Upcoming white paper focuses on risks and barriers farmers face in addressing water quality

The goals of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS) focus on both point and nonpoint sources of pollution. Point sources likely come from industrial or sewage treatment plants, and nonpoint sources are dilute and come from water runoff.

Yet, many outreach efforts of the NRS are focused on engaging the agriculture community to reduce nonpoint source pollution. Rates of conservation practices have increased with these efforts, but are still nowhere near where they need to be to meet the goals of the NRS. And, though the total acreage of cover crop adoption is increasing, the adoption rate declined 10 percent from 2016 to 2017.

Many farmers feel they are under attack from urban stakeholders and environmental advocates. The threat of regulation seems to drive a rise in farmer knowledge and engagement on farming techniques to address water quality. But, farmers may encounter real or perceived risks when adopting a new practice. To balance those risks, technical and financial support can help.

Last year, Center for Rural Affairs staff administered a survey to explore how Iowa farmers perceive risks from transitioning to new farming systems, and any social risks of failing to transition. We also conducted interviews with watershed leaders to further understand what risks and barriers farmers face to adopt new on-farm practices to address water quality.

The farmers tended to be conservation-oriented, and mostly owned and/or managed smaller than average farms. They indicated their most serious barriers to engagement in a watershed effort, or adoption of a conservation practice, are limited cost-share funds, poor access to technical assistance, and lack of awareness or knowledge. Not surprisingly, respondents indicated practices that return value to the farm are most likely to be well-received.

A majority of farmers stated they do not feel social pressure to manage for water quality. Yet, one of the most important questions they consider when deciding whether to try a new management practice is, “Do I know other people who have successfully used this practice?” Farmers may look to each other for advice and knowledge, and gain insights by learning from others’ experiences. Farmers also clearly listed soil health and erosion as top priorities to address risk in their operations.

As Iowa continues to expand its watershed approach to water quality, understanding the needs, risks, and barriers farmers face will be critical to meeting the goals of the NRS. Our upcoming white paper dives deeper into these questions and offers insights into best approaches to engaging farmers in watershed planning.

The white paper will be released on our website soon. Follow us on social media or check our home page for the latest rural news. Read more about Upcoming white paper focuses on risks and barriers farmers face in addressing water quality

  • EnvironmentWater
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Transmission line development: the benefits, effects, and how to prepare yourself

Three development projects in Kansas, Wisconsin, and Minnesota show how states manage revenues and tax assessments from transmission lines in different ways.

Center for Rural Affairs policy associate, Katie Rock, and policy associate, Lu Nelsen, recently discussed these examples on the Rural Matters podcast with host John White. They also gave tips on how best to communicate with developers, as well as advice for community members on how they can educate themselves about development projects.

Benefits and opportunities

Tax revenue

In each state, revenue from transmission line development projects are used differently. Counties in each state choose how they utilize the revenue.

In Minnesota, revenue is used to decrease property taxes.

Wisconsin receives environmental impact fees. While different than tax revenue, $9 million has been distributed in three counties. The money is used for a variety of conservation and community improvement projects.

“Providing that choice allowed each county to tailor how they wanted to use that revenue, which is essential for small towns where there aren’t universal needs,” said Nelsen. “Every small town is different, and having that choice available allows you to make the best decision for your community.”


Revenue from transmission projects in Kansas are tax exempt for the first 10 years. However, a small amount of revenue is collected through taxes assessed on substations, which was then shared with county agencies. The state legislature placed a cap on tax revenues that could go to schools, which became the focus of this example.

“The schools missed out on any tax revenue from this transmission development,” said Rock. “That's where these state policies impacted the revenues that could be spent at a local level.”

Job opportunities

Transmission line development brings in accessible jobs to rural areas. Community colleges and technical schools often offer training programs for this kind of work.

“Students right out of high school can go into these programs,” said Nelsen. “They can get on the fast track to some of the fastest growing jobs in the U.S.; jobs that pay well for a rural area.”

People looking to switch careers may have luck in this field. Retraining or training new technicians, especially those with overlapping skills, is common.

“In Iowa, wind energy alone supports 8,000 to 9,000 jobs,” said Rock. “Many of which don’t require a college degree.”

The best ways to educate yourself about transmission line development

“People shouldn’t be afraid to advocate for what they want to see in their communities,” said Rock. “Residents of rural communities play a major role in the development process, which should be open and transparent.”

Early outreach

These projects work best, and are developed best, when the developer of the project and the community are working in tandem, trying to identify how to best build the project, how to site it in the best possible way, etc.

Maintain an open dialogue

Along with early outreach, a continued conversation with the developers can make a big difference. Talk to them about what the project will be like, where it will be, and how it will be built. Take them on a tour of your property; point out electric fence lines, large ponds, or other potential obstacles.

Be informed

Be involved in the process. Attend meetings and open houses, be present at hearings, and do what you can to make sure your voice is heard. When you go to meetings, speak out about things that are most important to you and your community.

Meeting times and locations are generally published in a local paper or through direct mailers to landowners who are on project routes.

Use your voice

Voice your concerns and be honest. Honest conversations, conflicts included, only get resolved one conversation at a time.

Questions to ask developers

What steps will the developer take to identify important areas?

The first round of a transmission line development project usually starts with a broad general study area, which includes where the line begins and ends. Next, the developers will narrow it down to corridors, and those corridors will give better ideas of where the final route could be placed. Third, they’ll map out a route on paper, as well as alternate routing options, which are required in most states.

Who will the developer communicate with in the first round of the project?

A developer may communicate with special interest organizations regarding conservation areas or historical areas where the route cannot be placed.

How do you keep focus on the issues most important to you?

Double checking with the developer on things that are important to you is critical to keep communication open throughout the process.

Questions about tax assessments or revenues generated should be directed to your county supervisor and county auditor.


For more on transmission development in Wisconsin, Kansas, and Minnesota, check out the report, “Generation and Delivery: The Economic Impact of Transmission Infrastructure in Rural Counties,” recently published by the Center for Rural Affairs. Read more about Transmission line development: the benefits, effects, and how to prepare yourself

  • Clean Energy
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SNAP, a critical asset for rural America

Food that feeds the world is grown in our nation’s small towns, where food insecurity is endured by millions of children, seniors, and hardworking, rural Americans. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), helps stave off hunger in one in six rural households.

Formerly known as the nation’s food stamp program, rural America’s SNAP participation rate rose from 12.5 percent to 16 percent from 2010 to 2015. The rate is higher than enrollment nationally, and in metropolitan and micropolitan areas. The rural SNAP participation rate follows the percent of population at or below the federal poverty line.

Given the socioeconomics of rural America, the importance of SNAP is heightened.

SNAP exists as a resource to help negate concerns of food security for seniors with fixed and limited incomes as they care for themselves and balance expenses.

In rural households with a resident over the age of 60, 10.9 percent of households participate in SNAP, compared to 10.1 percent nationally.

Rural families with children under the age of 18 similarly have the highest SNAP participation. In 2015, 27.3 percent of rural households with children received SNAP assistance, as opposed to 21.9 percent nationally. This access is critically important for children as they develop.

Beyond the direct benefit of SNAP is the impact it has at the community level. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that every SNAP dollar generates $1.79 in economic activity. SNAP is a critical asset helping keep community grocery stores open, maintaining this amenity for all residents.

As policymakers deliberate the funding and future of SNAP in the 2018 farm bill and broader entitlement reforms, consideration must be given to the asset and investment SNAP provides to rural communities. SNAP is, and needs to be, maintained as a critical safeguard against food insecurity and poverty for rural residents.


SNAP in Nebraska

Nationally, SNAP participation in rural areas exceeds participation for the nation as a whole. In our home state of Nebraska, the opposite is the case. SNAP figures in rural areas of the state are consistently lower, falling below metropolitan and micropolitan area percentages. 

As consideration is given to the 12.4 percent of rural Nebraskans in poverty, and state levels of food insecurity, significant gains are needed in rural SNAP participation and reach.

This inconsistency is explored in further detail in a recently released report, “A Discrepancy in Rural Nebraska’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),” found on our website at cfra.org/publications/NebraskaSNAP. Read more about SNAP, a critical asset for rural America

  • Rural Health
  • Small Towns
  • Small TownsCommunity Development
  • Small TownsCommunity Food
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House agriculture bill makes the wrong kind of sweeping change

The House Agriculture Committee released its first version of the farm bill on April 11. Unfortunately, the proposal included steep cuts to conservation, ignored the need for capping crop insurance premium subsidies, and made very distressing cuts to many programs that support innovation and investment in rural communities. 

This is the opening round of this year’s farm bill debate. We’re reporting on this troubling bill so you understand the stakes of the fight ahead. You can orient yourself to where we are in full farm bill process by reading our previous blog

Below, we outline several unfortunate proposals, as well as some positive but comparatively small changes.


The draft bill makes very upsetting changes to working lands conservation. First, it proposes steep funding cuts to working lands conservation programs, by nearly $5 billion over 10 years. The 2014 farm bill cut the entire conservation title – including easement and conservation set-asides – by only $4 billion over 10 years. 

Within these cuts is the elimination of the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). CSP currently protects over 70 million acres nationwide. Farmers and ranchers must demonstrate an existing level of conservation in order to be eligible. CSP offers a path for farmers and ranchers to increase their stewardship level for their whole operation while still maintaining production on their land. By eliminating the core of CSP, the draft bill sends the message that conservation should be a low priority for rural America. 

We previously endorsed several other bills that would have instead improved our working lands conservation programs and strengthened the handshake between conservation and crop insurance. We are disappointed that almost none of these provisions were included in this draft farm bill. 

Finally, there were a few positive proposals. The draft bill proposed to increase the number of acres eligible for enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program – Grasslands Initiative, which offers another important avenue for farmers and ranchers to improve their conservation. The draft bill also eliminates the requirement that 60 percent of Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding go toward livestock operations, which would decrease the amount used to support Confined Animal Feeding Operations. 

Crop insurance and payment limitations

While our agricultural system needs a strong safety net, the current crop insurance system provides unlimited support to the largest farms in the form of premium subsidies. The passage of a new farm bill is an important opportunity to bring greater fairness to agriculture and level the playing field for farmers and ranchers. 

Instead, the draft bill only includes proposals that backtrack on crop insurance and payment limitations, while throwing a few crumbs to beginning farmers. 

First, the bill does nothing to cap crop insurance premium subsidies to the largest farmers. Under current law, one operation could farm the entire state of Iowa and the federal government would subsidize their crop insurance on every single acre. The draft bill fails to correct this. 

The draft bill also reverses wins made in the 2014 farm bill to limit farm program payments. First, the bill would remove subsidy payment limits for corporate farms, allowing any farm with this business structure (approximately 10 percent of farms) immediate access to unlimited subsidies. The draft bill also adds cousins, nieces, and nephews to the list of eligible family members that already includes siblings, children, and grandparents. Expanding this list would allow each of these family members to newly receive payments up to the limit of $125,000 and dramatically increasing the level of subsidy that some farms would have access to. These changes practically guarantee a return to unlimited farm program payments. The country needs a farm safety net, not handouts to the largest and wealthiest operations. 

One small point of progress is that the bill would make the crop insurance product Whole Farm Revenue Protection Program available to greater numbers of beginning farmers. But, at the same time, the bill would eliminate the Risk Management Education Partnership Program, including $17 million in mandatory funding, which supports organizations in educating farmers and ranchers about managing risk. 

Beginning/local/regional food/rural development/organic production

The Center for Rural Affairs has been fighting for rural communities for decades. We are proud to have helped win programs that create new opportunity for small towns and family farmers. The draft bill proposes to completely eliminate the funding for several of these valuable programs. For instance:

The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP) supports rural entrepreneurs with access to loans and business assistance. The draft bill proposes to completely eliminate $15 million in mandatory funding for the program.  

The Value Added Producer Grants Program (VAPG) provides a path for farmers and ranchers to diversify their income streams by building a “value-add” portion to their operation. This can include making milk into cheese or fruit into jam. The draft bill proposes to eliminate the $58.5 million of mandatory funding for the program. 

The Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program supports farmers to create new enterprise and develop new local and regional markets. The draft bill proposes to eliminate $150 million in mandatory funding for the program.

Organic agriculture offers an important economic opportunity for many rural farmers and ranchers, particularly during times of low prices. However, the cost of certifying can be prohibitive for some. The National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCS) offers farmers and ranchers support for that certification cost, thereby allowing farmers and ranchers to access the higher income stream from selling organic products. The draft bill proposes to eliminate $58 million in funding for NOCCS. 

Renewable energy offers a vital economic opportunity in many rural communities. The Rural Energy for America Program provides grants and guaranteed loans for energy production and efficiency projects. But, the draft bill proposes to eliminate $250 million in funding for REAP. 

With all of these eliminations of funding, it was a happy surprise to see that some important programs did receive funding under the draft bill. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, and the Conservation Reserve Program – Transition Incentive Program all would receive funding equal to the level they have under the 2014 farm bill. While these are not the increases we maintain are necessary for true investment in rural communities, these are programs where we won’t have to fight back from zero.

This isn’t over

This bill – the initial draft of the farm bill offered by the agriculture committee in one of two chambers of Congress – is the first step on our country’s path to passing the next farm bill. A bad bill at this initial juncture just gives us – and you – more reasons to stay engaged. 

We want to see a positive, bipartisan farm bill passed that supports our farmers, ranchers, and rural communities. Do you share this vision? Let us know how you would like to help, at annaj@cfra.org and coraf@cfra.org. Read more about House agriculture bill makes the wrong kind of sweeping change

  • Crop Insurance Reform
  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher
  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill
  • Farm PolicyFarm and Food
  • Small BusinessSmall Business Policy
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Staff Spotlight: Community and family are top priorities for Lizzie

Native communities, such as Santee, Nebraska, the principal village of the Santee Sioux Reservation in Knox County, often lack access to the fresh fruits and vegetables necessary for healthy living. Because of their size and rural location, these communities can also get left out when considering funding opportunities for these essential foods and other development projects.

Lizzie Swalley hopes to change that.

“As Native communities, we are very much rural and are, for most of the time, left out of planning or any type of inclusion,” Swalley said. “Competition for grants and funding to develop areas are targeted for larger areas with larger numbers, and that leaves out small communities like ours, which need improvements and assistance in many areas.”

Recently hired at the Center for Rural Affairs as a community foods specialist for the Santee Sioux Tribe, Swalley joins Farm and Community program staff in their efforts to aid in rural community development.

“I’ll be organizing and presenting educational workshops for community members to learn and develop small business and marketing through food production or arts production,” said Swalley. “I’m looking forward to getting started on projects, and to have them running well enough to see positive outcomes.”

Swalley is familiar with the work on food access, led by the Center, Nebraska Indian Community College, and community members. Previously, she was a contractor with the Center for the Santee Community Foods Project. Our contractors and community food specialists work alongside members of the tribe to improve access to fresh, nutritious food grown in their own communities, often in their own backyards.

In Santee, Center staff have provided demonstrations with garden tilling, seeds and starter plants and have supported a new farmers market. They regularly make garden visits throughout the growing season, and host various workshops, focusing on nutrition, food preservation, and small business skills.

Lizzie’s previous experience and her new position have helped her gain momentum in helping to expand access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

“I want to achieve awareness for the fresh produce our community members need in their diets, and to become self-sufficient by learning to grow fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Swalley. “I also want to increase participation in the food projects to grow the number of small businesses in the Santee community, whether that be through sales at a farmers market or personal catering within the community.”

When she’s not advocating for her community, Swalley spends time with her husband and their three children.

“Our life revolves around basketball – I can’t begin to tell you the amount of miles we have traveled to watch my husband or one of our kids play in a basketball game,” said Swalley. “As a family, we love to be outdoors, stay active, and have ‘family fun,’ like playing card games or eating together as a huge family with my brothers, sisters, mother, nieces, nephews, great-nieces and nephews, and cousins.”

Swalley works out of her home office in Santee, and can be reached at 605.857.1063 or lizs@cfra.org. Read more about Staff Spotlight: Community and family are top priorities for Lizzie

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Business Plan Basics offered to entrepreneurs in Cozad

Release Date: 



Nancy Flock, southwest loan specialist, nancyf@cfra.org, 308.534.3508; or Rhea Landholm, brand marketing and communications manager, rheal@cfra.org, 402.687.2100 ext 1025

Cozad, Neb. - Existing, transitioning, and startup small business owners have an opportunity to examine their ventures in “Business Plan Basics,” a workshop organized by the Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) Women’s Business Center and Cozad Development Corporation.

Five sessions will be held on Wednesdays starting May 2 to May 30, from 6 to 9 p.m., at Cozad Development Corporation, 121 W. 9th St., Cozad, Nebraska.

The workshop series will focus on marketing, promotion/advertising, financial management, customer relations, and goal setting. REAP uses the Business Plan Basics NxLevel Guide for microentrepreneurs curriculum.

"Planning is key to success in business, and these five hands-on exploratory sessions are designed for those thinking of starting a business, businesses that need a boost, and business owners considering exiting the business," said Monica Braun, REAP Women’s Business Center director. “Sessions will cover important information to complete a business plan.”

The course will be facilitated by Lorre McKeone, who has a background in business, finance, and communication. She is the founder of The Executive Extra, which specializes in customized training and facilitation services tailored to the specific needs of their clients.

To register, visit cfra.org/events or Cozad Development Corporation. For more information, contact Nancy Flock at 308.534.3508 or nancyf@cfra.org.

Center for Rural Affairs’ REAP provides business training, technical assistance, microloans, and networking to small businesses in Nebraska.


Center for Rural Affairs: Farm bill first draft makes the wrong sweeping change

Release Date: 



Anna Johnson, policy associate, annaj@cfra.org, 515.215.1294; Emilee Pease, executive assistant, emileep@cfra.org, 402.687.2100 ext. 1017; or Rhea Landholm, brand marketing and communications manager, rheal@cfra.org, 402.687.2100 ext 1025

Lyons, Neb. - Center for Rural Affairs Policy Associate Anna Johnson said today that the released draft of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, commonly known as the farm bill, has several proposals of concern for rural America. The draft bill was released yesterday by the House Agriculture Committee. The current farm bill expires Sept. 30, 2018.

“The House farm bill is a nonstarter,” said Johnson. “It completely eliminates the popular Conservation Stewardship Program that currently protects 70 million acres nationwide. It wipes out funding for the Value-Added Producer Grant Program and the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, two programs that support new enterprise creation in rural America. And it fails to put any sort of cap on unlimited crop insurance subsidies for the largest farms.”

Johnson continued on the subject of crop insurance premium subsidies. 

“Structural reforms of this nature, that put common-sense limits on subsidies to only the largest operations, are needed to level the playing field for all farmers. The House Agriculture Committee’s decision to ignore these needed changes indicates an unfortunate reluctance to do what is right for our small and mid-sized farmers.”

The proposed elimination of the Conservation Stewardship Program wipes out the largest working lands conservation program in the U.S. The Conservation Stewardship Program offers farmers and ranchers who can demonstrate existing land stewardship efforts the opportunity to improve and expand them for their whole operation. The program emphasizes conservation practices that support natural resource concerns, such as soil erosion and water quality. 

“Terminating the Conservation Stewardship Program undermines farmers’ and ranchers’ abilities to implement conservation practices on their land,” said Johnson. “Hundreds of farmers from around the Midwest have shared with us how important Conservation Stewardship Program is to their operations and stewardship efforts. Ending the program, along with the more than $7 billion in proposed cuts to other working lands conservation programs, would strike a serious blow to farmers’ and ranchers’ abilities to better steward their soil and water.”

Members of the House Agriculture Committee describe proposed changes to crop insurance as minor.

“This is a missed opportunity to create a stronger connection between conservation and crop insurance,” Johnson said. “Offering higher subsidies for higher levels of stewardship would make crop insurance more accountable to taxpayers and reduce risks for farmers – these measures would go a long way toward creating further support for conservation.”

The draft bill also proposes changes to several programs that support beginning farmers, rural development, value-added production, and rural entrepreneurs.

“Seeing level funding in the bill for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, and the Conservation Reserve Program – Transition Incentive Program is encouraging,” Johnson said. “However, the bill eliminates mandatory funding for the Value-Added Producer Program and the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, which is a step towards disinvesting in rural small businesses. The similar decision to not renew organic cost-share program funding also undermines farmers’ and ranchers’ abilities to certify as organic and access the higher price points that organic products provide.”

The House Agriculture Committee will revise this draft during a meeting called “markup,” announced by Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), chairman of the committee, set for 10 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday, April 18, 2018.

“We hope the House of Representatives can make needed amendments to improve this bill, restore these valuable programs, and reach bipartisan agreement,” said Johnson.

First draft of farm bill was released today: Your opinion matters

The House Agriculture Committee released their first draft of the farm bill today. We’ll share a statement about the content as soon as we can. Below are a few details on the process and a reminder of what you can do to engage.

First, a very simplified summary of the process:

  1. The House Ag Committee (members are here) released their draft today.
  2. The committee meets for "markup," set for next Wednesday, when they suggest and vote on changes ("amendments").
  3. The date is not set yet for the next stage, when the revised draft goes to the House floor for a vote. At this time, any member can introduce an amendment, and those are voted on.
  4. Finally, the House votes to pass a further revised version.

Then, we turn to the Senate to start a similar process on their side. After that, the bills will advance to conference committee where lawmakers will approve its the final passage.

Every step in this process matters in shaping the final farm bill. If you see something in our statement or in the press about the current farm bill draft that you support or object to, next week will be great time to reach out to your representative in the House – whether or not they are on the House committee – and let their office know.

The most effective calls are short, polite, and to the point. Check out our tips on how to engage with lawmakers.

Not sure who your representative is in the House? Look them up here.

All my best, and stay tuned,
Anna Read more about First draft of farm bill was released today: Your opinion matters

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill
  • Farm PolicyFarm and Food
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Business owners bring a taste of Colombia to Grand Island

Memories of Colombian fruit and juice stands inspire the restaurant, FRUIT, in Grand Island, Nebraska.

Husband and wife business partners, Diego Leon and Jenny Lopez, recreate vibrant and unique dishes of their homeland. 

“We saw the need for healthier food that would please all ages and nationalities; food free of artificial fat, artificial flavors, and especially fresh food prepared on-site,” said Leon. “We have always been passionate about the culinary field, and we pride ourselves in taking extra care in how we process and decorate the fruit.”

FRUIT’s menu offers combinations of fruit, such as mangoes, papayas, bananas, pineapples, kiwis, melons, and berries, as well as juices and extracts of Colombian-grown fruits that are more difficult to find in Nebraska. Catering, and gift items, such as fruit bouquets, strawberries with chocolate, decorations for baby showers, surprise breakfasts, and desserts are also available.

The couple immigrated to the U.S. in 2014, and opened their business in January 2016. Leon owned and operated several businesses in Bogota, Colombia; his experience in graphic design and the food industry aided the couple in opening FRUIT.

Leon says starting their venture was an intensive process, but a labor of love. Market research was his first step, followed by investigating possible competition and the cost of good produce and where to acquire it. They received business training from the University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension office and the Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Program (REAP).

REAP Latino Loan Specialist Griselda Rendon provided counseling through the Women’s Business Center, and REAP provided the couple with a loan. Rendon has helped Leon and Lopez since the beginning of their business-ownership journey.

“Diego and Jenny are dedicated and hard workers,” Rendon said. “They started coming to our Coffee Tables, a monthly training for entrepreneurs in Grand Island, with an idea of someday starting their own business. At the time, they both worked at the packing plant.”

The business owners continue to attend REAP trainings, and Coffee Tables. They have been awarded three loans from REAP to grow the business and allow FRUIT to become their primary source of income.

Through REAP’s financial assistance, the couple has made improvements and upgrades, including moving the business to a location with more customer traffic, creating advertising campaigns and marketing strategies, and increasing menu options. These changes have led to success.

“Our experience with REAP has been pleasant,” said Leon. “Griselda has always been willing to collaborate with us, providing the best of her knowledge and commitment to allow us to grow as a business.”

The couple is also involved with community events, hosting a free Zumba class for children near their restaurant last year.

“People often say it is very difficult to establish a business with all of the specific rules, licenses, and regulations,” Leon said. “To all the entrepreneurs out there wondering if you can do it, we are a voice of encouragement. We can reassure you that it is possible; you can dream, then see your business grow. Even if the road to get there is difficult, it’s never impossible.”

Leon and Lopez consider becoming business owners a wonderful experience.

“It’s been a dream come true,” said Lopez. “It is completely gratifying to see that little by little, step by step, the business is progressing at the rate we hoped it would.”

At a Glance

3404 13 St., Suite 122, Conestoga Mall
Grand Island, NE 68803
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to  9 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.
facebook.com/FRUITGI Read more about Business owners bring a taste of Colombia to Grand Island

  • Small Business
  • Small BusinessREAP
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Your stories

Latest seed merger is a blow to family farmers and ranchers

A major wave of consolidation that kicked off in 2016 continues to move forward with the U.S. Department of Justice allowing chemical producer Bayer to acquire the U.S. based seed company Monsanto, reported yesterday.

As giant transnational corporations increase their power over the market, independent farmers are left with fewer options and suffer from less competition among input providers.

For nearly two years, this proposal has worked its way through both domestic and international boards for approval. In March, the European Union released their consent of the $62.5 billion buy, after Bayer agreed to sell assets to rival BASF. The company will have control of more than a quarter of the world’s seed and pesticides market.

Fewer and fewer companies producing seeds and chemicals for farmers spells fewer choices and higher prices in return. The vast majority of the globe’s seed is developed by private companies, which means their profits come first – before the health of rural communities or natural resources.

With lax enforcement of existing anti-monopoly laws, it is increasingly clear that legislative action will be required to preserve competition in the marketplace.

This is the latest in a trio of mega mergers of seed companies. Other unions include Dow and Dupont, and ChemChina and Syngenta.

The sale of Monsanto to Bayer is anticipated to close during the second quarter. Read more about Latest seed merger is a blow to family farmers and ranchers

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyCorporate Farming
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Video: from Farm to School Cafeteria to Tray

Veggies only have to travel about five blocks from field to students' plates at East Butler Public Schools in Brainard, Nebraska.

Fox Run Farms, a family-run operation on the edge of Brainard, provides the school lunch program with fresh food. In part one of our two-part Farm to School series featuring East Butler, we join Yolanda Bailey, of Fox Run Farms, as she harvests some red, orange and green peppers.

In part two of our two-part Farm to School series, we witness members of the Food Service Team at East Butler Public Schools receive the peppers. The staff then process the fresh food for the fruit and veggie bar.

Thank you to Kirstin Bailey, Center for Rural Affairs project organizer, for creating these great videos! This was part of a project to help farmers learn more about minimal processing for fruits and vegetables in order to make it easier for schools to purchase locally, sponsored by Nebraska USDA Rural Development.

For more resources for both producers and cafeteria staff, visit our Farm to School page. Read more about Video: from Farm to School Cafeteria to Tray

  • Small TownsCommunity FoodFarm to School
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USDA ignored public support of Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule

The Center for Rural Affairs stands for rural communities, and we, too, believe that an essential foundation for vital rural communities consists of a healthy economy and diverse farming models.

Many of the policies we support – organic agriculture, Value-Added Producer Grants, rural microloans – we chose to fight for because they make space for farmers and ranchers to access new or alternative income streams.

We are concerned that some of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recent actions directly undermine this vision, by the removal of several rules.

Last month, USDA decided to roll back the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule. This rule was meant to strengthen animal welfare standards for the organic program, and had the overwhelming support of organic farmers and ranchers and other stakeholders in the organic industry. Along with 72 other organizations, we signed a letter to USDA stating our support for the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices. Although a final rule was issued in 2017, USDA has reversed its decision, ignored public support, and withdrawn the rule, effective May 13, 2018.

We see an unfortunate similarity with USDA’s decision last year to delay, and finally cancel, the Farmer Fair Practices Rules, also known as GIPSA rules. These would have brought greater fairness to contract poultry and livestock production and would have helped level the playing field for these producers nationwide.

Both of these rules would have made more space in agriculture for farmers and ranchers to pursue diverse livestock and poultry production practices. Unfortunately, USDA does not share this vision, and chose to roll back these provisions.

While such losses can be discouraging, we refuse to give up the fight for strong, rural communities. Visit cfra.org to learn how you can help. Read more about USDA ignored public support of Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyFarm and Food
Weekly column

Rural Red Alert: Nebraskans act now to stop LB 947, and support LB 1103

Earlier this week, your calls and emails helped stall LB 947, the governor's irresponsible tax bill. Thank you! But, efforts are underway to try to revive the bill and bring LB 947 back to the floor for debate. We need your help to continue to hold back this reckless legislation.

Combined with unfunded income tax credits and lost revenues from corporate income tax cuts, LB 947 would cost the state $650 million when fully implemented. This would place added strain on already tight budgets and require drastic cuts to services, especially with no new identified sources of revenue.

Please continue to call and email your senator and tell them to vote NO on LB 947.

But, legislation which will provide real property tax relief, that is paid for and protects our schools and state budget, is on the agenda for today. Sen. Tom Briese has filed Amendment (AM) 2308 to amend LB 1103 – bringing LB 1084 to the floor for debate. This amendment, drawn from LB 1084, seeks to restore state funding for education and provide property tax relief. The amendment has four primary components:

1) Raises $485 million by reinstating the alternative minimum tax, increasing sales tax by one cent and the cigarette tax by $1.50, placing a surtax on Nebraska's highest income earners and eliminating the personal property tax exemption.

2) Revenues will be used to:

  • Reinstate and restore funding for K-12 education.
  • Provide $500 per pupil funding outside of the education funding formula and inject eighty million dollars into special education reimbursement, decreasing schools' forced reliance upon property taxes.
  • Increase the earned income tax credit (EITC) from 10 to 15 percent for the benefit of low income households.
  • Funds will also be funneled to the property tax credit fund for direct property tax relief.

3) Places a soft cap on local property taxes for K-12 education while allowing for fluctuations in student populations and inflation.

4) Prompts the Nebraska Department of Education to conduct a study on funding for K-12 education to find a more long-term, sustainable funding solution.

Your senator needs to hear from you. This amendment is the only responsible legislation that will help bring immediate property tax relief to Nebraska taxpayers, while also protecting funding for schools and the broader state budget.

Please call and email your senator and tell them to vote YES on AM 2308 and LB 1103.

Your calls and emails are making a difference. Thank you! Read more about Rural Red Alert: Nebraskans act now to stop LB 947, and support LB 1103

  • Small Towns
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Marketing is top concern for Kansas small businesses, according to report

The top concern for small businesses in Kansas is marketing, according to a report released in January by the Center for Rural Affairs and Kansas Hispanic & Latino American Affairs Commission.

“The Sunflower State – Assessing Our Business Garden: 2017 Kansas Small Business Needs Assessment Results,” is authored by Adrienne Vallejo-Foster, executive director of Kansas Hispanic & Latino American Affairs Commission; and Dena R. Beck, senior project leader and loan specialist of the Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Project and Rural Investment Corporation.

The authors conducted a survey in spring 2017, gathering information from Kansas small business owners and resource providers to identify strengths and areas that need attention. They received 533 responses, representing 84 percent of counties in Kansas.

“Feedback from people who serve small businesses is an important piece of the puzzle, as they provide valuable insight,” Beck said. “Local lenders and resource providers know what businesses need to be successful, they see the businesses from a community level, and understand the importance of those businesses to the communities and local economies.”

The survey is modeled after a Nebraska Small Business Needs Assessment conducted biennially since 2008. Questions are based on financing, startup needs, current needs, business growth inhibitors, and training and technology needs.

“To ensure business owners are offered the products and services they need, it is imperative to simply ask,” Vallejo-Foster said. “As citizens, large business owners, and business lenders and providers, we need to pay attention to those needs and assist if we want our downtowns, communities, and local economies to thrive.”

For more information and to view “The Sunflower State – Assessing Our Business Garden: 2017 Kansas Small Business Needs Assessment Results,” visit cfra.org/KansasSmallBusinessNeeds.

The authors are both available to present survey results. For a presentation in your community, contact Vallejo-Foster at Adrienne.Foster@ks.gov or 785.296.2161, or Beck at denab@cfra.org or 308.528.0060.

Feature photo: Kansas small business owners and resource providers gave input on financing, marketing, and training needs in spring 2017. The results have been compiled and analyzed in “The Sunflower State – Assessing our Business Garden,” available at cfra.org. | Photo submitted Read more about Marketing is top concern for Kansas small businesses, according to report

  • Small Business
  • Small BusinessREAP
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Staff spotlight: Erin’s journey brought her from the Sunshine State to small-town living

Many Nebraskans long for a break from the harsh, Plains winters, and travel to warm, sunny climates to find it. Erin Mockler, however, did the opposite.

“I grew up in a small town in Florida,” said Mockler. “My entire childhood, I had a desire to move to a climate with more seasonal changes, so when I became an adult, I moved to Nebraska.”

And, we’re glad she did.

One of the newest members of the Center for Rural Affairs team, Mockler is a staff accountant. She lives in Lyons and works from the Center’s main office, and is happy about her new, more rural, home.

“I love the small-town community,” said Mockler. “I believe it’s in rural areas where the important work is being done, quietly and without fanfare; it is up to all of us to preserve the land and lifestyle here for future generations.”

Mockler began her new role by shadowing the accounting staff to learn the ropes on payables, payroll, and bank reconciliations. She has also been tasked with projects such as researching Employee Assistance Programs and expense reporting software, updating a couple procedures, and learning more about grants. She says she plans to work on even more projects in the future.  

“I’d like to streamline the expense reporting process and help simplify some of the accounting and grants budgeting processes,” said Mockler.

Mockler is no stranger to the accounting field. Previously, she was an office manager with the City of Omaha, where she managed her division’s operating budget and assisted her manager in tracking and managing his capital improvement budget, which used bond money. While there, she learned about budgeting for a nonprofit/government entity, which she says differs vastly from budgeting in the for-profit world.

Though she’s experienced in this field, Mockler says she’s looking forward to learning more about working in a rural capacity.

“I’m excited to learn new things, have new experiences, and meet new people,” said Mockler. “In my 19 years in Nebraska, I have appreciated the agrarian lifestyle and the down-to-earth nature of the people. I take great pride in assisting the staff of the Center in their endeavors to be the change they want to see in the world.”

In her free time, Mockler enjoys gardening, hiking, and riding her motorcycle. Also, she and her fiancé, Mike Cain, work on a project house in Lyons together.

Mockler can be reached at 402.687.2100 ext. 1007 or erinm@cfra.org. Read more about Staff spotlight: Erin’s journey brought her from the Sunshine State to small-town living

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