Since the founding of the Center for Rural Affairs in the fall of 1973, we’ve seen a lot of history and we’ve made a lot of history. And we’ve experienced our share of defining moments, points in time, decisions, and choices that helped define our organization for years, even decades, to come.
One of those defining moments was the 1982 passage of Initiative 300, Nebraska’s erstwhile constitutional prohibition of corporate farming in Nebraska. Some years back that state constitutional provision was, frustratingly, struck down in federal court.
That effort way back in 1982 struck at the heart of corporate America’s effort to assert control over farming and ranching. And it has driven our work challenging corporate farming and mega-farms ever since, including our current work to reform crop insurance and the Center’s heroic efforts, lead by Traci Bruckner, to hold the line against LB 176, legislation in the 2015 Nebraska Legislature that would weaken state law prohibiting meatpacker ownership of livestock.
It isn’t always policy victories (or losses) that define organizations, however. Sometimes it is what you say, what you learn, and what you teach. And ever since we hired Jon Bailey, Rural Policy Director and resident guru of rural research and analysis in 1998, we’ve had a lot to say about rural issues outside farm policy. In the landmark report, Trampled Dreams: The Neglected Economy of the Rural Great Plains,” Jon turned our eyes to the poverty in the midst of rural and small-town America.
In my 20 plus years of nonprofit work, nearly 14 of which occurred here at the Center, Trampled Dreams is the most well-written research report I’ve read. Here’s my favorite excerpt:
"But dreams are often gossamer, and can be trampled upon in an instant. Many of the ancestors of those who sought to build a better life free of political oppression and economic deprivation are now living in poverty without any apparent political strength." Jon Bailey in Trampled Dreams
It was, and is, eye-opening and provocative. If you haven’t read it, you should.
So much of our work, including our work on access to affordable healthcare, has been influenced by Trampled Dreams and Jon’s other work. I sincerely hope we never forget the lessons he has taught us, on Throwback Thursday and every other day.
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