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

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

USDA Offers Rural Business Grants

USDA Offers Rural Business Grants

Bryan Daniel, with the USDA Rural Development State Director announced the agency is accepting applications for the Rural Business Opportunity Grant (RBOG) Program for fiscal year 2007. Applications will compete nationwide for the funding.

The primary objective of the RBOG Program is to improve the economic conditions of rural areas. Assistance provided to rural areas under this program includes technical assistance for business development and conducting economic development planning. The grants are available to public bodies, non-profits, federally recognized Tribal groups and cooperatives.

Applications for RBOG non-earmarked funds will not exceed $50,000 and for multi-state projects $150,000. Completed applications must be submitted to the Texas USDA Rural Development Office, 101 South Main, Suite 102, Temple, Texas 76502, by March 30, 2007. Applications will be tentatively scored by the State Office, with the two highest scoring project applications being considered for funding and submitted to the National Office for final review and selection.

USDA Rural Development works to ensure that rural citizens can participate fully in the global economy by providing technical assistance, funding, and other programs that help rural American build strong economies to improve their quality of life.

For additional information or an application package, contact Danny Torres at (254) 742-9780. For information regarding USDA Rural Development Programs, visit

©Nueces County Record Star 2007

Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Sowing the Seeds

In March of 2003, a small group of rural Nebraska United Methodists, under the auspices of Peace with Justice Ministries formed the Sowing the Seeds Covenant group. It has grown to include representatives from other denominations. The goals of the group are to pray, study, and act for rural Nebraska. The newly formed group decided that the design of a Christian-based adult study could be helpful in fostering healthy discussions about God’s dream for rural people, their communities, and the land.

The project has piloted in various locations throughout the state of Nebraska. It is designed for small groups of 12 for six-60 minute sessions.

The study group may consist of local community residents and pastors of different congregations. Each week the conversations and ideas broaden as people began to see the downfall of their own community in another light – what has been driving away our youth, why can’t we hold on to factory based business, how did the decline of the family farm start, what can I do to better my community and state?

These discussions can’t be answered by a small group of people. This project has a snowball effect, it starts out small and gradually each snowflake picks up a few more until the snowball is so large, that it must be dealt with. Participants are invited to join the Rural Action Network, a project of the Center for Rural Affairs, which will enable individuals and/or groups to make a difference, both statewide and at the federal level.

The goals for the sessions include:
- Create space to hear the voice of God.
- Encourage discussion about trends in rural Nebraska communities.
- Explore biblical understanding of land management.
- Discuss how public policy shapes our future.
- Discuss the pros and cons of policy proposals for a better future.
- Engage parishioners in creating a better rural future by participating in policy debates.

The Sowing the Seeds curriculum is adaptable to rural faith communities throughout rural America. To obtain a copy of the curriculum contact Kim Preston,, 402-687-2100. Also, coming very soon, Sowing the Seeds will be online at

Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Meetings to Discuss Farm Bill in Iowa

Meetings to Discuss Farm Bill in Iowa

Lyons, Nebraska – Traci Bruckner will be representing the Center for Rural Affairs at a Farm Bill meeting held at the University of Iowa, Indiana Room in Iowa City, 7:00 p.m., Thursday, January 25th, 2007. It is one of five Farm Bill meetings being held in five communities across Iowa.

Farmers and rural residents are encouraged to attend the Farm Bill meetings to provide ideas on how this farm bill can work to create a real future for beginning and family farms and rural communities. "For better or worse, the 2007 Farm Bill has the potential to be a tremendous instrument of change in Iowa and the rest of rural America. It is important to bring voices into this debate that have not received enough attention in the past - small family farmers, beginning farmers, rural citizens concerned with economic growth in their communities, and anyone concerned with the environmental health of the countryside and the safety and quality of our food supply. I think these meetings provide a forum for all those viewpoints," commented Jana Linderman, a volunteer from Cedar Rapids who is helping organize the meeting.

In addition to discussing ideas that farmers and rural people bring to the meeting, the meeting will cover policy options that have been developed to address barriers and opportunities for beginning, and family farmers and ranchers, such as the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. This program holds great hope for beginning farmers and ranchers, but was never funded under the 2002 farm bill.

Also discussed will be the Value Added Producer Grants Program, a program that has helped family farmers and ranchers create high-value, niche markets.

“To ensure that policy makers are educated on how the next farm bill creates a future for all of rural America, it is important to work together,” says Bruckner, Assistant Director for the Center for Rural Affairs Rural Policy Program.

Location – University of Iowa, Indiana Room, Iowa City, IA
Date – Thursday, January 25th, 2007 7:00 p.m.

Location – St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Dorchester, IA
Date – Monday, January 29th, 2007 7:00 p.m.

Location – Wild Rose Casino, Emmetsburg, IA
Date – Tuesday, January 30th, 2007 7:00 p.m.

Location – Cass County Community Center, Atlantic, IA
Date – Monday, February 5th, 2007 7:00 p.m.

Location – Iowa State University, Cardinal Room, Ames, IA
Date –Tuesday, February 6th, 2007 7:00 p.m.

post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Why No One Should Miss Marketplace...

Why No One Should Miss Marketplace

By John Crabtree,, Center for Rural Affairs

On Wednesday, February 28, 2007 people will have the opportunity to participate in Marketplace: Opening Doors to Success, at the Ramada Inn in Kearney, Nebraska. Marketplace is the first conference of its kind in this part of the country and will focus on how entrepreneurship and innovation can help our rural communities thrive by focusing on proven rural strategies to build assets and create economic opportunities from within.

The Center for Rural Affairs decided to host Marketplace after discussing the success of North Dakota’s Marketplace with the planners of that annual event.

Exhibiting at MarketPlace provides an excellent opportunity for professionals to reach an audience seeking opportunities to start and grow their businesses. Individuals attending the conference will be afforded the opportunity to make professional contacts, network with other entrepreneurs, and locate potential customers and suppliers. With 50 booths filled with successful small businesses and service providers, attendees will meet exhibitors with a broad array of business and professional experience.

Marketplace attendees will also have the opportunity to participate in teach-ins focusing on financing, marketing, community capacity, innovative agricultural opportunities, small business development and public policy. Experts in many fields such as attorneys, accountants, web designers, etc. will be available to answer participant questions.

Entrepreneurs, farmers, ranchers, community leaders, rural developers, … everyone interested in revitalizing rural communities and rural economies will find many opportunities to meet, listen to and talk with their peers and other experts about rural community development and issues impacting rural communities.

For more information:

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

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Building Entrepreneurial Communities Grants...

Action Alert -- Economic Development Opportunity!

If you live in Nebraska, you have until February 9, 2007, to apply for a Building Entrepreneurial Communities (BECA) grant.

If you live anywhere else, perhaps you should contact your state legislator and urge them to sponsor legislation to create the same kind of grant program in your state...

The purpose of the Building Entrepreneurial Communities Program is to support economically depressed rural areas of Nebraska in building entrepreneurial communities through grants that will create community capacity to build and sustain programs to generate and retain wealth in the community and region.

The Department of Economic Development (DED), with assistance provided by the Rural Development Commission (RDC), has established a grant process to provide grants to two or more municipalities or counties that are collaborating on a project related to the purpose of the Building Entrepreneurial Communities Program with priority given to projects that best alleviate chronic economic distress.

Eligible applicants include every local government (municipality or county). Two or more local governments must collaborate on the project. At least one of the local governments must have chronic economic distress as indicated by:

1. An unemployment rate which exceeds the statewide average unemployment rate;
2. A per capita income below the statewide average per capita income; or
3. A population loss between the two most recent federal decennial censuses.

Note: see section following the Application Form for the distress criteria information

Eligible activities must be projects that address one (or more) of the following:

1. Provide education and technical assistance to energize small business development and entrepreneurship;
2. Provide technical assistance to facilitate small business transfer;
3. Build community business capacity and leadership programs;
4. Generate opportunities that will attract and retain young people and families;
5. Provide education about philanthropy and intergenerational transfer of wealth; and
6. Build community endowments to support these activities.

for more information, got to a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Harkin May Not Include Tough Payment Caps in His Farm Bill

Harkin May Not Include Tough Payment Caps in His Farm Bill

exerpted from Agriculture Online story by Dan Looker, Successful Farming Business Editor

Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), who remains a strong supporter of putting a firm cap on commodity program payments, said Thursday that he may not include a strict payment limit in the farm bill he will submit to his committee.

"We'll have a vigorous debate. We'll probably have it in the committee and we'll have it on the floor (of the full Senate)," he told reporters Thursday.

Harkin was asked to respond to a comment that House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson made at the Farm Bureau convention in Salt Lake City this week. Peterson said passing a farm bill would be difficult without support from Southern members of Congress, who have opposed capping program payments.

Harkin said that "in a sense, he's right" referring to Peterson's recognition of the regional politics of the payment limits issue. Some large commercial corn and wheat farmers would be affected by a firm cap, but cotton and rice farmers are likely to be the hardest hit. If Harkin left this issue out of his bill, it might make writing a new farm bill easier.

"To be frank with you, I haven't made a decision whether to include it (payment limits) in the chairman's mark," he said, referring to the bill he would submit to the committee to consider.

"Maybe the best way to do this is on the floor" of the Senate.

Harkin believes that payment limits have broad bipartisan support in the Senate, so the farm bill could be amended to include them when the full Senate considers the bill.

"I think that it's clear. Payment limits are going to happen," he said.

Harkin made it clear, though, that he does intend to make major changes in the next farm bill.
"This new farm bill is not going to be your old-fashioned farm bill as we've known it in the past," he said.

Harkin wants to spend a lot more money on conservation programs and on developing bioenergy. He'd like to have programs that help farmers make a transition to growing energy crops such as switchgrass, one of many possible sources of cellulosic ethanol.

Harkin said that it won't be possible to finish writing a farm bill until the Senate decides how much money to spend on it. He'd like the Senate Budget Committee to add back some $16 billion that has been saved from current commodity program spending, compared to projections when the 2002 bill was passed. And he'd like the $4 billion that the Administration cut from conservation spending made available for the farm bill. He said the committee can't do much on the farm bill before having budget numbers for potential spending, probably at the end of March or in April.

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

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

There is more to the farm bill than farming

There is more to farm bill than farming

By Elisha Greeley Smith, Center for Rural Affairs,

Many rural people do not think about the farm bill, assuming it affects only farmers. But the farm bill affects all of America.

The farm bill has, for decades, been the primary federal support mechanism for rural America. But it is not working.

Unlimited farm program payments are fueling consolidation by driving up land costs and driving smaller farm operations out of business. Small main street businesses that once served those farms are disappearing as a result.

As those businesses disappear there are fewer jobs and the jobs that are available often pay low wages. Current rural policy is forcing the next generation of rural residents to settle for lower incomes, fewer assets and a diminished quality of life.

Now is the time to reach out to Congress. With the New Year comes a new Congress, new Agriculture Committee members and new chairmen; just as the writing of the farm bill begins in earnest. The 2007 farm bill will impact every American - by affecting our farms and ranches; our soil and water; our rural communities; our taxes and the food we eat.

The farm bill must invest in the future of rural America through proven, effective strategies such as entrepreneurial development, conservation, community development, encouraging new farmers, and building assets in rural areas.

If you think that the farm bill is worth caring about, go to for information about our farm bill proposals and please get involved. Strengthening rural America strengthens all of America.

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

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Conservation Security Draws Farmers to Capitol

CSP Draws Farmers to Capitol

Top USDA staff visit with farmers about their support and their suggested changes for the Conservation Security Program

by Traci Bruckner,

Farmers from Nebraska, Iowa, and Maryland met with USDA’s Natural Resource and Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Arlen Lancaster and other NRCS staff on November 27, 2006 to discuss the Conservation Security Program (CSP).

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss farmers’ concerns with CSP implementation and ways the program could be strengthened. But, just as importantly, it was a chance for farmers to share their experiences, both positive and negative, with the program and their support for CSP.

Our report, The Conservation Security Program: An Assessment of Farmers’ Experience with Program Implementation released in fall 2006 provided the basis for the visit. Through that report we examined the issues impacting the effectiveness of CSP by looking at the program through the perspective of farmers and ranchers.

A major concern of the visiting group was the nature of declining enhancement payments over the life of their contracts. Dave Welsch, a farmer from Milford, Nebraska, told NRCS that declining enhancement payments need to be eliminated because they disadvantage farmers who have always practiced conservation. Under this regulatory provision the best are not being compensated, so the CSP motto of “Reward the Best and Motivate the Rest” is not holding true.

The farmers also lobbied members of Congress on Capitol Hill on the need for increased funding for CSP. They want to see the program fully funded, citing problems with the current watershed rotation. It is unfair when a farmer on one side of the road receives CSP payments and the neighbor across the road doesn’t because he or she isn’t in the chosen watershed.

They believe it puts the recipient of the CSP payments at an unfair advantage because they have extra funds to buy or rent more land. The other farmer who cannot enroll in CSP is at a disadvantage because she or he can’t compete.

CSP’s intent was not to provide a competitive advantage to one farmer over another, and thus it is critical that the Conservation Security Program be fully funded. Congress, in the 2002 farm bill, intended for CSP to be a program for farmers and ranchers demonstrating good stewardship across the nation. But budget cuts have drastically restricted the program to select watersheds, impeding the ability of many conservation-minded farmers and ranchers to participate.

Congress must make CSP funding a priority in the 2007 farm bill and voice their clear conviction that they will remain committed to CSP in the long run. For a full copy of the report see:

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

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Global climate change???

-- editor's note, for some reason this post was not published when it was orginally posted back on December 29th, so I am republishing it today...

I have read an advance copy of the annual global temperature report from the National Oceanographic Aeronautics Administration, and they will report, shortly after the first of the year, that 2006 was the hottest year on record, easily beating out the previous two hottest years which were, 2005 and 2004, respectively.

We always have skeptics when we discuss global climate change, I thought, for this statistic, perhaps it is better to just report the numbers and see if anyone chooses to comment.

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

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Maine Governor Urges Mass School Consolidation

Maine governor urges mass consolidation of school districts, many rural

-- editor's note... this post is from our friends at the Rural Blog at the University of Kentucky and the link under the title will take you directly there, the story was also reported in Education Week prior to the Rural Blog... john

Maine Gov. John E. Baldacci wants to "eliminate hundreds of locally elected school boards and scores of superintendents and replace them with 26 regional boards and schools chiefs," Education Week recently reported. "Maine has 195,000 students and 290 school districts, each with an elected school board. Many are in rural parts of the state and enroll a small number of students. In many cases, such districts have formed a “union” with neighboring districts to share a superintendent and central-office administration."

State Education Commissioner Susan Gendron told Education Week reporter Lesli Maxwell, “By having only 26 districts rather than 290, we could meet on a monthly basis with all the superintendents and with all the curriculum coordinators to talk about our standards and best practices, and to get agreement on what our academic outcomes need to be.”

The regional sboards would have between five and 15 elected members. "The regions would follow the same boundaries used now to govern Maine’s vocational education program. The regional districts would vary in size from 1,800 students to nearly 20,000," Maxwell writes.

Kim Bryant Bedard, president of the Maine School Boards Association, told Education Week, “These regions don’t make any sense. Some of us could be driving an hour just to be able to see the superintendent.”

Maxwell also notes: "In New Jersey, lawmakers are debating a similar consolidation plan on a pilot basis. Rural Gloucester County, which has 10 districts, is seen as a likely candidate for the program, said state Sen. Bob Smith, a Democrat who is sponsoring the measure." (Read more)

Thoughts? Concerns? Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

#10 Reason Rural Community Development is Hard to Do

Leadership Capacity

-- editors note, this is the ninth in a top ten list of reasons why rural community development is hard to do by Michael Holton that ran as the feature article in the December 2006 Center for Rural Affairs newsletter... john

Of all of the factors and indicators of small town demise, I see the lack of leadership as the biggest of all. We are changing, and leadership is needed to address these conditions. The very definition of change is the ability to bring people and ideas together without coercion or force.

I heard a leader in one of the rural communities I work with say to me, “Why should I take leadership training, I am already a leader!” What this said to the community was that he was unwilling to lead the town in a positive direction. There is untapped leadership in every community, and one of our goals should be looking for those resources.

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

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Grocery Stores that Lined Main Street were...

Rural Communities Embrace Cooperative Grocery Stores

by Nafeesa Syeed, Associated Press, January 8, 2007...

ANITA, Iowa -- The grocery stores that lined Main Street were always key to the little farm town of Anita, Iowa.

At one time, four groceries met the needs of the large families who lived in the town and surrounding areas. Maxine Christensen recalls the horses that farmers once hitched behind her family's general store. “Grocery stores were a staple of town,” said the 85-year-old Christensen.

Times have changed as Anita's population dwindled and larger competitors arrived, but the final market remained so important that its pending closure spurred residents to buy shares and create a grocery cooperative.

Co-ops are old hat for most Midwest farmers, but experts believe only a dozen or so across the nation have been created to hang onto community groceries. It's a move some think will spread to other rural areas beset by similar problems, but they caution that such efforts carry risk.

In Anita, townspeople felt they had no choice – loss of the 90-year-old Main Street Market would mean a virtual end to downtown traffic and trouble for the businesses that remained. And residents wondered what would become of their town without a gathering spot.
"I know quite a few people in town really just because of the store," said Don Norris, 40, who buys all his meat at the market.

In creating the Anita Grocery Cooperative, residents formed a board and sold about 300 shares at $200 a piece. The co-op board also took out $150,000 in public and private loans. On Dec. 1, the market opened its doors under new ownership.

Although most residents could have managed the inconvenience of a longer drive for groceries in the regional city of Atlantic, rural towns lose something when fixtures such as a grocery store close. A domino effect kicks in and other businesses begin closing, said Kimberley Zeuli, who studies rural cooperatives and is a visiting professor of economics at The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

"At some point, it's no longer a town," Zeuli said. "It's just a gas station."

Townspeople understand this shift and often try to fight it, frequently by embracing the very chain competitors who put Main Street shops out of business. But many communities can't entice a Wal-Mart or Target, and in the past decade more have turned to innovative approaches such as co-ops, Zeuli said.

Of the roughly 300 food-store cooperatives nationwide, 5 percent or less are conventional grocery stores, said Stuart Reid, a food co-op development specialist with Food Co-op 500.

The private organization grants money to cooperatives through sponsors such as the National Cooperative Bank.

Any thoughts? Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

#9 Reason Rural Community Development is Hard to Do

Purpose of Existence

-- editors note, this is the ninth in a top ten list of reasons why rural community development is hard to do by Michael Holton that ran as the feature article in the December 2006 Center for Rural Affairs newsletter... john

Community identity is often clouded by confusion over the true motive for the community’s existence. Every small town in America, rural or not, has an identity and a purpose. This is part of the culture that is passed from one generation to the next. Communities have forgotten why they exist, and when change has altered that reason, they have not learned to adapt to the change.

History plays a large role in establishing the purpose and ultimately the pride we feel towards our hometown. The key to survival is to not live in the past. The truth is that history is not static; it is dynamic.

We are making history in our communities everyday. History is the change we make to our communities to make them better. In the end these changes serve a purpose for the community’s very existence.

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

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Monday, January 08, 2007

#8 Reason Community Development is Hard to Do

Lack of Participation across the Generations

-- editors note, this is the eighth in a top ten list of reasons why rural community development is hard to do by Michael Holton that ran as the feature article in the December 2006 Center for Rural Affairs newsletter... john

This question is always brought up in two ways. The lack of volunteers for community events causes an outcry, yet youths and senior citizens complain of not being asked to participate in a meaningful way. I often hear, “Why should I voice my opinion, they don’t care anyway?” This is brought up by both young people and the elderly.

Small communities talk about the crisis in the dwindling number of volunteers for special events and the burnout that occurs with the volunteers they do have. So why are the elderly and youth left out? Communication is a big key to crossing generations and finding a meaningful way to include all of the community rather than a few overworked individuals. An inclusive, open communication process benefits all.

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

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Friday, January 05, 2007

#7 Reason Community Development is Hard to Do

7. Negative Attitudes

-- editors note, this is the seventh is a top ten list of reasons why rural community development is hard to do by Michael Holton that ran in the December 2006 Center for Rural Affairs newsletter... john

It easier to be an art critic than it is to be an artist. In small rural community development, we all know what we will hear from many of the residents of a town. It is nearly always negative and destructive.

I often say in meetings in small rural communities that I can find out everything that is wrong with the community in one hour at the local coffee shop. It takes me much longer to get people to talk about what is good about their community.

We need to focus on positive contributions of the community and its people to the world as we know it. Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) is an approach that works well in identifying positive attributes of our communities and starts the conversation in a positive direction. We will discuss this concept and practice later.

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

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

From Cradle to Career - 2007 Quality Counts Education Report

Quality Counts 2007

- editor's note - this post is taken from Education Week's news release regarding the 2007 Quality Counts report - From Cradle to Career - follow the link under the title or the link below for the full report and much more information...

A child born in Virginia is significantly more likely to experience success throughout life than the average child born in the United States, while a child born in New Mexico is likely to face an accumulating series of hurdles both educationally and economically, according to an analysis published by Education Week.

The analysis by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center is based on the “Chance-for-Success Index,” which tracks state efforts to connect education from preschool through postsecondary education and training. The index was developed by the EPE Research Center for Quality Counts 2007: From Cradle to Career, Connecting American Education from Birth to Adulthood, produced by Education Week with support from the Pew Center on the States. The report is available online at

The Chance-for-Success Index provides a perspective on the importance of education throughout a person’s lifetime and is based on 13 indicators that highlight whether young children get off to a good start, succeed in elementary and secondary school, and hit key educational and income benchmarks as adults.

Virginia, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire rank at the top of the index, while Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Arizona, Louisiana, and New Mexico lag significantly behind the national average in descending order.

“Smart states, like smart companies, try to make the most of their investments by ensuring that young people’s education is connected from one stage to the next – reducing the chances that students will be lost along the way or require costly remedial programs to acquire skills or knowledge they could have learned right from the start,” said Virginia B. Edwards, the editor and publisher of Education Week and Quality Counts.

The 13 indicators that make up the index capture key performance or attainment outcomes at various stages in a person’s lifetime or are correlated with later success. For example, in the early-childhood years, indicators include the percent of children living in families that earn a decent wage and the percent of children with at least one parent who has a postsecondary degree – factors that research shows have an impact on how well children perform in school.

Christopher B. Swanson, the director of the EPE Research Center reported that, “We find that a child’s life prospects depend greatly on where he or she lives.”

- editor's note - Minnesota ranked third nationally in providing opportunities for its children to succeed in life, just behind Virginia and Connecticut. Wisconsin ranked 8th, Nebraska 9th and Iowa 11th. North Dakota was in a three-way tie for 12th with Kansas and Illinois.

Minnesota scored will in eleven areas, including high school graduation rate (79%) and adults with incomes at or above the national averge (55%). North Dakota did well in nine areas, including high school graduation rate (83 %); young adults enrolled in two or four year colleges or with degrees (58%); and children with at least one parent with a postsencondary degree (58% - the highest in the nation). But North Dakota lagged in income at or aboce the national average (42%) and preschool enrollment (26%).

Minnesota and North Dakota were rated highly in an evaluation of achievement for K-12 education, tying for fifth in the nation behind Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont and Connecticut. Although the findings in the report may indicate that where a child grows up matters, growing up in more rural states, especially in the Midwest and Northern Great Plains, can be more of an asset than Education Week mentions in their release.

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

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

#6 Reason Rural Community Development is Hard to Do

Lack of Resources and Capacity

by Michael Holton, Center for Rural Affairs,

-- editors note, this is the sixth is a top ten list of reasons why rural community development is hard to do by Michael Holton that ran in the December 2006 Center for Rural Affairs newsletter... john

Due to depopulation, the changing face of agriculture, and dwindling businesses in towns, the ability to find what we need locally has diminished. We are forced to look to outside resource agencies for help and to find the resources we once found locally.

Viewing this in economic terms creates a bleak picture, but not one without hope. Choices become clearer when we understand the realities. We may still need to buy products out of town, and we may need to ask for help from outside agencies. But when we make our own community development choices, we can strengthen the local economy based upon the diversity our choices bring.

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

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Court of Appeals Rules on Initiative 300

Federal appeals court upholds ruling that Initiative 300, Nebraska’s prohibition on corporate farming, is unconstitutional

by John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs,

In 1982, by a vote of the people, the constitution of Nebraska was amended to include a provision which prohibited corporate farming in Nebraska – Initiative 300.

Twenty-four years later, on December 13, 2006, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion affirming U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith-Camp’s December 2005 decision that declared Initiative 300 in violation of the United States Constitution.

Judge Smith-Camp never held a trial to discern the evidence in the case. She ruled that Initiative 300 is unconstitutional on its face, essentially because it is inconvenient for out-of-state interests to comply with the provision in Initiative 300 that requires that a family member live on or operate the farm or ranch to qualify as an allowed family farm or ranch corporation. The three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals concurred.

“This is a flawed ruling. This is what happens when the courts make crucial decisions without holding a trial and hearing the facts of a case,” said Chuck Hassebrook, Executive Director of the Center for Rural Affairs. “Initiative 300 should have its day in court,” argued Hassebrook.

The circuit court’s decision compounded another problem with the district court’s ruling: it’s wrong on the facts. Initiative 300 does not distinguish between in-state and out-of-state corporations. For example, a Montana rancher who works everyday on his Montana ranch could qualify his operation as a family ranch corporation just as easily as a Sandhills rancher, and having done so could place cattle in Nebraska custom feedlots just like Nebraska ranchers.

Moreover, the legal precedent established by this ruling is broad and dangerously expansive. It could undermine a wide range of state laws and dramatically diminish the power of states to control corporate power and excess.

In his appeal to the 8th Circuit Court, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning argued, “Initiative 300, Nebraska’s ban on corporate farming, does not violate the commerce clause, nor does it discriminate against out-of-state individuals or corporations.”

He was right – and since he will decide whether to continue the battle to protect Initiative 300 and the right of Nebraskans to choose family farms and ranches over corporate farms – we urge him to reaffirm his commitment to Initiative 300 and what the law has meant to family farmers, ranchers, rural communities, and the economic and social well-being throughout Nebraska for the last 24 years. We urge him to continue the fight.

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

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Monday, January 01, 2007

#5 Reason Community Development is Hard to Do

Parochial Attitudes

by Michael Holton, Center for Rural Affairs,

editor's note - this is an excerpt from the "ten reasons why rural communiting development is hard to do..." from the December 2006 Center for Rural Affairs newsletter feature by Michael Holton - this excerpt includes the narrative explaining the fifth reason...

You hear the term parochial brought up in discussions regarding rural communities, even with those trying to work together regionally. Many people do not know what parochial means or why it is used in the context of community development. Our definition refers to small rural communities being insular or narrow in focus or scope.

Parochial attitudes in small rural communities [reflect] the ability [of] these areas to shut themselves off from the outside. Communities, particularly small rural communities in the Midwest, have the notion that they have always managed to do it on their own, and they don't need any outside help. It is this independent desire of the people that is reflected in local institutions and their way of doing businesss.

The problem with this attitude today is that small rural communities cannot do it on their own as we tranistion from a local to a global economy. This [is] change and upheaval in the traditional sense of economic and social development.

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

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.