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

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Building Hope for a Better Future - Part III

Building Hope for a Better Future in a Challenging Age

Center for Rural Affairs 2005 Annual Report

Chuck Hassebrook, Executive Director,

Our Mission: Establish 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 lives and future of their communities.

Our Vision: Become the leading force engaging people and ideas in securing a better future for rural America.

New Farm Opportunities and Sustainable Agriculture

We continue to open doors of opportunity to a new generation of farmers. We made three loans of livestock to beginning farmers in partnership with Heifer Project. And we joined forces with the state of Nebraska, University of Nebraska, and Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society to launch the Farm Beginnings initiative to provide beginning farmer training.

It not enough to help farmers get started; we must also develop opportunities to prosper. Toward that end we assisted seven small cooperatives with 114 members. For them we prepared two feasibility studies and seven market analyses. The cooperatives’ activities include selling natural meats, honey, fresh produce, and products from ostrich and emu fat.

We assisted one dozen Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota family farmers in forming a new cooperative – Family Farmers and Ranchers Meats (FFARM) – to negotiate fair prices for volume delivery of family-farm raised natural hogs and cattle. The cooperative completed a feasibility study and was legally established during the year.

We worked with 39 farmers and three Natural Resource Districts to demonstrate innovative ways of building soil organic matter, thereby reducing atmospheric greenhouse gases. We believe this will ultimately provide farmers across the nation income-earning opportunities as the world struggles to manage climate change.

Doing Our Homework: Research and Analysis

We’ve become one of the nation’s leading sources of analysis on asset-based rural development. By asset-based development, we mean development that helps low and moderate-income people build assets – start businesses, own homes, and gain education.

We provided timely analysis to the national media, policymakers, and the public on proposed federal budget cuts affecting rural America, including a devastating critique of the “Strengthening America’s Communities Initiative.” The Bush Administration Initiative would have eliminated 18 community development programs and replaced them with one – which our analysis demonstrated would bypass most rural communities.

Together with Iowa State University, we analyzed the extent to which a series of USDA programs were serving small and midsize farms. We found much room for improvement. We presented our preliminary report in Washington briefings to 25 congressional and USDA staff and national media.

We published six editions of the Rural Action Brief distributed to 1,900 readers across the nation seeking in-depth analysis of critical rural issues. Our analysis is highly respected by reporters across the nation. It has appeared in over 1,000 news outlets from coast to coast and thereby brought the critical issues facing rural communities to all Americans.

Organizational Strengthening, Communication, and Administration

We are putting the voice of rural America before the nation. We passed a milestone in getting our stories played on as many as 1,300 radio stations across the nation. Our newsletter and website set high standards for timely information on rural issues. Our blog allows our supporters to talk with us.

The Center runs a lean but effective administrative operation. We passed our annual audit with flying colors, demonstrating that grants and donations are properly spent and accounted. We’re a leader in adopting procedures and creating a culture that prevent self-serving actions by management, such as those that brought down some of the nation’s largest corporations. Our top salary remains little more than twice the lowest.

We cut the number of staff devoted to support services and administration by replacing two directors who left with one director of Administration and Organizational Development. That enables us to commit more of our resources to media outreach and financial development to build power for change.

Even with the reduction, our administrative staff is unsurpassed in timeliness and effectiveness in keeping the books, paying the bills, and getting out large mailings when developments in Congress demand quick and massive action.

Our new internal staff Unity Council is building teamwork and skills within the staff. The Center has never been blessed with a more cohesive, effective, and motivated staff.

In all of these efforts, we are guided by a skilled Board of Directors with unparalleled dedication and passion for our work and mission. They keep us inspired and on track.

post a question or comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.


  • At 9:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    How can I find copies of the Rural Action Briefs? Can I subscribe?

  • At 1:03 AM, Blogger Center for Rural Affairs said…

    You can find copies of the Rural Action Brief series on our website at -

    For more information on subscribing to the Rural Action Briefs, contact Kim Preston at

    John Crabtree

    Center for Rural Affairs
    Values. Worth. Action.


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