

“The Rural Business-Cooperative Service administers several programs – including one that provides low-interest loans to rural entrepreneurs – all zeroed out in this budget proposal,” she said. “Today’s final budget goes a step further by eliminating additional mandatory spending, including support for the Rural Economic Development Program.”

Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue proposed a reorganization of USDA that would eliminate the Undersecretary for Rural Development.

“He has described it as an ‘elevation’ of this function, but this promise rings hollow given the level of proposed funding cuts to rural development programs,” Johnson said.

The president’s 2018 budget also proposes cuts that would reduce farmers’ and ranchers’ abilities to expand conservation practices.

“Although many farmers and ranchers would like to enroll in conservation programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, they face regular bottlenecks when local conservation offices are understaffed or overburdened,” Johnson said. “The president’s proposal to reduce funding for conservation programs and for local conservation staff would increase the backlog of conservation program delivery.”

Johnson continues:

“President Trump came to the presidency with the stated goal of ‘draining the swamp’ and cutting federal spending. Instead, the new administration’s first budget proposal would drain support for rural America. We fear that these actions represent a lack of understanding of rural voters’ struggles. We urge President Trump, Secretary Perdue, and their teams to cease these actions that undercut rural Americans and rural communities.”

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This Conservative Funding Opportunity May Be For You


By Anna Johnson, annaj@cfra.org, Center for Rural Affairs

Farmers and ranchers, there’s a great conservation funding opportunity from the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) that you can take advantage of.

The NRCS is accepting initial applications for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) at its local offices and on its website (http://bit.ly/2gLg2Q6) until Feb. 3. CSP is a national program, tailored at the state and local levels to address regional conservation concerns.

Paul Ackley, in Taylor County, Iowa, found that enrolling in this program allowed him to implement conservation practices. On land he rented and owned, he noticed the soil was looking tired after several years of cropping – his beans even turned white in certain places where the soil was particularly depleted.

With payments from CSP, Paul was able to add soft red winter wheat to his corn-soy rotation, and the soil started looking healthier. He also used payments to begin rotational grazing on part of his grazing land. Now his pastures are more diverse and he has more warm season grasses.

Is CSP right for you? The program is designed to reward farmers and ranchers for using conservation practices on their land. It provides comprehensive conservation assistance to whole farms. Farmers and ranchers can receive payments for practices like planting cover crops, installing buffer strips or starting rotational grazing.

Remember, the deadline to submit an initial application is Feb. 3. If you have questions, we can help. Contact us at the Center for Rural Affairs at annaj@cfra.org or 515.329.0172.

Respect and Restore: Reassessing Local Wind Energy Standards


Center for Rural Affairs examines making local wind energy ordinances work for landowners and communities
Lyons, NE – Today the Center for Rural Affairs released a report entitled Respect and Restore: Reassessing Local Wind Energy Standards, that examines issues being overlooked in county and township wind energy ordinances.
“Ordinances often require developers of wind energy projects to limit noise and shadow flicker that impacts local residents as well as establish setback distances from neighboring residences. But they leave out requirements for access roads, post-construction restoration, or ensuring public roads are repaired after a project is complete,” says Lu Nelsen, Center for Rural Affairs Policy Program Associate and author of the report.
“All of these issues are commonly mentioned by stakeholders, but are rarely addressed through local regulation,” Nelsen continued. “In fact, most restoration requirements focus solely on the decommissioning of projects at the end of their life, providing very few guidelines for prior restoration or local infrastructure and adjacent land and property that may be needed.”
According to Nelsen, Respect and Restore describes different typical elements in the construction process of wind farms, and lays out potential problems landowners and communities might face. Additionally the report reviews county regulations for commercial wind energy systems. Finally, the report provides recommendations for future development of wind energy systems.
To view or download a full copy of the report go to:
“Post-construction land restoration is an important issue to many landowners, as they want their land returned to them in good condition,” added Nelsen. “Projects need to maintain access roads and an area around the base of a turbine.”
But additional land is affected by the construction process, and without proper restoration the land will not be as workable for a landowner as it previously was. Similarly, heavy machinery can have a big impact on the condition of local roads, especially in rural areas where roads were not designed to handle heavy traffic.
Nelsen’s report finds that addressing these issues directly in local regulations will provide communities with peace of mind and give developers clear requirements for post-construction restoration. Developers should use local input early in the process to limit the need for restoration by using pre-disturbed areas or existing access roads.
Additionally, Neslen points out that it is important to identify solutions like these to improve the development process. As wind development continues to grow, it is essential that developers and local officials tackle the concerns experienced by people in the community.
“Continuing to develop renewable wind energy brings real benefits to rural communities across the nation. To ensure these benefits aren’t realized at the expense of landowners and community members, wind energy projects must address the challenges presented by the construction process,” concluded Nelsen.

Matt Connealy Receives National Citizenship Award


The Center for Rural Affairs presented its 2015 Citizenship Award to Matt Connealy of rural Decatur, Nebraska. Matt will be honored at a special awards banquet March 11th at the Elks Country Club in Columbus, Nebraska.
The Citizenship Award is given annually to an individual or individuals who actively participate in the civic process for creating public policy, and who work closely with the Center for Rural Affairs to advance public policies that strengthen family farms, ranches and rural communities.
I’m honored to receive this award, just as I’ve been honored to be a partner with the Center for Rural Affairs for the last 30 years, working on project after project, all intended to improve the lives and economic circumstances of family farmers, ranchers and small town Nebraskans… Senator Matt Connealy
“Matt Connealy is a valued friend of the Center for Rural Affairs,” said Traci Bruckner, Senior Policy Associate at the Center for Rural Affairs. “He was an outspoken and successful advocate for rural and small town Nebraska throughout his tenure in the Unicameral. And he was a tireless champion for so many of the legislative priorities that he and the Center for Rural Affairs share before, during and after his time as a Senator, even up to this day.”
Matt and his wife Judith, a college administrator, live near Decatur, Nebraska. Matt grew up in Decatur and has served in the Unicameral as a Nebraska Senator. He also ran for Congress, served as the Executive Director of the Nebraska Democratic Party, worked for the Center for Rural Affairs as Major Gifts Coordinator, and currently serves the people of Burt County on the County Board of Supervisors.
As a Senator, Matt’s self-identified proudest accomplishments were his work on rural economic development and the passage of the state’s first ban on racial profiling. He has been involved in cooperative development in both the renewable fuels and wind energy sectors. In addition to his work as a Supervisor, Matt helps run a local community foundation, manages his family’s farm, recruits and educates candidates for public office, and in the 2015 legislature, found time to help the Center for Rural Affairs beat back attacks on industrial livestock zoning (LB 106) and the state’s ban on packer ownership of livestock (LB 176).
“I’m honored to receive this award, just as I’ve been honored to be a partner with the Center for the last 30 years, working on project after project, all intended to improve the lives and economic circumstances of family farmers, ranchers and small town Nebraskans,” Connealy said. “And I look forward to more partnership efforts in the future.”

QuickBooks Training for Local Entrepreneurs and Business Owners


Free Training will be held at the Wayne Public Library

Lyons, Nebraska – The Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) will offer a two-part QuickBooks training on Monday, February 22 and Monday, February 29. Each session will run from 5:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. The class will be held in Wayne, NE at the Wayne Public Library at 410 N Pearl St in Wayne, Nebraska.

 

Computers equipped with QuickBooks will be available, and a professional, Diann Ballard, owner of db Consulting and Juan Sandoval, REAP Latino Business Center Director with the Center for Rural Affairs, will assist folks with setting up their books.

 

“In this economy, many, if not most, small businesses are operating on very tight budgets to simply get by,” said Sandoval. “Resource Providers and business owners alike see the great need for bookkeeping training. Improving bookkeeping is a way to tighten up in these economic times.”

 

A past participant of the QuickBooks trainings said, “This really helped me with my operation. The system needs to be set up right, with information entered correctly so that the reports are accurate. This was the best thing for me, and was also very useful for working with my banker.”

 

What: QuickBooks Training

 

Where: Wayne Public Library

410 N Pearl St

Wayne, NE

 

When: February 22 and February 29

From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

 

To register contact Wayne Public Library at 402-375-3135. Classes are FREE.

 

“Accurate recordkeeping can be very beneficial to the success of a small business owner’s business,” said Sandoval. “It helps when tax time comes around, and they have the needed information. It can quickly help identify past due accounts and collect those accounts in a more timely manner. That helps their cash flow and viability!”

 

For additional information, please contact Juan Sandoval at (402) 371-7786 or juans@cfra.org

 

The Center for Rural Affairs’ REAP program provides lending, training, networking, and technical assistance opportunities for startup and existing small businesses.

 

More information about REAP can be found at www.cfra.org/reap. The Center for Rural Affairs receives funding for REAP from the Nebraska Microenterprise Development Act, Community Development Block Grants through the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, Small Business Administration, United States Department of Agriculture and other sources.

 

Midwest Farm to School Conference: Connecting Farms, Schools and States


By Elisha Smith, elishas@cfra.org, Center for Rural Affairs 

Nearly 200 farmers, ranchers, and school food service personnel are expected to fill the Lied Lodge and Conference Center in Nebraska City, NE on  Wednesday, March 2, 2016 for the inaugural Midwest Farm to School Conference.

 

This full day event will bring together those interested in building the farm to school initiative in Midwestern states.  Those invited and encouraged to attend include farmers, ranchers, growers and food producers; school food service professionals, students, school administrators and faculty members; community members and parents; and educational and food-related organizations.

 

Hosted by the Center for Rural Affairs, Iowa Department of Agriculture and University of Missouri Extension, the 2016 conference will highlight methods of increasing students’ knowledge about local and healthy foods, and increase the amount of local foods served to students in schools.

 

Throughout the day we’ll spark connections and provide the necessary paths to bring the farm to our region’s schools. Experts will address best practices for establishing farm to school relationships. Successful local food relationships will be shared.

 

Ample time for networking will be provided, as well as coaching on helpful topics to address when in conversation with various stakeholders. Farm to school is not a “one size fits all” program – come share what you know and learn from others as we build a healthier future for our kids, schools, farms, and communities.

 

Early bird registration ends February 14, 2016. For more information, an agenda and to register:

http://www.cfra.org/midwest-farm-school or contact Sarah Smith at sarahs@cfra.org or 402-783-1183.

Stand Up for 77,000 Hard Working Nebraskans


Lyons, NE –  On Tuesday, January 19, 2016, concerned citizens and like-minded organizations, including the Center for Rural Affairs, will hold a press conference in the State Capitol Rotunda to support the Transitional Health Care bill, which will ensure all Nebraskans are able to get the health coverage they need.

 

“Over 77,000 hard-working Nebraskans don’t have access to affordable health insurance,” said John Crabtree with the Center for Rural Affairs. “During the upcoming session, the Legislature will once again have the opportunity and responsibility to ensure all Nebraskans have access to the care they need!”

 

WHAT: Press Conference and Rally

WHEN: Tuesday, January 19th, 12 – ­1pm

WHERE: State Capitol Rotunda

1445 K St, Lincoln, NE 68509

 

Call your Senator and let them know you’ll be there for the press conference, standing in support of 77,000 Nebraskans that deserve access to affordable healthcare,” urged Crabtree. “If you are unable to attend, contact your Senator on January 19th and let them know that you would be there if you could, and urge them to stand with you. It’s time to make sure your elected representatives know that Nebraskans stand with their friends and family members.”

 

According to the Center for Rural Affairs, Nebraskans who would gain coverage under this proposal are currently trapped. More than 70 percent of them are working, but their jobs either provide no health insurance or the insurance provided is not affordable. Their income is too high to qualify for traditional Medicaid but too low to qualify for tax credits at healthcare.gov.

 

For those who are not working, the bill provides for referrals to job training and job placement services, as well as health coverage.

 

According to a University of Nebraska at Kearney study, if no action is taken, Nebraska hospitals will face nearly $500 million in uncompensated care by 2020. These costs fall particularly hard on smaller rural hospitals in our state.

 

The same study showed that if we do expand coverage to these Nebraskans, the move will support nearly 11,000 jobs in the state. In fact, their research found that expanding coverage to these working Nebraskans would actually save the state nearly $70 million over a 5-year period, as other programs funded by the state would no longer be necessary.

 

“As the Legislature takes up this debate in Lincoln, now is your chance to reach out and tell your senator that quality affordable health coverage for all Nebraskans is a smart investment,” concluded Crabtree.

 

Anyone looking for transportation to the event or for more information should contact Lauren Kolojejchick-Kotch at laurenk@cfra.org or 402-687-2103 ext. 1032.

Gearing Up for the Big Fight


By Traci Bruckner, tracib@cfra.org, Center for Rural Affairs

Crop insurance is an important and necessary component of an effective farm safety net. However, it is a very complex program that will work more effectively with much-needed, commonsense reforms.
Under current law, we are subsidizing crop insurance at an average rate of 62% on every acre without limit regardless of farm size or wealth. We have an issue with that. Our tax dollars – the public trust – subsidize the largest operators no matter how big they get.
To be certain, crop insurance is a valuable and necessary tool for farmers. Fundamentally, we believe in government helping family-scale farmers manage risk. But, we think there ought to be a limit.
One federal study points to a single farming corporation that insured crops across eight counties and raked in $1.3 million in taxpayer subsidies in just one year. In turn, the largest and wealthiest farms use their premium subsidies to bid land away from smaller farmers and beginning farmers.
We are working to develop policy reforms that cap subsidies, create opportunity for beginners and diversified farmers, and link meaningful stewardship practices to enrollment in the program. The nation’s largest farms must carry their fair share of the cost of doing business, like any other economic sector.
This will be a tough fight. We don’t expect to win easily. But for over 42 years we’ve been fighting for family farmers and ranchers. We’re not backing down when it comes to crop insurance reform.

Center for Rural Affairs Raises Over $10,000 in Fundraising Challenge


Lyons, Nebraska – The Center for Rural Affairs is pleased to announce it has raised $10,635 in the Newman’s Own Foundation Challenge for #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities, and organizations to encourage philanthropy and celebrate generosity worldwide.
Individual donors gave $10,635, and Newman’s Own Foundation provided $10,000 in matching funds.
The Center for Rural Affairs is dedicated to establishing strong rural communities, social and economic justice, environmental stewardship, and genuine opportunity for all while engaging people in decisions that affect the quality of their live and the future of their communities. Funds raised in the Challenge will be used to help low income people grow their own food organically in community and individual gardens.
“We are so appreciative of the opportunity that Newman’s Own Foundation provided to us to double our donations! This money will help us fund our work of reaching some of our most vulnerable populations to improve their food security,” said Kathie Starkweather with the Center for Rural Affairs.
Occurring this year on December 1, #GivingTuesday is held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday to kick-off the holiday giving season. The day is designed to inspire people to collaborate in improving their local communities and to give back in impactful ways to the charities and causes they support.
The Challenge was hosted on CrowdRise, a crowdfundraising platform for nonprofits. A total of 24 organizations were selected to participate by Newman’s Own Foundation, the independent foundation created by the late actor and philanthropist, Paul Newman.
Although the Newman’s Own Foundation Challenge is officially ended, donations can still be made to the Center for Rural Affairs at: https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/centerforruralaffairs

Farming Fits Veterans and Veterans Fit Farming


By Wyatt Fraas, wyattf@cfra.org, Center for Rural Affairs

The Center for Rural Affairs has worked to support and assist beginning farmers and ranchers for over 25 years. And increasingly, beginning farmer and rancher inquiries come from military veterans. They have the same needs as other new farmers: access to land, financing and information. But they also bring new issues: disabilities, returning to civilian life, a drive to help fellow veterans, a powerful sense of wanting to be of service to their country.
The Center’s Veteran Farmers Project was launched to provide information, encouragement, connections, and referrals that help beginning farmers and ranchers access land and financing, identify markets, build business plans, and more.
We also connect veteran-farmers with other veterans; to help retain and rebuild bonds with others who have served in the military and help each other overcome the obstacles of building a farm business and returning to civilian life. We refer veteran-farmers to resource providers who can help with disability services, business advising, finding mentors, gaining production and marketing experience, and other needs.
Farming fits veterans, and veterans fit farming. Many veterans want to return to small town America to raise their families. And we welcome them home.
However, educational opportunities, off-farm jobs, health services, and young peers are in short supply across much of rural and small town America. That makes networks such as those built through the Center’s Veteran Farmers Project, and the infrastructure and public policies we’re working to create, vitally important to our veterans who want to farm and ranch.
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