Speakers Bureau

Chuck Hassebrook

HassebrookChuck Hassebrook is Executive Director of the Center for Rural Affairs of Lyons, Nebraska.

The Center is a nationally recognized research, advocacy and development organization that supports small communities, small business and family farming and ranching. Hassebrook has served 35 years with the Center, winning changes in federal tax, farm, conservation and rural development policy.

Hassebrook has served for nearly 18 years University of Nebraska Board of Regents, including two terms as chair. He also serves on the board of the USDA North Central Region Rural Development Center. He previously served on the Nebraska Rural Development Commission, US Department of Agriculture National Commission on Small Farms, USDA Agricultural Science and Technology Review Board and the Board Bread for the World.

Chuck is a University of Nebraska graduate and a native of Platte Center, Nebraska, where his family has been engaged in farming for more than a century. He lives with his wife Kate in Lyons, where they are active in Bethany Lutheran Church. They have two sons, Anton and Peter, both students at the University of Nebraska Lincoln.

Chuck Hassebrook can speak about: A new vision for a strengthening rural America through entrepreneurship, local initiative, and policy reform. He is an expert on rural policy.


Brian Depew

Brian Depew Brian Depew is the Assistant Executive Director and Director of Policy Advocacy & Outreach at the Center for Rural Affairs. He works primarily on federal health, small business, farm and energy policy and organizational leadership.

Brian has appeared widely in the media on rural issues in the region and nationally including the Des Moines Register, the Omaha World Herald, the Washington Post Online and the New York Times.

Brian holds a master's degree in philosophy from Colorado State University and completed additional graduate work at Michigan State University. He is a native of rural Iowa where his family still farms.


Brian Depew can speak about: The impact of federal health, small business, farm and energy policy on rural communities, nonprofit advocacy, and related topics.



Jeff Reynolds

Jeff Reynolds Jeff Reynolds is the Assistant Director of Finance and the Rural Enterprise Assistance Program Director at the Center for Rural Affairs. He leads the Center's microenterprise and small business development programming and oversees all accounting and financial management. Jeff serves as a board member for the Southeast Nebraska Development District.

He is most noted for his work with the Center’s Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP). Joining the program as a field specialist in 1994, Jeff became REAP Director in 2000. Under his guidance, REAP total lending surpassed $7,000,000 in 2012.

REAP provides essential services for startup and existing small businesses in rural Nebraska. These include business training, one-on-one technical assistance/counseling, networking opportunities, micro-lending and loan packaging services.

Jeff Reynolds can speak about: Microenterprise/entrepreneurship, small business development, financing and loan packaging and related topics.


Jon Bailey

Jon directs the Rural Research and Analysis Program at the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Nebraska. Jon is a native of Sterling, Colorado, and a 1980 graduate of Creighton University with a B.A. in Political Science and a 1983 graduate of the Creighton University School of Law. Jon practiced law for 12 years in Sterling, Colorado, including four years as the elected District Attorney for Colorado’s 13th Judicial District.

In 1996 he received a Masters in Public Policy from The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Jon was awarded a 1996 Presidential Management Intern award and served as a Special Assistant to the Associate Commissioner for Policy at the Social Security Administration in Washington, DC. In 1997, he became a Legislative Fellow for United States Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota. Jon came to the Center for Rural Affairs in 1998. Jon and his wife Ginger live in Bancroft, Nebraska.

Jon Bailey can speak about: Rural asset and wealth building, including rural development policy; Rural poverty, and Rural demographics.


Dena Beck

Dena Beck is a REAP Business Specialist and serves the Southwest and Central regions of Nebraska encompassing 16 counties providing micro start-ups and existing micro businesses with technical assistance, small business loan opportunities, networking and training events.

Dena came to REAP from the Minden Chamber of Commerce and Kearney County Economic Development Agency where she served as Director for 5 years.

She has a B.S. in Horticultural Therapy from Kansas State University and graduated from Heartland Economic Development Course. Dena also has a Masters of Science degree in Organizational Management from Peru State College with minors in Entrepreneurship and Economic Development.

Dena Beck can speak about: Small business development, generational differences, alternative financing and business transition.


Traci Bruckner

TraciTraci is Assistant Director of the Rural Policy Program at the Center for Rural Affairs. Traci is a native of rural Nebraska. She is a graduate of Wayne State College, with degrees in political science and rural sociology. Traci leads the Center’s work on conservation policy and beginning farmer and rancher policy. She serves on the USDA Advisory Committee for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers.

Traci Bruckner can speak about: Payment limitations, Conservation programs, Beginning farmer issues, Family farm issues, and Sustainable agriculture in relation to federal policy and the polices that support sustainable farming systems/family farms


John Crabtree

Crabtree John is the Media Director at the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Nebraska. A native of Iowa, John has devoted his professional and personal life to strengthening rural communities throughout the Midwest.

A diverse background enriches John’s work. John has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry with minors in Chemistry and Biology from the University of Iowa. He has served as a community development specialist in North Dakota, run grassroots political campaigns throughout the region, and has led the development and media teams at the Center for Rural Affairs since 2005 after previously serving for four years as an organizer and public policy analyst for the Center for Rural Affairs from 1996 to 2000.

John has testified before the United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry on several occasions. He worked with members of Congress and 11 state legislatures on development and passage of legislation relating to livestock concentration and market competition policy. John has served on numerous policy and advisory committees, including Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack’s advisory committee on agriculture.

John Crabtree can speak about: Competition and market concentration in agriculture, Media and how to use it for your cause, and Development related issues.


Wyatt Fraas

Wyatt has helped beginning farmers and ranchers find information for their businesses for over 10 years through his work with the Center for Rural Affairs. His background includes work in wildlife management and natural resources in several western states, as well as managing a ranch for several years. He now helps farmers and ranchers with alternative marketing and production practices. He and his wife raise a few sheep for wool and meat near Coleridge, Nebraska.

Wyatt Fraas can speak about: Beginning farmer issues, Risk management, Farm transitions, and Alternative crops and marketing.


Steph Larsen

Steph Larsen is a Rural Policy Organizer with the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Nebraska. Before coming to the Center she worked as a policy organizer and policy director for the Community Food Security Coalition in their Washington, D.C. office. Steph also brings experience in environmental and labor organizing to her work. Her work falls at the intersection of policy, grassroots organizing and on-the-ground practice.

Steph earned her BS in geology from the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, and her master's degree in geography from UW-Madison. She completed her master's research in Mexico on sustainable agriculture and corn agrobiodiversity. Steph was born and raised in northwest Wisconsin.

Steph Larsen can speak about: Nonprofit policy advocacy, grassroots organizing, and farm and rural policy


Janelle Moran

Janelle, a native of Tecumseh, Nebraska, received her BS in Business Administration Management from Peru State College. Janelle spent the first 9 years of her career working at Peru State College and Southeast Community College, where she most recently was the Director of Admissions and Recruitment at Peru State until June, 2005.

Janelle joined the Center for Rural Affairs staff in June of 2005 as a REAP Business Specialist in Southeast Nebraska. Janelle serves counties in that region, providing micro start-ups and existing micro businesses with technical assistance, small business loan opportunities, networking and training events. Janelle works from her home based office located outside of Tecumseh.

Janelle Moran can speak about: Microenterprise, Small business development, and Business transition.


Eugene Rahn

Gene has been with the Center for Rural Affairs Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) for many years working with small business owners in Nebraska. A home office located in Atkinson is the base for serving the counties in north central Nebraska.

Gene has worked at building collaborative lending partnerships with banks, development districts, revolving loan funds and other lenders. Collaborative lending provides additional available capital for small business owners to start or expand their businesses in rural Nebraska.

Additional lending and economic development activities present and past include serving on the Northeast Nebraska Economic Development District Loan Board, member of the Nebraska Economic Development Corporation, Nebraska Enterprise Opportunity Network, and Nebraska Development Network.

Gene Rahn can speak about: Microenterprise, Small business development, and Business financing.

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