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

Friday, September 30, 2005

Conservation Agencies Short of Vision

Conservation agencies, boards short of vision

Grand Island Independent

September 30, 2005

Nebraska has several governing and advisory agencies, boards and councils in place to safeguard our natural resources and look out for our environmental best interests.

If you believe that, I have a couple mountain cabins in Blaine County to sell you real cheap.

A good part of the reason why Nebraska is only reluctantly entering the 21st century of conservation thinking is that the state has, as they say, too many foxes guarding the environmental henhouse.

Here are some of the realities:
· Nebraska's Environmental Quality Council, 17 members strong, includes representatives of the livestock industry, ag processing, crop production, power generation, chemical industry, petroleum industry, heavy industry, food products manufacturing, labor, engineering and government. It would be nearly a total whitewash if not for the recent appointment of Lawrence Bradley, a UNO teacher with a strong conservation bent.
· Nebraska's Water Policy Task Force, 49 members strong, includes 20 irrigators, although a few, admittedly, are conservation-oriented. There are more members from power interests (4) than environmental groups (3). The task force's three agricultural reps hail from the Farm Bureau, Nebraska Cattlemen and Nebraska Corn Growers, three groups that consistently oppose common-sense environmental regulations. Its two legislative members have not distinguished themselves as conservation leaders in the Nebraska Unicameral.
· The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality -- because of a lack of resources and/or a lack of resolve -- is increasingly under fire for failing to protect the public's interests in water and air quality. Industrial-type farms are despoiling the state's waters, soil and air with near impunity.
· Last, but certainly not least, many of the state's 23 Natural Resource District boards are utterly dominated by irrigation interests.

According to the Web site of the Nebraska Association of Resource Districts, the mission of NRDs is to "conserve, sustain and improve our natural resources and environment ... for future prosperity."

Despite those words, it is ironic that some NRDs have campaigned against, and even removed, board members who proposed greater stewardship of those resources. There are a few NRD boards in western and southwest Nebraska that are dangerously close to being 100 percent in the hands of irrigation interests.

Just last week the Central Platte NRD board haggled over the naming of a new member because the panel is split between moderate interests and the interests of Nebraskans First, a pro-groundwater irrigation group whose views are increasingly considered extremist by a majority of Nebraskans.

Authors Jeffrey Ashley and Zachary Smith had the problem correctly pegged in their 1999 book, "Groundwater Management in the West":
"... Many feel that agriculture is very powerful (if not the most powerful) interest group (or, more accurately, collection of interests and groups) in the state and that NRDs are largely controlled by rural agricultural interests. This control is so strong that some have referred to NRDs as 'irrigator clubs.' "

So what about the "public trust"? The Public Trust Doctrine, which dates back 15 centuries and is covered in the Magna Carta, requires government to act in the citizens' best interests in the management of our natural resources.

The Center for Environmental Protection at Washington State University says the Public Trust Doctrine may become the most important mechanism to defend our rivers and other waters from overdevelopment.

"Its general premise," the center says, "is that a state's natural resources are held in the public trust and even senior, appropriated water users do not have the right to destroy the public's natural resources."

If Nebraska's agencies, boards and councils aren't more vigilant in looking out for the state's natural resources -- and that means fewer foxes guarding the henhouse and NRDs breaking the grip of "irrigator clubs" -- then we may indeed see the day when the public trust is invoked to do the job right.

Pete Letheby is associate editor at The Independent. He can be reached by e-mail at

for more information post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

REAP Launches Online Lending for Rural Entreprenuers

- from the desk of Jeff Reynolds, Center for Rural Affairs,

Rurual Enterprise Project Launches Online Lending for Rural Small Businesses

The Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP), a program of the Center for Rural Affairs, has launched an REAP Online Lending System for startup and existing small businesses in rural Nebraska.

REAP is Nebraska’s largest microenterprise program and operates on a statewide, rural basis through regionally based Business Specialists. REAP provides lending, training, networking, and technical assistance opportunities for startup and existing microenterprises (businesses with 5 or fewer employees).

The new REAP Online Lending System is good news for rural Nebraska entrepreneurs, according to REAP co-director Jeff Reynolds. “Providing access to core business development services to all of rural Nebraska is crucial,” said Reynolds. “The REAP Online Lending System will allow us to reach entrepreneurs we may have not been able to reach before and at the same time will help improve the overall efficiency of our program.”

After months of research, planning and development, the REAP Online Lending System was recently installed on the REAP website. The system can be accessed on the web by going to and clicking on “Online Lending System.” Along with the Online Lending System, REAP is unveiling a new loan called the “REAP Rapid Loan”. The REAP Rapid Loan utilizes the online application and has a $5,000 maximum limit.

“The REAP Online Lending System will allow us to use technology to reach even more rural entrepreneurs,” said Glennis McClure, co-director of REAP and Director of the Women’s Business Center (WBC), also a project of REAP and the Center for Rural Affairs. “As with the WBC, online lending will be an addition to REAP’s existing infrastructure with business specialists located throughout the state to deliver REAP, WBC, and now online lending services to rural small businesses,” added McClure.

REAP’s WBC is the first and only SBA Women’s Business Center in Nebraska. REAP is also piloting the REAP Hispanic-Rural Business Center, another first for Nebraska. The REAP Hispanic-Rural Business Center will provide Hispanic startup and existing businesses with small business management training, networking opportunities, one-on-one technical assistance, and access to small loans on a statewide rural basis.

REAP offers loans up to $25,000 through the REAP Direct loan program; “Quick Grow” loans up to $5,000 in collaboration with GROW Nebraska; and in some areas of Nebraska, “peer group” loans up to $10,000 through local small business associations.

Since 1999, REAP has placed 170 direct loans totaling $2,295,258. REAP has leveraged an additional $5,516,055 in loans from traditional sources since 1997 through its business planning and loan packaging services.

In rural Nebraska the primary employment source is self-employment and the dominant type is microenterprise. REAP provides key business development services to entrepreneurs. Funding 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 make the services possible.

Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.

for more information contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

One Nebraska Community’s “Against the Grain” Development

- from the desk of Phil Menke, Center for Rural Affairs,

One Nebraska Community’s “Against the Grain” Development

Stratton, Nebraska – Terry and Chrissy Latta have built a growing, successful business where some might have told them not to bother. Stratton, Nebraska, population 423, is situated in the Southwest corner of Nebraska, 33 miles West of McCook and about 80 miles South of Interstate 80. The Lattas have demonstrated that there is economic opportunity in rural Nebraska communities, if you know where, and how, to look.

“We believed that starting this business in Stratton made sense, not just because we were confident that an auto body shop was needed, but because the community was supportive and the local bank was doing what they could do. Phil Menke, with REAP and the Center for Rural Affairs, went above and beyond the call of duty in helping us start the business. REAP and others around here recognized that starting a small business like this is real economic development for Stratton,” said Terry Latta.

In 2002 the Lattas established Final Touch Auto Body in Stratton. The business start-up was assisted by a joint effort between the Rural Enterprise Assistance Program (REAP, a program of the Center for Rural Affairs), the McCook National Bank of Stratton, and Southwest Nebraska Community Betterment Corporation. Since that time, the business has had seen steady growth.

Start-up loans were provided by REAP, Southwest Nebraska Community Betterment Corporation and McCook National Bank. And additionally, the Lattas availed themselves of technical assistance provided by REAP Business Specialist Phil Menke in starting the business. REAP loans and technical assistance for this and other similar projects are funded by Community Development Block Grant assistance through the Nebraska Department of Economic Development as well as funding from the Nebraska Microenterprise Development Act and the Small Business Administration Microloan program among others.

“Terry and Chrissy worked with us from the outset. REAP was able to provide technical assistance and a start-up loan in conjunction with McCook National Bank,” said Menke. “We were all fortunate that the community, the bank and the Community Betterment Corporation know the importance of small business and microenterprise in rural economic development.”

The Center for Rural Affairs has found that in the most rural farm-dependent counties the majority of new job creation results from non-farm proprietorships – people creating their own job by starting a small business. Small business entrepreneurship is the one development strategy that consistently works in rural communities.

“Stratton has benefited from the services provided by Final Touch Auto Body and has also benefited from the economic impact of locating this business here,” said Rich Bernt with McCook National Bank of Stratton. “Our bank is willing to do whatever we can and take more risk on small business start-ups because this is our community too, we are invested in the community, we live here, and we depend on and work for the success of Stratton.

Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.

post a comment here or contact Phil Menke,, (308) 784-4948
or John Crabtree,, (402) 687-2103 ext. 1010

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Rural Towns Hit Hardest by Rita

Small, Rural Towns Hit Hardest by Rita

By MICHAEL GRACZYK, Associated Press

BEAUMONT, Texas - While much of Texas and Louisiana dodged the worst of Hurricane Rita, the damage to some small, rural towns was virtually complete — and the storm was being blamed for new deaths long after it moved away.

As temperatures climbed well into the 90s and the heat index was near 106 degrees Monday, the damage from the storm was evident in small communities in southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas.

"East Texas needs everyone's attention this hour, right now, and it doesn't matter whether it's the state or FEMA or the Corps of Engineers. I don't really care whose fault it is. It needs help now," said Rep. Kevin Brady. "These communities are the last to complain, but they've reached the end."

The number of deaths rose to nine Monday when the bodies of five people were discovered in a Beaumont apartment. A man, his girlfriend's three children and their aunt apparently were overcome by carbon monoxide from a generator they used to power fans to cool their home.

While residents of the Texas refinery towns of Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange were blocked from returning to their homes because of the danger of debris-choked streets and downed power lines, authorities in Louisiana were unable to keep bayou residents from venturing in by boat to see if Rita wrecked their homes.

Debris was strewn for miles over Cameron Parish, a coastal, sparsely populated town next to the Texas line. Seawater pushed as far as 20 miles inland, drowning acres of rice, sugarcane fields and pasture.

"This is the most damaged area I've seen in the state, the worst," Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore said of Cameron Parish. "I didn't see anything from Katrina, except in Mississippi, that was as bad."

At a makeshift emergency operations center at a national wildlife refuge, Randy Gary answered a stream of questions from residents trying to find out about their homes or camps. As for his house, he hadn't been able to get to the town of Cameron, but he got an assessment. "There's nothing but a clear lot," he said.

His oyster boats and pontoon boats also had disappeared, a further slap from Rita to his livelihood as a fisherman. The oyster beds he fishes likely are devastated, even if he had the boats to get to them.

But he was still smiling Monday.

"What else we gonna do?" he said, pledging to rebuild his shattered home and work. "It's my life. It's what I do."

An estimated 80 percent of the buildings in the Louisiana town of Cameron, population 1,900, were leveled. Farther inland, half of Creole, population 1,500, was left in splinters.

In New Orleans, the official reopening of the city was back on track as the mayor welcomed residents back to the Algiers neighborhood, where they found a curfew, limited services and no critical care hospital services.

The Army Corps of Engineers continued pumping water from the Ninth Ward back into the Industrial Canal. It expects to have the water out by the weekend, said Mitch Frazier, an Army Corps spokesman.

President Bush planned to get a personal report Tuesday with a visit to Beaumont and Lake Charles, La., about 55 miles to the east, traveling between the two cities by helicopter and getting an aerial view of the damage from the Saturday storm that socked the region with winds topping 120 mph.

If the power knocked out by the storm and oppressive heat weren't enough, it was the ravenous mosquitoes invading their storm-damaged home north of Vidor, Texas, that convinced Harry Smith, his wife and two teenage boys to get out.

With their car disabled by a transmission problem, they hitchhiked more than 10 miles to a staging area for teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in hopes of finding shelter. Authorities put them on a bus to San Antonio with a few dozen other storm victims.

"It can't be any worse than here," said Smith, 49, a pipefitter, relieved to be going somewhere to get out of the heat and insects. "This is the worst storm I've seen in the 46 years I've lived here."

For people who didn't evacuate before Rita hit and chose to stay in the primitive conditions, teams from FEMA fanned out Monday over a nine-county area of East Texas to deliver food and water and ice.

Gov. Rick Perry said the state was projecting Rita's total damage at $8 billion.

The mayors of the Louisiana towns of Sulphur and Vinton pleaded with residents to stay away until the sewage systems could be repaired, power could be turned on and hospitals and emergency services could be restored.

"Right now, there's very little to come back to," said Sulphur Mayor Ron LeLeux, of his town where every major power transmission line was destroyed, uprooted trees split houses in two and splintered trees left most streets impassable.

Vinton Mayor David Riggins begged people over the radio not to return home yet because it was straining the food and water supplies he needed for fire, police and emergency crews.

Authorities said at least 16 Texas oil refineries remained shut because of Rita. A refinery in Port Arthur and one in Beaumont were without power, and a second Port Arthur refinery was damaged and could remain out of service for two to four weeks.

Quanishia Haynes, whose father died in the Beaumont apartment, said he and his girlfriend's family evacuated to Mississippi as Rita approached. She said they returned about 1 a.m. Monday because they ran out of money.

She and her boyfriend later found everyone in the apartment unresponsive. She said it looked like her father, Billy Coleman, 46, tried to get out of bed and was walking to the door when he fell.

Three siblings — Crystal Farva, 12, Demarcus Bean, 10, Alliyah Reese, 7 — were killed, along with Coleman and Dianna Bean, 29. The children's mother and Bean's sister, Irene Bean, survived along with her 8-year-old son Emery Reese, 8. Both were hospitalized in critical condition.

A neighbor said initially the generator was running outside the apartment, but he said he overheard Coleman and Bean debating over whether to move it indoors so the noise wouldn't bother other neighbors or get stolen. An apartment manager said the generator was found in a closet.

Associated Press reporters Melinda Deslatte in Creole, La., April Castro in Beaumont, Betsy Blaney, Dave Koenig and Anabelle Garay in Dallas, Kelley Shannon and Liz Austin in Austin, Suzanne Gamboa in Washington D.C., and Juan Lozano, Pam Easton and Kristen Hays in Houston contributed to this report.

Monday, September 26, 2005

UPDATE - Payment Limits - Budget Reconciliation

- from the desk of John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs,

Budget Reconciliation Slated for October 26, 2005

Members of Congress will return to their home states and districts for a Congressional recess the week of October 10th. We will post available information regarding the recess schedule of key members (House and Senate Agriculture and Budget Committees) on this blog.

Although in the first weeks after Katrina it seemed as if budget reconciliation might be postponed again, even into next year. Recent statements from the White House and a growing number of Senators and Representatives indicates that a move to push forward on budget cuts, as part of an effort to "offset" the cost of Katrina and the exploding federal budget deficit, is underway. It is not clear who will prevail, those who want to proceed or those who want to postpone, prudence dictates that we assume budget reconciliation will occur in late October.

If cuts are to be made to USDA spending ($3 billion has been proposed) then a lion's share of those cuts should come from limits on farm program payments to mega farms. Payment limits, not cuts to food and nutrition programs, conservation and rural development - that is the best course, and that is the point we all need to make to our Representatives and Senators as often as possible, especially when they are back in the district and we can make the point face to face.

To brush up on effective points to make in favor of payment limits, go to -

Also, present your Representative or Senator with this polling data on payment limits -

The simplest message is the best message --

Tell members of Congress to protect funding for programs that offer a future to rural America - small business development, community development, conservation, and family farm programs - and programs that help those that need it most - food and nutrition programs for disadvantaged kids and families.

Tell them to cut USDA spending by capping payments to mega farms.

Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Rural Task Force Report on School Consolidation

Rural Task Force Report on School Consolidation

By John Crabtree,

A National Rural Education Association Task Force recently released a report on school consolidation. The task force studied the history and research on school consolidation and issued a series of recommendations.

Their report stresses several crucial findings:

1. “Size” does not guarantee success – effective schools come in all sizes:
- There is no “ideal” size for schools or districts.
- Smaller districts have higher achievement and affective social outcomes.
- There is no solid foundation for the belief that eliminating school districts will improve
education, enhance cost-effectiveness, or promote equality.
- Students from low-income areas have better achievement in small schools.

2. Consolidation is not always the answer:
- The educational and financial results of state-mandated school district consolidations do not
meet legislated expectations.
- The larger a district becomes, the more resources are devoted to secondary or non-essential
- Local school officials should be wary of merging several smaller elementary schools, at least if
the goal is improved performance.
- After a school closure, out-migration, population decline, and neighborhood deterioration are
set in motion, and support for public education diminishes.

The task force supports local decision-making processes of rural school districts and opposes arbitrary consolidation efforts at the state and local levels, citing a lack of evidence that such intervention is necessary. The report concludes that rural communities should make every possible effort to maintain a physical school presence, and rural community and school leaders should take into account every possible variable to decide if “two are better than one.”

We want to hear from you too - post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Katrina Postpones Budget Debate

- from the desk of John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs,

Katrina Postpones Budget Debate

The impact of hurricane Katrina continues to be felt throughout the nation, causing Congress to postpone federal budget reconciliation. As the nation realized the scope and magnitude of the impact of Katrina, attention shifted from budgets to emergency spending. As this is written, budget reconciliation is on hold for at least a month – until October 26, 2005 – and hurricane Rita is bearing down on the Texas gulf coast.

Katrina will test the mettle of American government. How will we rebuild? Will we work to eradicate poverty in gulf coast states hidden by a veneer of economic prosperity that was ripped away by Katrina? And will we work to create economic opportunity for those in other places, urban and rural, that still fight a hidden battle against economic hardship?

Agricultural losses due to Katrina appear less than expected. USDA’s preliminarily estimates put agricultural losses due to Katrina at about $900 million. “Given the severity of the hurricane, the agricultural losses could have been much greater,” said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns.

Meanwhile, in a September 19, 2005 letter to Senate Appropriations Committee leadership, the National Cotton Council, USA Rice Federation and several other commodity groups urged the appropriators to “…reject any provisions which would substantially alter the policies…and allocation of financial resources embodied in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002.”

It is difficult to imagine a more cynical view of public policy and the role of government. It would be irresponsible for government to take such a shallow approach in farm policy, especially now.

When resources are scarce and fiscal demands are great, we must expect a better return on public investment. For example, farm payment limits would save money, but just as importantly, would create economic opportunity throughout rural America.

Katrina has forced us to realize that a disaster on the gulf coast creates stern challenges everywhere. Harvest is upon us. And no farmer can postpone it until fuel prices come down. Rural workers face increased costs for commuting and for heating homes this winter. All of our lives are interconnected.

Public policies are also interconnected. Justice demands that we help those who are suffering. Justice demands that we not put that financial burden on our children. And justice demands that we spend our money for the good of the many over the benefit of the few.

Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Military Injury Leads to Business Ownership for Veteran

- from the desk of Glennis McClure,, co-director of the Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP, a Center for Rural Affairs program) and director of the REAP Women's Business Center, the first and only SBA Women's Business Center in Nebraska.

Military Injury Leads to a New Career and Business Ownership for this Veteran

Due to a back injury while serving in the military, Keri York finds CranioSacral massage therapy works for her. From her experience with chronic pain, she became interested in learning the skills of a therapist and going into business for herself in the town of Fairbury, Nebraska.

After massage therapy school, Keri rented space for a salon from a chiropractor, and then tried working from home when her husband Shane was called into military duty to Bosnia. Operating this business from her home just didn’t pan out, and Keri took a job 80 miles away.

After about a year driving back and forth to work and trying to take care of her family and household, she was drawn back to the idea of having her own shop for massage therapy. It became a reality when she found an old building in town with a reasonable purchase price.

So in the fall of 2004, the York’s gutted the old building and started making it into a new massage therapy office. Shane and Keri thought they would do most of the renovations themselves. After they got into the work, they learned that Shane would have to go to Iraq in early 2005.

With the help of his military company and friends, they completed the work on the shop with just a week to spare before Shane would leave again for at least a year. Since Therapeutic Dimensions opened the new doors for business, Keri has rarely had a day off.

REAP Women’s Business Center Director Glennis McClure assisted Keri with her business plan, and REAP made a loan to help fix up the building. In April, Keri received one of nine Women and Company Microenterprise Boost Program $1,000 cash equity awards from REAP.

Keri is using part of the equity award to pay for continuing education hours in learning the next level of CranioSacral Therapy. She also purchased Massage Office Pro software to help stay organized with client information, appointments, and inventory.

Keri believes her business location is more visible and has helped draw in customers. There aren’t many therapists around the area that focus on CranioSacral Therapy, so Keri gets referrals for new customers from her satisfied customers.

Keri hopes to continue to educate her customers to stick with the therapy treatments more regularly. She says her greatest reward is the help and pain relief that customers experience.

Taking care of their little four-year old Haley and running the business keeps Keri York busy most days. And when Shane isn’t serving our country overseas, he’s a deputy sheriff.

Keri was recently asked by Fairbury's Mayor to sit on the LB840 Citizen’s Advisory Committee. She volunteers as a massage therapy trainer during the Lincoln Marathon and presents programs for the local hospital wellness program.

for more information post a question or comment here or contact
John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

There's Nothing Small about Small Business

- from the desk of Phil Menke,, Center for Rural Affairs Central - Southwest REAP Business Specialist.

There's Nothing Small about Small Business

A giant new industry is being hotly pursued in Nebraska. Statistically, its size is greater than 85 percent of firms in the state. It will also employ thousands, increase household income by an average of $8400 in five years, and will supply the majority of new jobs in the state. If it chooses to locate here, projections show it will supply 15 to 20 percent of all payrolls.

The state legislature is being called into special session to ensure that the new firm is supplied with a plethora of special tax incentives, deferments, and adjustments. Many other states are hot in competition for the firm, and it’s demanding tremendous concessions from municipalities and the state.

Private banks and other commercial lending institutions are lining up with very competitive financing packages for the firm. The Governor and leaders from major business interest groups of other larger municipalities are lobbying for and competing with a host of smaller rural area communities for the location of the headquarters.

What is this organization?

Surprise, it’s called Nebraska Microenterprise. Yep, this little spoof is a cynical, sarcastic, and hopefully humorous way of touting the importance of the collective production, job creation, and economic returns to the state from current Nebraska microenterprise firms (fewer than 5 employees).

Collectively micro businesses supply literally thousands of jobs in the state and 18 percent of the state’s payroll. According to a recent five-year study by the Aspen Institute, nationally these types of microenterprises have increased household income an average of $8400.

What is still missing?

A more organized, coordinated, disciplined, bold, and sensible approach to rural economic development. Give the Nebraska legislature and the Governor credit for drafting and passing more favorable treatment of small business legislation this last session. Give them credit for becoming more aware of the critical need for more rural economic development involving small micro business stimulation.

Also give them credit for some minor reforms on LB 775. Philosophically one could argue all day the merits and demerits of special tax incentive programs to induce new economic growth. The most practical solution politically is for this collective “Nebraska Microenterprise firm” to make sure that any public policy move to subsidize rural and metro economic development doesn’t give a marked unearned comparative advantage to either sector.

What’s an unearned comparative advantage? Think of it as running a 100 meter race with an Olympic-class sprinter and giving them a 10 yard head start. They don’t need it and probably didn’t earn it for any logical reason.

Why it’s your business.

Without a disciplined and logical marketing and promotion plan in your business, you can have the best product or service in the world and nobody will recognize it or buy it. The saying “the wheel that squeaks gets greased” is true.

For a moment, let your imagination run wild. Suppose that at the same time a major firm was lobbying the legislature for tax concessions to locate or expand, every microenterprise in the state (both rural and urban) phoned, e-mailed, or visited their state legislative representative and requested the same special treatment to keep the playing field level. Do you think the legislature wouldn’t sit up and take notice?

Identify what could truly stimulate practical and logical growth of your microenterprise. If, for the good of your community and your business, a change in public policy regulation or economic development strategy would assist you in reaching your dreams and goals, wouldn’t it be worth it to add that piece to your marketing and promotion efforts?

What rural Nebraska needs is a different mindset – one that recognizes our collective importance and what our collective power can achieve. An emphasis on quality economic development – the kind of development that would serve the current generation and attract our youth – would be the kind of economic development we could be proud for our own sons or daughters to come back to, if they chose.

for more information post a question or comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Monday, September 19, 2005

UPDATE - Farm Payment Limits

- from the desk of John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs,

Hurrican Katrina continues to have a significant impact on Congressional action on a number of issues. Federal budget reconciliation was postponed after the impact of Katrina began to become clear to Representatives and Senators. As they and the nation began to realize the scope and magnitude of the impact of Katrina, attention shifted from Federal budget reconciliation to emergency spending bills.

As of the writing of this post, reconciliation is on hold for a month - until October 26,2005. Although some members of Congress would like to postpone further, others have stated that offsetting some of the spending for Katrina relief makes budget reconciliation that much more compelling.

Moreover, two other factors are clearly changing the debate over federal budget reconciliation:

1. A large and growing coalition of organizations and individuals have joined forces to oppose cuts to food and nutrition programs (Food Stamps; Women, Infants and Children Nutrition program; and the Free and Reduced School Lunch program). The efforts of this diverse coalition, combined with the reality that Katrina has created even more need for these and other USDA programs, has made many members of Congress reconsider the idea of cutting these programs. And in many cases these organizations have called for farm payment limits over cuts to food and nutrition programs, strengthening our efforts there.

2. Your voices, calling for protecting rural development, conservation AND food programs, have also had a crucial impact. Senators and Representatives from across the country have heard from Center supporters and allies, time and again - over the summer, through the August recess and continuing this month - that the single most effective thing that Congress could do to strength family farms and rural communities is limit farm program payments.

Your voices have changed the debate - indeed, your voices; your letters (to members and to newspapers); your phone calls; your face to face meetings; your questions at district meetings and farm bill listening sessions and every other kind of meeting have set the debate and forced Congress to consider long overdue farm payment limitations.

And there has never been a better time to weigh in again with your members of Congress. Another week-long recess has been scheduled for the week of October 10, 2005.

We encourage you to contact your Senators and Representative, see when they will be in your area - call the capitol at 202.224.3121 and ask the switchboard to connect you.

And look here for the Center for Rural Affairs' Action Alert on farmpayment limitations - - if you have called before, call again.


Post a comment here - or - contact John Crabtree,,
402-687-2103 ext 1010.

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Friday, September 16, 2005

UPDATE - Farm Payment Limits


Your phone calls and face-to-face meetings with your Senators and Representatives during the August recess have made a difference!

Your work is forcing more members of Congress to see the need for farm payment limitations instead of cuts to rural development, conservation and food and nutrition programs. Thank you for being a vital part of making real progress on these issues.

Hurricane Katrina devastated several gulf coast states. Because of the national focus to aid disaster victims, Congress has postponed budget reconciliation by at least a month.

We want to keep you in the loop on budget reconciliation so we can all keep making our voices heard. Keep in touch.

Check the Center’s Blog for Rural America at for weekly updates each Monday.

And feel free to call Kathie Starkweather at 402-687-2103, ext. 1014 for more information.

Again, Thank You -- your efforts are making a difference.

Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Livestock Price Reporting

- from the desk of John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs,

House Votes to Extend Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting

WASHINGTON-Today, the House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act of 1999 and to improve the reporting provisions of the Act related to swine.

House bill 3408 extends the Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting Act, which was passed in 1999 to aid farmers suffering from low livestock prices. The mandatory price reporting program gives livestock producers more information so they can make better business decisions.

Under the Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting Act, producers must report to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Marketing Service the price, quantity, and terms of sale for all domestic cattle, swine, lambs. H.R. 3408 also expands the information that must be reported about the sale of swine and includes new provisions that prevent lapses in reporting.

The Act has created a more cost-effective and transparent livestock market with better prices for producers. As a result, livestock producers are now able to sell their products at an efficient market price.

"The mandatory price reporting program has served the industry well," said Congressman Collin Peterson. "Today's vote ensures that producers can continue to operate in a fair and transparent market."

For more information contact - John Crabtree, - or just post a comment here - most of all I would like to know how producers feel about market transparency in livestock markets today, what have you experienced?

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

So You Want To Farm? We Can Help.

- from the desk of Martin Kleinschmit, Center for Rural Affairs,

So You Want To Farm? We Can Help.

Faced with today’s volatile commodity markets, sky-high production costs and fickle weather, who can possibly make a profit in farming? Mark and Wendy Lange, and about 130 other farm families in Minnesota say they can because of the training received in the Farm Beginnings Program. The Lange’s said the program helped them decide if farming was a viable option for them and what enterprises to consider.

Designed for beginners and experienced farmers, Farm Beginnings is a nine-session program that gives participants the opportunity to set goals to insure a quality of life, and develop business plans to maintain profitability. Graduates of the course now farm a total of more than 6,000 acres in Minnesota.

Much of the success of this program is credited to the farmer instructors, who have made a life and successful business from their farming operations. Continued training is available through a mentor program that pairs participants with cooperating farmers to provide long-term support and advice.

And now Farm Beginnings is coming to Nebraska.

In addition to Farm Beginnings, qualified persons who complete the course in Nebraska may be eligible for zero-interest, revolving livestock loans through the Heifer International program. The course also satisfies the Gold Medal Management training required by USDA’s Beginning Farmer Loan Program.

Limited to 20 families, the deadline for registration is October 24th. The cost is $800.00, but scholarships are available. The program will begin November 5th in Syracuse, Nebraska.

To register contact Paul Rohrbaugh, 402-869-2396, James Peterson 402-426-9455, Martin Kleinschmit, 402-254-6893, Steve Zimmers 402-269-2301

The program is sponsored by the Center for Rural Affairs, Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, University of Nebraska – Lincoln Extension, and Nebraska Department of Agriculture.

- for more information contact Martin Kleinschmit,
- or - John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Latino-owned businesses emerge to fill growing need

- from the Sioux City Journal's Business Journal, August 2005

Latino-owned businesses emerge to fill growing need

By Dave Dreeszen - Business Journal editor - Sioux City Journal

Ozziel Loera sells and installs car stereos, sound systems and alarms. Most of his customers are fellow Latinos, who feel more comfortable dealing with someone like himself who is fluent in their native Spanish.

"There's a language barrier," said Loera, owner of Oasis Auto Sound, 808 W. Seventh St. "They go to other places. They don't feel 100 percent satisfied because they can't communicate."

Oasis Auto Sound is among the growing number of Latino-owned businesses in metro Sioux City. Most have emerged to fill the needs of an increasing diverse population. An immigration wave in the 1990s brought thousands of Spanish speakers to the metro area, many coming from California and Texas to work in local meatpacking plants.

In South Sioux City alone, the new migrants more than quadrupled the Latino population from 6 percent in 1990 to nearly 25 percent of the city's 11,925 residents by the 2000 census.

Last year, a group of area organizations surveyed minority-owned businesses in South Sioux City, with the vast majority being Latino owned. The study found that 71 percent of the 31 firms surveyed started in the last five years.

"The minority business community here is growing, but it's very young," said Jim Perdue, executive director of Siouxland Unidad Latina, one of the groups that sponsored the study.

Eighty-seven percent of the businesses were family owned and operated, with few employees beyond the proprietors. But together, they employed nearly 100 full-time and 50 part-time jobs, however.

Perdue said the survey also showed that virtually none of the minority-owned companies had a written business plan or professional advisors. "If they were going to ask for advice about their business, most said they would ask a trusted friend or family member," he said.

The study clearly identified the need for training, technical assistance and lending opportunities for minority-owned businesses.

Fifteen owners who participated in the survey later completed a training program, conducted in Spanish by the Rural Enterprise Assistance Project. REAP, a program of the Center for Rural Affairs, has established a Hispanic rural business center focusing on South Sioux City and two other Nebraska communities with large Latino populations - Scottsbluff and Schuyler. REAP is currently offering the training program on Tuesday evenings in South Sioux, said Adriana Dungan, REAP business specialist.

A survey of minority-owned businesses in Sioux City, Sergeant Bluff and North Sioux City was completed earlier this year. The results are scheduled to be released on Oct. 21, said Perdue, whose organization partnered with the New Iowan Center on the second phase.

Following the initial study, a group of Latino merchants formed their own organization, the Siouxland Latino Business Association. Perdue said sponsors also work to connect minority-owned firms with professional groups, like the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce and the South Sioux City Area Chamber of Commerce. Debi Durham, president of the Siouxland Chamber, serves on Siouxland Unidad Latina's board of directors.

Siouxland Unidad Latina, which recently moved to new offices at 1910 Dakota Ave., was founded as Siouxland Hispanic Ministries in 2002. Perdue is a former Methodist minister who previously served as a missionary in South America, where he and his wife became fluent in Spanish.

Last year's survey of business owners grew out of a community service project undertaken by class members in the Siouxland Immigrant Leadership Training Program two years ago. The eight-week grassroots training, which began in 2001 under the leadership of Norma DeLaO, now director of the New Iowan Center, covers a broad range of subjects, from local government and immigration to education and banking.

Perdue said Siouxland Unidad Latino is in the process of putting together a new coalition to continue the program in 2006. In the first five years, 99 local residents have completed the training.

Participants are groomed for various leadership roles in the community. Some graduates, for instance, have joined the Siouxland Unidad Latina board. Others have started their own businesses, Perdue said.

Loera was already running his own business when he completed the training program last year. Five years ago, he moved from California to find a new job in Siouxland. Looking to serve a large Guatemalan population in Wakefield, Neb., he opened his first Oasis Auto Sound location in that Wayne County community. The business originally offered clothing and wire transfers of money, and later expanded into car sound systems and alarms.

Four months ago, he opened his Oasis Auto Sound location on West Seventh Street. Loera said he enrolled in the immigrant leadership training program to learn more about the community, everything from the local schools and municipal governments to individual rights of citizens.

"It wanted to know how to get involved in the community so I could give back to the community," he said.

Perdue said many Latino business owners make significant contributions to their communities. They include DeAnda Auto owner Arturo DeAnda, named "Latina of the Year" last year at an awards banquet coordinated by Siouxland Unidad Latina. DeAnda was recognized for his financial contributions for local Cinco de Mayo celebrations, La Casa Latina and a number of youth soccer teams, not only in the Sioux City area but also Storm Lake, Norfolk and Omaha.

DeAnda, who came to Siouxland in the early 1970s to work at the then-IBP plant in Dakota City, started DeAnda Auto Sales in South Sioux City in 1994. His used car business has grown to include locations in Moville and Storm Lake. His customers include both Latinos and non-Latinos.

Perdue said the recent survey of minority-owned businesses in South Sioux City found that more than 70 percent feel they can read, write, speak and understand English well. Though the majority of their current customers are Latinos, most owners expressed an interest in expanding to serve all ethnic groups, he said.

By Dave Dreeszen - Business Journal editor - Sioux City Business Journal

As always, we appreciate your comments here.
If you have any questions or comments you can also contact
John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Farm Aid response to hurricane Katrina

- from our friends at Farm Aid

Farm Aid offers immediate assistance for farmers devastated by hurricane Katrina

Activates Family Farm Disaster Fund to Provide Emergency Relief

Somerville, MA — Farm Aid will channel emergency assistance to farm families devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Farm Aid today activated the Family Farm Disaster Fund to encourage donations so that farm families can get the help they need to recover from the hurricane and continue farming.

“This is a moment when each of us can take stock of what we can offer to everyone affected by this catastrophe, and Farm Aid is in a position to act for farm families,” said Farm Aid President Willie Nelson. “Crop and livestock losses will be massive. Many farm buildings were destroyed in the storm and ensuing flooding. A disaster of this magnitude can be a breaking point for many Southern family farms.”

Individuals can contribute to Farm Aid’s disaster fund on-line at or by calling 1.800.FARM-AID. In addition to funds raised by people across the country, Farm Aid has sent an initial $30,000 to several of its partner family farm organizations in the southeast. The funds will allow the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and the Louisiana Interchurch Conference to immediately begin assessing needs in these states and providing emergency relief. The Farmers Legal Action Group will also step in with information they have developed on how farmers can access federal disaster programs.

For twenty years, Farm Aid has responded to many weather-related disasters that have pushed family farmers to the brink of ruin. Already, there is an outpouring of desire among farmers and farm groups to help other farm families affected by Katrina. “Fortunately, we can convene our farm group partners across the country to develop additional longer-term actions that Farm Aid and its donors can support,” added Farm Aid Executive Director Carolyn Mugar.

While the full extent of the damage to family farms is still unknown, Farm Aid representatives have been told that the infrastructure of many rural southeastern communities has been devastated and will take months to repair. That means many farm families are facing an extended period without phone service, electricity, clean water or modes of transportation. In addition, major crop losses are anticipated as many crops were just a week or two from being harvested when the hurricane hit. Without transport or feed for farm animals, livestock and poultry farmers face serious challenges to keep their animals alive over the coming days and weeks.

Farm Aid will hold its 20th Anniversary concert on September 18 in Tinley Park, IL, just south of Chicago. Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp held the first Farm Aid concert in 1985 in Champaign, IL to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farm families on their land. Dave Matthews joined the Farm Aid Board of Directors in 2001. Farm Aid has raised more than $27 million to promote a strong and resilient family farm system of agriculture. Through public education and direct grants, Farm Aid supports national, regional and local efforts to build and strengthen family farm food production.

- Post a comment here or -
contact John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Farm Programs, Trade and World Poverty

-from the desk of Chuck Hassebrook, Executive Director, Center for Rural Affairs,

US Farm Programs, International Trade, and World Poverty

The Center is working with Oxfam, a world leader in international development, for more effective farm program payment limits.

US farm programs are in the spotlight as African poverty and development move up on the world’s agenda. The US cotton program has been attacked for its impact in West Africa, where small cotton farmers cannot compete with US cotton exports aided by farm program payments.
In some recent years, program payments have nearly equaled the price US cotton farmers received from the market. The resulting reduced income among Africa’s small farmers translates directly into hunger.

Current US farm programs were designed in response to legitimate concerns – growing international competition from mega-farms in Brazil and subsidized exports from the European Union. Small farmers in the developing world are suffering collateral damage in the battle.
Some critics have proposed ending all farm programs without regard to US family farms. The problem needs to be addressed, but there are better solutions.

Capping payments to mega farms and redirecting the money to rural development and conservation is a start. The Center has joined forces with Oxfam, the world’s leading international development organization, in seeking more effective payment limitations.
The European Union has taken related steps. Its recent reforms base more payments on historic production – to reduce incentives to produce and export at below-market prices. And it requires member nations to reduce payments for larger farms and use the savings to fund rural development programs. The US should match that by making the $3 billion in USDA cuts coming this fall by capping payments to mega farms.

The problem must ultimately be addressed in international trade agreements that set rules to ensure the benefits of trade are widely shared and extend to small farmers and rural communities worldwide. Without such rules, trade succumbs to the rule of the jungle, where the big prey on the small.

For example, labor and environmental standards are essential if trade is to benefit not only working people, but also small farms and businesses. The self-employed cannot pay themselves a middle class income for their labors and compete with multinational corporations that pay poverty-level wages to their employees – whether they operate overseas or at home.

Trade agreements need to make room for targeted programs that support small farmers, conservation, and rural development. They should provide latitude to nations that prevent severe agricultural market downturns by managing production. For example, nations that manage production should be allowed to take offsetting steps so their efforts aren’t undermined by a flood of imports or loss of export markets.

But we must also take a moral stance and oppose unfairness and injustice in rural Africa, just as in rural America. We can and must design policies to restore vitality to America’s family farms and rural communities that don’t sow poverty and hunger in the developing world.

Agree or disagree?
Post an opinion or comment her or contact Chuck Hassebrook,
or John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Community Revitalization Dialogue IV

- from the desk of Michael Holton,, a contribution from a Center for Rural Affairs newsletter reader in Still Bay, South Africa

Universal Challenges in Rural Revitalization?

I have been an avid reader of the CFRA Newsletter for a number of years despite the fact that I live far away from rural America – in a rural agricultural area close to the southern most tip of Africa. What has been so thought-provoking is the fact that many of the problems and issues we are struggling with are similar to the ones of rural America, particularly in the Great Plains area. The question arises whether these similarities are spurious or the result of similar dynamics occurring in rural areas no matter where they are located on the globe. I have come to favor the latter possibility. Let me explain why I think the dynamics in South Africa are similar to those of America.

The Dutch came to South Africa in 1652 to run a trading post and supply fresh produce to ships on their way to and back from the East Indies. Although it was never the intention of the Dutch East India Company to create a permanent settlement, it was not long before individuals decided to settle and begin farming, first around what is today Cape Town and over time moving further and further afield. In this process native South Africans, the nomadic herders of the Khoi-Khoi and the hunter-gatherer San people, were pushed out of the areas they had occupied for centuries.

The European settlers that moved inland were at first subsistence farmers. They produced for their own needs and their excess products were bartered or traded for things they could not produce themselves. They operated in “markets of proximity” because they were far away from the main market centre in Cape Town and access was difficult and time-consuming.

As transport systems improved (ox wagons over time replaced by trains replaced over time by automobiles) rural farmers could access markets that were further away. They became commercial farmers and flourished. Inland towns developed primarily to serve the needs of the farmers (churches, schools, government services, etc.). Trading stores were mostlysmall and family-owned. As the farmers prospered, the towns prospered.

However, there was a sting in the tail. The farmers were subject to the discipline and, hence, competition of the new markets. If they could not compete effectively, they perished. Thus improved mobility graduated them from “markets of proximity” to “markets of globality”. Effective competition was central to his survival and prosperity, and competition became tougher over time.

Increased mobility also affected the towns. Mobile farmers could source their supplies and goods elsewhere. Part of the traditional markets of rural traders disappeared. National trading outfits also realized that improved mobility meant that they could serve rural markets. Wal-Mart look-alikes were also present in South Africa and they started operating in the rural areas. Thus family traders also became part of a “market of globality” and effective competition was also central to their survival and prosperity.

The rural commercial farmers produced (and still do) mostly agricultural commodities which were mostly “exported” to larger centers where value addition happened. The farmers were subject to the “laws” governing trade in commodities. From Michael Porter we learn that sustainable competitiveness in the production of commodities (including agricultural commodities) derives from cost leadership. Over time commodity farmers were subject to an unrelenting “price-cost pincher”. Only the effective low-cost producers could survive.

Farmers applied different strategies to maintain their competitiveness. Some sought improved productivity though the use of better technology (e.g. mechanization and automation) whilst others sought economies of scale by buying out smaller and weaker farmers. The progression of subsistence farms to small commercial farms to large commercial farms to mega farms seems to be logically predictable if one combines Porter’s logic with man’s never-ending capability to improve technology. The consequences of these dynamics on rural towns, e.g. stagnating or declining economies, pressures on family-owned businesses, the loss of young people, etc. were not so obvious.

I postulate, therefore, that the dynamics of rural development in areas producing basic agricultural commodities and which are linked to “markets of globality” are likely to have many similarities irrespective of nationality or location. The problems encountered and potential solutions are, therefore, likely to be similar. We can learn from one another.

What are the broad issues we have to think about in rural development? There is a significant paradox that is rarely discussed. Arie de Geus highlighted in his book (The Living Company) the fact that some enterprises are hundreds of years old and still prospering. Yet, economists teach us that all new products or services accepted in the marketplace will be subject to the “learning curve” – over time the initial introductory high price per unit will be driven down (the main reason for the price-cost pincher experienced by many farmers) to low levels. But how do we resolve the fact that some rural businesses can be doing the same business for hundreds of years (e.g. some European wineries are at least 700 years old) and still remain competitive?

This paradox has intrigued me for years.

Some insights I can offer about the resolution of the paradox come from a book (Taming Janus: Technology, Business Strategy and Local Economic Development) that I recently self-published (South African publishers did not believe there would be a sufficient market for the book). It deals with the links between technology and local economic development.

I suggested that we can think of technology at two levels: low-tech and high-tech. This is then combined with Michael Porter’s insight that some products are differentiated whilst others are commodities. The combination allows us to examine four strategic positions:

(i) low-tech production or delivery of commodity products or services,
(ii) low-tech production or delivery of differentiated products or services,
(iii) high-tech production or delivery of differentiated products or services, and
(iv) high-tech production or delivery of commodity products or services.

We can now deliberate about the dynamics between the different strategic positions. For instance, it is understandable that a producer of agricultural commodities using low-tech means (in other words technology that is at the disposal of everybody) and being under the whip of the “price-cost pincher” will first think about intensifying his technology in order to reduce costs. It is more difficult to think about differentiating his product range.

How to explain the existence of enterprises (also in agriculture) that are hundreds of years old and still prospering? These enterprises are usually focused on the low-tech production of differentiated products (e.g. the production of wines – the wine of winery A can never be offered as a wine of winery B). My research suggests that these enterprises are first (and perhaps without exception) based on one or a combination of:
(i) human excellence (a critical ability to do something which machines cannot yet do),
(ii) know-how and/or
(iii) attractions (natural or man-made).

This insight explains the enduring nature of the wine, whisky, cognac, perfume, publishing, music and art industries. It also explains the success of companies such as Coca-Cola or KFC and the tourism success of cities such as New York, London and Paris. It seems to me that it also offers a new way to think about the challenges and opportunities of rural areas. It might, therefore, be useful to debate this issue further.

Daan Toerien
Still Bay
South Africa

Any thoughts? Post a comment here.
Or, contact John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Hurricane Katrina and Rural Communities

- from the University of Kentucky Institute for Rural Journalism's Rural Blog

Rural communities hit hard by Katrina wait in shadows; despair abundant

In an example of the often cited government maxim, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease," rural communities hurt by Hurricane Katrina are taking a back seat to more populous areas, where the demands are loudest and most nationally visible.

In a story datelined Pass Christian, Miss. -- ground zero for the infamous 1969 Hurricane Camille -- San Antonio Express-News staff writer Jeorge Zarazua details all too familiar images of desolate and destroyed lives left by a storm that has established herself as more destructive than Camille: "A shirtless Dane Rabalais unloaded bags of ice ... from a neighbor's truck that had pulled into his front yard. Lizzy Lynn, whose home was destroyed by Katrina, washes her clothes on the beach."

While President Bush toured the destruction that Katrina wrought in Biloxi, about 20 miles east, many residents in this rural coastal community of fewer than 7,000 leaned on each other. Loretta Lizana's family opened their home to neighbors who lost everything. Thomas Drake, 58, left boxes of water at the local fire station before he evacuated eastward to Pensacola, Fla., reports Zarazua.

Even though Army National Guard supply trucks arrived Friday, many didn't carry water or food. Rural communities in southern Mississippi have been hard hit, and unlike in Biloxi, Gulfport and Pensacola, there seems to be little progress in restoring electricity. Desperation, however, is in abundance.

Post a comment here,
or, contact John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Genetically Modified Document Wars

- from our friends at Dakota Resource Council (North Dakota) - this article appeared inthe most recent Dakota Resource Council newsletter - contact Mark Trechock,, for information about this or other work of Dakota Resource Council.

GM Document Wars

Dakota Resource Council (DRC) this week is reviewing documents provided by North Dakota State University Research Foundation related to its contracts with Monsanto — but the question whether NDSURF is a public entity that must make the documents public is still up in the air.

"It is our understanding that [NDSURF] concedes that it is a public entity," Assistant Attorney General Mary Kae Kelsch wrote to Dale Zetocha, NDSURF Executive Director, July 26.

NDSURF attorney Michelle M. Donarski wrote back August 1 to say that no such concession was made, but that the foundation merely "determined that it would not challenge [DRC's] request for information."

DRC requested the documents in May. NDSURF initially refused to hand over documents but changed its mind after DRC requested an Attorney General's opinion.

DRC's request pointed out several reasons why NDSURF is a public entity:- Its website is part of NDSU's website;- It was established to support NDSU's teaching, research and public service missions;- Its financial activities are blended with NDSU's;- NDSU officials comprise and appoint a majority of its board of directors;- NDSU policies require all patentable discoveries to be assigned to NDSURF.

The controversy goes back several years to NDSU's partnership with Monsanto to research Roundup Ready wheat in secret test plots around the state. Monsanto eventually suspended the research in response to rejection by end users in many countries—and strong farmer concern about contamination of crops and loss of markets.

DRC Chair Dean Hulse said one thing he would like to find out is who would represent NDSU in legal action that might be filed against North Dakota farmers for alleged patent violations.

Monsanto has filed at least 90 lawsuits against farmers for alleged copyright infringement and collected over $15 million in damages, according to the Center for Food Safety.One of those, Rodney Nelson, Amenia, told CFS he spends over $12,000 per year taking precautions against being sued again.

for more information go to -
- or - contact Mark Trechock,
- or - as always, post a comment here

and, as always, you can contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.