Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to johnc@cfra.org.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Farm Policy Matters: Farmers to speak on issues affecting rural citizens at Town Hall meetings March 21 and 22.

-- from the desk of Russ Gifford, Director Communications/Development
Center for Rural Affairs

March 15, 2005

The Center for Rural Affairs wants to hear what rural farmers have to say, and they're heading to Minnesota to listen and share ideas.

"The listening sessions are designed to encourage rural Minnesotans to let their voices be heard," says Kim Leval, organizer and Senior Policy Analyst for the Center for Rural Affairs, a private non-profit organization that works on issues that concern rural areas and small towns.

The Center for Rural Affairs will participate in a meeting scheduled for Crookston on Monday evening, March 21 at 7:30 p.m. in the Golden Link Senior Center.

On Tuesday, March 22, the meeting will be in Thief River Falls at the Handy Farms Country Cookin' at 7:30 p.m.

The meetings are sponsored by the Center for Rural Affairs and the Minnesota Agri Women.

"We need to hear from farmers about what is working and not working on their farms and in their communities," says Leval. " How can rural communities and the farm economy be strengthened? What are issues facing young farmers? These meetings help us to define the most pressing policy issues affecting farmers in and around Minnesota," says Leval. The discussion will likely include trade, farm profit, consolidation in agriculture, development of new markets, “Main Street” small business, and other economic development strategies.

"The question and answer session will look at current policy and potential ideas," says Leval, "with items like the Farm Bill, farm and rural development grant programs, and the current budget all on the table."

"The Center works to make certain rural voices are heard when bills and legislation are debated," says Center Executive Director, Chuck Hassebrook. "Proposed changes in law are often pushed forward by the bigger interests in the country. If no one points out the negative consequences for rural America, those measures might pass. We try to be rural America's watchdog," says Hassebrook.

"The success of this effort," says Leval, "will be determined by a broad-based turnout of concerned citizens." The Center encourages the participation of everyone living in rural areas – business owners, farmers, ranchers, educators, clergy, laborers, town officials, school board members, youth, seniors and all other concerned citizens, whether they are currently active in working with the Center or not.

Established over 30 years ago, the Center is a well known agency with broad support in rural America. "We're looking forward to seeing many old friends of the Center on this trip," says Hassebrook, "but we're expecting to see new faces as well. This is everyone's chance to be heard, to tell us what we should be looking out for, and to be part of something big, and something very important to the health of rural America."

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