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, December 29, 2006

#3 Reason Community Development is Hard to Do

Understanding Community Gate Keepers

by Michael Holton, Center for Rural Affairs - editors note... brought to you by "popular" demand...

Rural communities are made up of a social group called the gate keepers. This may prove to be one of the most difficult aspects of community development in small rural towns.

Gate keepers are usually people who have lived in the community for years, often clear back to the time when small rural communities were thriving. They made a living and prospered while raising their children. The community was and is still good to them. They do not want to see new community development come in and take away what they have acquired.

These people often resist big changes with statements like, “We don’t need that!” or “It was good enough for me when I was growing up.” The key to dealing with the gate keeper plight is to involve them from the beginning in the discussion and work.

Agree? Disagree? Post a question here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

#4 Reason Rural Community Development is Hard to Do...

Change Is Not Comfortable

by Michael Holton, Center for Rural Affairs,

More detail on another of Michael Holton's ten reasons rural development is difficult. This is the narrative portion about the fourth reason rural community development is hard to do (Center for Rural Affairs newsletter)... I skipped the third reason because we have been talking about gate-keeper thinking on all three of the posts so far (and can continue that dicussion thread here as well)... John

Like the gate keeper mentality, change is also a barrier to community development. Comfort levels and routine are easier to understand for most community members. Large-scale change is uncomfortable and often hard work.

When you are dealing with buildings, you may have destruction and construction going on all around the community that disrupts routine. When you are dealing with people and politics, elections bring new leadership, but they also may bring change to the community.

New business brings competition which communities may view as healthy, but to existing business that must now compete for the shrinking rural dollar, it is not. Communities are made up of people first and structures second. Change must be addressed in those terms.

Agree? Disagree? Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Rural Alaska is Crumbling...

Rural Alaska is crumbling...

Erosion affects rural Alaska on myriad levels

In a five part series, the Associated Press recently examined the impact of erosion in its various forms as well as the strengths of Alaskan rural communities and Alaska natives who have endured some of the harshest conditions on Earth for thousands of years... Winds and water continually wear away at scores of native communities. Every year whole chunks of land simply float away...

RACHEL D'ORO, Associated Press, December 24, 2006 - see full story at Anchorage Dailey News -

Perhaps the plight of rural Alaska can be summed up in the story of the beaver.

Patricia Cochran never saw the web-footed rodent during her childhood in Nome, an old gold-rush town halfway up the western Alaska coast. No one ever saw trees there either, that is, until residents began planting aspens and birch, and those and other alien plant-life firmly took hold in the warming region. Also multiplying along streams and lakes were brush willows and alders, choice fare for the beavers that followed.

"Before, there were no beavers there because there was no source of food for them," said Cochran, 57, executive director of the Alaska Native Science Commission. "Now there are trees in people's front yards. The treeline has moved so much farther north that the beavers are now moving into the area..."

Cochran and others believe the beaver's expansion is but a symptom of rising temperatures that have brought other dramatic changes, including the pervasive erosion eating away at Native communities.

With change comes complications, as aptly manifested by the beaver. The animal is blamed for bringing disease, interrupting fish migration patterns and blocking navigation routes in areas it was never seen before. This voracious rodent is known to abandon overforaged or dried up sites.

Now, ecological shifts have given it more space, said Dave Klein, a biology professor emeritus with the University of Alaska Fairbanks... "Climate change is not affecting just part of the world. It's a global phenomenon," added Klein.

The repercussions, however, are drastic closer to the Arctic. This is where effects of warming have appeared with mounting intensity, partly because as snow and ice shrink, the terrain absorbs more heat instead of reflecting it.

In Alaska, warming climate is melting permanent sea ice, leaving coastal villages vulnerable to stronger storms and flooding, their shorelines and riverbanks washing away. Native subsistence hunters are traveling farther for seals and other icebound prey. Ancient graves are surfacing in village cemeteries. A handful of threatened communities are even planning expensive relocations.

Other regions also are prone to erosion and flooding, but Alaska is unlike any other place in the nation, said Bruce Sexauer, a senior planner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The corps investigates erosion and designs and builds solutions such as sea walls and breakwaters.
"The uniqueness is in the remoteness and high reliance upon natural resources for survival," Sexauer said. "The communities are hundreds of miles away from Anchorage, have no connection by road, rely heavily upon hunting and fishing for their food, and do not have the financial-based economies often needed to participate as cost sharing partners in federal programs."

Almost as widespread as erosion, the beaver's range has inched up the state over the past two decades. State wildlife officials say reports have placed the animals as far north as 140 miles above the Arctic Circle.

Agree? Disagree? Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

#2 Reason Rural Community Development is Hard to Do

Differences between Rural and Urban

by Michael Holton, Center for Rural Affairs,

Agencies and funding sources often try to address community development as if what worked for urban areas will also work for rural areas. This very seldom happens as they are two different beasts. Why refer to them as beasts? Because urban and rural communities have lives of their own.

Where do we separate the two so that we can all grasp the differences? Maybe we don’t have to. This is an area of understanding and perception, so it all leads back to the fundamental, yet simple, conclusion that rural is anything urban is not.

While this is easy for some of us who live in smaller rural townships (less than 2,000 in population), it is not as easy for agencies addressing development and providing funding. Fair or not, this becomes one of the reasons why community development in rural areas is so difficult.

Since a good discussion about our two previuos posts is ongoing, I thought, let's just stick with it and provide more detail on another of Michael Holton's ten reasons rural development is difficult. This is the narrative portion about the second reason rural community development is hard to do (Center for Rural Affairs newsletter)... John Crabtree

Agree? Disagree? Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

#1 Reason Rural Community Development is Hard to Do

People Don’t Understand What Community Development Is

by Michael Holton, Center for Rural Affairs,

Community leaders and resource providers tend to put characteristics in with community development that constrict the definition. Often it is confused with other development ideas such as economic development, infrastructure, schools, and business development.

Community development is all of these things, but not packaged separately. Contrary to the belief that any one of these can fix or solve problems that need to be addressed, it takes all of them to complete the puzzle we call community development.

The definition of community development can be stated as, “The process of improving the social, economic, and cultural conditions of a village or small town.” Even this definition may come up short, but at least it addresses other facets of what the community is all about.

Since a good discussion is beginning about our previous post, I thought i would provide more detail. This is the narrative in Michael Holton's feature in the Center for Rural Affairs newsletter article about the top ten things that make rural community development hard to do... John Crabtree

Agree? Disagree? Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Top 10 - Reasons Rural Community Development is Hard to Do

Top 10 Reasons Rural Community Development is Hard to Do...

by Michael Holton, Center for Rural Affairs,

For the past three years, the Center for Rural Affairs newsletter has carried a monthly column by Michael Holton focused on rural community revitalization. S ome articles referred to community development successes, while others related various struggles that come with the territory in community development. This month, Michael uses his experiences and insights to define the top 10 reasons rural community development is so difficult to accomplish.

These are the reasons Michael outlines:
1. People Don’t Understand What Community Development Is
2. Agencies Overlook Differences between Rural and Urban
3. Community Gate Keeper Resistance
4. Change Is Not Comfortable
5. Parochial Attitudes Must Be Overcome
6. Lack of Resources and Capacity
7. Negative Attitudes
8. Lack of Participation across the Generations
9. Confused Purpose of Existence
10. Lack of Leadership Capacity

you can read the full explanation for each at

Agree? Disagree? Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Farm and Rural Organizations Send Letter to New Senate Leaders

the following is an excerpt from a letter from 15 farm, rural and environmental organizations to the Majority Leader and President of the Iowa Senate...

Dear Senators Kibbie and Gronstahl:

We, the undersigned food and agriculture organizations, would like to congratulate you on your Election Day victories. The people of Iowa, both rural and urban, have placed their trust in you. We know you are working hard to develop and implement an agenda that is good for Iowa, and will show the citizens that they elected true leaders with vision and wisdom…

…Democracy can be strengthened with more citizen participation in the process, breaking any view of special interest control.

We would like to suggest the following topics and initiatives.

1. An Ownership Society: Farm owner-operators should be the policy choice for the structure of Iowa agriculture. This goal requires open and competitive markets to minimize the excessive market power of dominant agribusinesses that raise input prices too high, and drive commodity prices too low. Strong support for new and beginning and transitioning farmers, as well as rural entrepreneurs, is needed to successfully bring young farmers into agriculture. We can also stem the loss of established farmers.

2. Environmental Stewardship: All rural and urban Iowans want clean air and clean water. They want their land values and quality of life preserved. Hog farmers want the spread of disease minimized or eliminated. We can grow the livestock economy, including reclamation of lost hog farrowing facilities, with smart environmental choices. The hog siting and manure spreading issues have gone on too long. They should be resolved. Local citizens should be empowered with land use authority, and allowed to control their own lives. Science-based state rules should set minimum standards on health and safety grounds. Urban and rural Iowans support this approach.

3. Energy Self Sufficiency: Iowa has tapped the potential of corn based ethanol. This should continue, but be supplemented by cellulosic ethanol, bio-diesel, wind and solar power. All utilities should pay retail rates to individual power generators. State investment and policy should continue supporting our withdrawal from foreign oil.

4. An Opportunity Society: Food generally travels more than 1,000 miles before consumption. Iowans import over 80% of their food, at a value of $6 billion annually. We can recapture some of this value for the state, with tremendous economic benefits. Support for direct farmer marketing to consumers and institutions should be strengthened. Organic food is a major part of this opportunity, because it is the fastest growing sector of the food production industry – growing 20% per year. Indeed, organic meat consumption is growing 50% annually. Iowa farmers can save on energy, and provide consumers safe, healthy and nutritious food.

5. Institutionalizing Change: The Iowa Food Policy Council should have a closer relationship with the legislature to promote producer and consumer progress. The
Department of Economic Development should include more rural entrepreneurship opportunities, such as developing value added marketing chains. Research and development in our public university system should be focused more on issues and problems for owner-operator agriculture promotion, rather than working with or for corporate-controlled agriculture. We wish to work with you to achieve and preserve this legacy. Iowa’s agricultural heritage is in danger of being lost, or taken over by out-of-state corporations. The urban support for agriculture and good food is tremendous. Rural Iowa economic development cannot be serious without including owner-operator agriculture.

Organization for Competitive Markets
Women’s Food and Agriculture Network
Iowa Farmers Union
Center for Rural Affairs
National Catholic Rural Life Conference
Iowa Network for Local Control
Iowa Network for Community Agriculture
Buy Fresh, Buy Local
Iowa Citizen’s Action Network
Iowa Human Needs Advocates
What Iowa Needs Done
Concerned Citizens of Clemons
Iowans for Local Control
Environment Iowa
Iowa Public Interest Research Group

Agree? Disagree? Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Farmers Guide to Agricultural Credit

Farmer’s Guide to Agricultural Credit

John Bonitz, Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA,

The Rural Advancement Foundation International - USA recently released "The Farmer's Guide to Agricultural Credit." The guide provides step-by-step advice on financing non-traditional farm-based enterprises.

The Farmer's Guide grew out of the Farmer & Lender Project, a partnership between RAFI-USA and the Self-Help Credit Union, supported by the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.

Creative ideas, from growing organic produce to grinding corn into grits, offer farms a way to stay afloat in financially challenging times. However, these ideas can be difficult to explain to lenders who are used to dealing with traditional commodity crops. Farmers have experience with getting annual operating loans, but are often unprepared for the amount of documentation lenders expect for a new enterprise. Agricultural lenders know how to assess risks and benefits of familiar crops, but few of them are prepared to evaluate a new kind of project.

The Farmer's Guide helps close this gap. It outlines how lenders evaluate loan applications, how to communicate ideas to lenders, and what resources are available to help along the way. A steering committee of farmers, commercial and agricultural lenders, representatives of state government and other experts helped produce the Farmer's Guide.

The Farmer's Guide is available on-line at

A limited number of printed copies are available by mail: North Carolina farmers may request a free copy by calling 919-542-1396.

Out-of-state shipping requires $10 to cover the costs of printing and postage.

RAFI-USA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to community, equity, and diversity in agriculture.

Post a question or comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mapmaker Erases Small Towns in Georgia

This story was originally reported by the Associated Press

A total of 488 communities have been erased from the latest version of Georgia's official map, victims of too few people and too many letters of type. Small rural communities like Poetry Tulip, Due West, Po Biddy Crossroads, Cloudland and Roosterville have been erased from the map, but not from reality.

Georgia's official mapmaker, the Department of Transportation, stated that their goal was to make the map clearer and less cluttered and that many of the dropped communities were mere "placeholders," generally with fewer than 2,500 people. "We are under no obligation to show every single community," said Department of Transportation spokesperson Karlene Barron. "While we want to, there's a balancing act. And the map was getting illegible," Barron added.

The state began handing out the new map at rest stops and welcome centers over the summer.
Chattoogaville, a small northwestern Georgia farm community
That doesn't ease the snub to the people who live in those places.

"This gets back to respect for rural areas," said Dennis Holt, who is leading a community group that wants to restore the good name of western Georgia's Hickory Level Community, population 1,000, which was founded in 1828 and recently put up five new welcome signs. "I'm not sure we're going to accomplish anything, but I would have felt bad about myself if I didn't say something about it."

Mapmaking criteria vary by state, and it is not unusual for a little housecleaning over time, often to get rid of place names now considered racially offensive. But other states said it is almost unheard of to see hundreds of communities given the boot in a single year.
In Texas, few of the 2,076 cities and towns are ever deleted because of strict standards that weigh whether a spot is along a state highway, has a post office or boasts a population of 50 or more.

Rand McNally, which as North America's biggest commercial mapmaker sells its maps at gas stations and bookstores, is not going to follow Georgia's example. It said a change of even just a dozen place names on its state maps is rare.

"Our criteria for keeping towns on the map is not just population," said Joel Minster, the company's chief cartographer. "We won't take a town off the map if we can confirm there's still a landmark -- even if there's no people there."

The mapmaker generally deals with clutter by varying the size and style of its print.
Because of the complaints, Georgia transportation officials said they will take another look at their guidelines for what constitutes a "community."

"It's going to take a little bit of work and time, but I think maybe we can get it resolved," said state Rep. Tim Bearden, who represents a western Georgia county that includes Hickory Level Community and eight other towns removed from the map.

Agree? Disagree? Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Monday, December 18, 2006

International Microentprize Holds Leason

International Microenterprise Holds Lessons for Rural Development

by Jon Bailey, Center for Rural Affairs,

As long-time readers know, the Center is an advocate of microenterprise and microcredit as key components to a rural development agenda centered on entrepreneurship and asset-building.

As we have witnessed, microenterprise development can lift people out of poverty and help build strong and sustainable households and communities.

We were, therefore, interested in two recent international developments in the wide ranging field of microenterprise development.

First, Muhammad Yumas was named the new Nobel Peace Prize honoree. Mr. Yumas was the founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and is considered the father of microcredit and microenterprise. The Grameen Bank was the model of many microenterprise development initiatives throughout the world, including the Center’s REAP program.

The honor bestowed upon Mr. Yumas is significant because it recognizes the importance of economic social justice to peace. Yumas’ central theory – and the central theory of REAP and microenterprise development and asset-building initiatives in general – is that lending to low-income people to build business enterprises and assets builds self-sufficiency. In the long run, building businesses and assets is the most effective and efficient anti-poverty strategy around.

A recent article in the Micro Enterprise Journal stated that Yumas’ vision taught that microenterprise development is about an “understanding that just because a man (or woman) is poor, that doesn’t mean he (or she) is unworthy of the American Dream.” Making the opportunity for the American Dream available to all in rural America should be the central goal of rural development policy in the 2007 farm bill.

The second international development comes from the “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” department. On July 27, 2006, Jacqueline Shafer, Assistant Administrator of the Bureau of Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) testified before the U.S. House of Representatives.

The subject of her speech was USAID’s implementation of international microenterprise legislation and appropriations. At a time when domestic microenterprise and small business development funding was being cut or proposed for elimination, the United States obligated over $200 million for microenterprise development in 68 other nations.

The reason for this laudable international response: the U.S. government, according to Ms. Shafer’s testimony, believes microenterprise development “Strengthens economic opportunities for poorer households,” enabling families to build assets, cope with risks … and plan for better futures for their children.” In addition, the U.S. government, according to Ms. Shafer, believes that microenterprise development “can contribute to poverty alleviation in a sustainable and commercially viable way.”

While USAID was making those assertions for rural places in other countries, we and others have found them to be as true for rural America. As we begin debate on a new rural policy, U.S. policymakers should listen to the lessons of the world.

Agree? Disagree? Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Friday, December 15, 2006

MarketPlace: Opening Doors to Success

MarketPlace: Opening Doors to Success

The First of Its Kind in Nebraska

By Marie Powell,, Center for Rural Affairs

Nebraskans have an incredible opportunity to learn new skills, network with successful entrepreneurs and discover new ideas for their small businesses and communities.

The Center for Rural Affairs is sponsoring the first of its kind in the state: MarketPlace: Opening Doors to Success, a new one-day event. The conference will occur on Wednesday, February 28, 2007 at the Ramada Inn in Kearney, Nebraska.

This event is modeled after the highly successful Marketplace of Entrepreneurs held annually in North Dakota and credited with bringing new jobs and employment there.

The Nebraska event will have teach-ins arranged in six different tracks. Tracks include financing, marketing, business development, community capacity, agriculture, and policy and trends.

The program is filled with a wide variety of enticing sessions. Teach-ins will be offered on how the new farm bill affects rural development and conservation and beginning farmers. Rural tourism opportunities and the latest efforts in direct marketing will be looked at as well.

Experts on subjects such as taxes, accounting, legal issues, and technology will be available to answer questions one-on-one.

Terry Whipple, an energetic, inspirational entrepreneur will give a presentation and Chuck Hassebrook, the Center’s Executive Director, will share an inspirational address on rural America.

This is a great event to have in Nebraska. And for those interested in rural entrepreneurship, family farms and ranches, and rural communities this is a great opportunity, and they should strive to attend.

Agree? Disagree? Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Organic Livestock Marketing

Organic and Natural Livestock Marketing Information Meeting Offered in Columbus

Producers interested in learning more about the growing demand for organic and natural meat products can attend an Organic and Natural Livestock Marketing Information Meeting from 1-4:30 p.m. Jan. 13 in Columbus.

The meeting, sponsored by University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension and the Nebraska Chapter of the Organic Crop Improvement Association, will be in Room 205 at Central Community College, 4500 63rd Street. To register, call (402) 584-3837.

"Opportunities exist right now for livestock producers to profit from the rapidly growing demand for organic and natural meat products," said Liz Sarno, UNL Extension educator and organic project coordinator. "This meeting will help answer your questions."

Topics include: increasing livestock market value, how to sell livestock to natural or organic markets, how to diversify an operation, what it takes to transition a herd and the cost of organic certification and new opportunities for a son or daughter to stay on the farm.

Participants also will meet with other organic farmers and find out about their market strategies.

Panel presenters include: Allen Moody, beef and pork coordinator of CROPP Organic Valley Cooperative/Organic Prairie of La Farge, Wis., one of the largest organic market distributers in the U.S.; Klint Stewart, field agent for the Niman Ranch Pork Co., which buys hogs from more than 400 family farmers; Paul Rorbaugh, a leader in the direct marketing of meat to consumers in Nebraska, also a grass-finished beef and pastured poultry producer and director of the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society; Randy Wattermann, a driving force behind the start of Nebraska Food Cooperative, which is a year-round, online farmer's market; and Lori Tatreau, local liaison for Whole Foods Market in Omaha and part-time UNO instructor, who will provide more details on Whole Foods' quality meat standards, approval process and new animal compassion program.

Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Renewal Rural Iowa Program Grows

CIPCO provides $2.5 million to Renew Rural Iowa

from the Iowa Farm Bureau - and thanks to Brian Depew of the Rural Populist Blog - - for his coverage of Renewal Rural Iowa

The Central Iowa Power Cooperative (CIPCO) and its member system have agreed to provide $2.5 million to Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s Renew Rural Iowa program designed to provide mentoring and education with development funding to encourage business expansion and wealth development.

Farm Bureau launched Renew Rural Iowa in September to encourage the growth of new and existing businesses in Iowa communities with a population of less than 30,000. The program is targeted at rural Iowa businesses involved in selling products and services on an interstate basis that want to develop or expand.

Dr. Jan Schuiteman, Chief Executive Officer of Trans Ova Genetics in Sioux Center, Iowa, said the Renew Rural Iowa is an ideal initiative for IIowa businesses that are working to expand and move to the next level.

"When you are starting out, you have a small team by necessity. That means you don’t have the expertise and background you need to grow your company," said Schuiteman, whose livestock embryo transfer and genetics company started in a garage in tiny Ireton, Iowa.

Renew Rural Iowa will also help to create a "culture of entrepreneurship in Iowa," Schuiteman said. "We really haven’t had that in Iowa. There haven’t been a lot of role models and mentors for people here who want to start and grow their own businesses."

Renew Rural Iowa will conduct six two-day seminars across the state to begin the mentoring process for businesses. The seminars will include sessions on writing a business plan, determining appropriate financing, analyzing market research and locating funding sources. On the second day of the seminars, pre-qualified participants will receive hands-on mentoring to accelerate the growth of their existing businesses or to jump start new ones.

The first seminar was held at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
After the entrepreneurs successfully complete the seminars they will be eligible for funding from the investment fund.

The fund now totals $12.5 million. Farm Bureau founded the fund with a $5 million contribution. That was followed by a $5 million contribution from Wellmark, Inc. and the $2.5 million from CIPCO.

For more information or to register for a Renew Rural Iowa seminar, go to Iowa Farm Bureau’s website at

Post a question or comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Do Not Forget About Rural America

Do Not Forget About Rural America

by John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs,

November’s election caused a shift in leadership of the House and Senate Agriculture committees, just as the farm bill debate begins in earnest.

Rural voters from across the nation helped put Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN) at the helm of American farm and rural policy. But no one in rural America believes that is sufficient to bring about the fundamental reforms necessary for the future of rural America.

Agricultural and rural policy is more regional than partisan. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND) are leading proponents of the most pivotal issue in the farm bill debate, federal farm payment limitations. Senators Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) lead the opposition.

Rural polls, from across America, have shown decisive support for limiting farm program payments that mega-farms use to bid up land costs and drive smaller neighbors out. Family farmers, beginning farmers, rural communities… all suffer under a farm program that subsidizes consolidation and diverts financial resources away from investment in practical strategies that can revitalize rural America.

Congress can develop a farm bill that works for everyone. Payment limitations could affect cotton and rice farms at fewer acres than other commodities. Calibrating payment limitations to make them regionally equitable should be pursued.

Congressional supporters of reform must show resolve, however, and refuse to support any farm bill that destroys family farming and undermines rural communities. Rural people must stand up and speak out to ensure that Congress does not forget about rural America.

Agree? Disagree? Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Iraq War Hits Hard in the Heartland

Iraq War Hits Hard in the Heartland Nick Stump

Reading Jim Webb's powerful piece on economic fairness in the Wall Street Journal last week left me thinking about my old hometown of Booneville, Kentucky.

Booneville is one of those small, centered around the courthouse towns in Eastern Kentucky. The town would be familiar to you, in the sense you know the kids drive around the town square on weekends and there's more churches than grocery stores.

Booneville is in Owsley County, one of the poorest counties in the country. But there's plenty of poor to go around in the rural areas all over the country. These days, the long shadow of economic inequity is cast over all of rural America.

We have watched our jobs disappear though outsourcing. Coal mining, family farms, and the timber industry provide fewer rural jobs every year.

What's left is are fast food jobs, or jobs hours away from our homes. One thing we all know, hard economic times are always a boom times for military recruiters. This is especially true for rural America.

Rural Americans have no shortage of patriotism. We're proud of our service, but in this war it's the failing rural economy sending our sons and daughters to fight. Joining the Army is not just a patriotic move, but a way to get money for college, and in many cases, a way to feed some hungry kids.

The recently released Carsey Report tells us the death rate for rural soldiers in Afganistan and Iraq is 60% higher than the rate of their urban counterparts. You can find the Carsey Report at the Center for Rural Strategies' website (PDF).

Dee Davis, President of Rural Strategies in Whitesburg, Kentucky told writer Aaron Glanz in a Oneworld article, "This year we did polling and what we found out was that 75 percent of rural voters knew somebody who had been to Iraq."

I live in a good-sized city. I know there are soldiers from here and I belong to our local VVAW group, but I don't know my city's solders like I did when I lived in Booneville. Most of my friends here don't really know anyone serving in this war either. The people I know serving are friends and children of friends from rural Kentucky, Eastern Tennessee and Southwest Virgina.

There is a fine war memorial in Booneville. My best friend from those days, Ronald McIntosh, has his name on the plaque. He was a young Marine killed outside Danang in 1969. When I heard of his death, it hit me in the gut like a baseball bat. My Uncle Ned died in World War II, but I never knew him as anything but a picture on the wall. I received my draft notice a couple of months after Ronnie was killed, and believe me, at that point, the war was no longer something that happened to other people.

As I grow older, I think more of Ronnie and other brothers who never made it home. I think about all the war memorials in all the small towns of this country, all those names and memories and tears and I wonder--how many more names will there be before we bring our children home from this war?

For rural Americans the war in Iraq is not just the war on TV. When we watch CNN, we are looking for family members and friends. Every knock on the door could be bad news. It is not a just cause. Our sons, daughters, fathers and mothers are dying over there at an alarming rate and they're dying for tuition money and their little piece of this American dream.

I hope you will all visit the Rural Strategies site, read the Carsey Report, see the video report on this issue, and read the full Aaron Glanz article. This is a story the whole country needs to hear.

Agree? Disagree? Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Aspen Puts Heat on EPA over Climate Change

Aspen Puts Heat on EPA over Climate Change

reported by Eric Mack, Colorado News Connection

Ski areas are feeling the heat from global warming, and now Aspen Skiing Company has joined the chorus calling for the Environmental Protection Agency to address the problem.

Colorado ski areas have begun to feel the heat from climate change in recent years... Warmer days and shrinking seasons have prompted Aspen Skiing Company to add its voice to the chorus of states and environmental groups calling for the Environmental Protection Agency to address the problem in a case currently before the Supreme Court. Ed Ramey is an attorney who authored a "friend of the court" brief detailing the concerns of the ski industry...

Ed Ramey, an attorney representing the Aspen Skiing Company points out that current climate models show that Aspen's very existence as a ski destination is in jeopardy. “Over the last 15 years we have been experiencing increasing temperatures on the order of two to three plus degrees on an annual basis,” said Ramey

The case before the court asks the EPA to regulate auto emissions that contribute to global warming. The EPA claims it does not have the authority to make such rules. Oral arguments were presented last week; a decision is not expected for a month or more.

Ramey is concerned that current climate models show that Aspen's very existence as a ski destination is in jeopardy. “Sometime between 2030 and 2100, we could be put in the position where the ski area is no longer economically viable – that doesn't just mean Aspen,” explained Ramey.

Ramey added that Aspen has already had to shoulder the cost of increased snowmaking because of an increase in the number of “frost-free” days.