Meet Cora

Finding common ground on rural solar

As an active and idealistic college student, I traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in a national lobby day for young people who wanted to talk with senators and representatives about supporting renewable energy.

Thinking back, in 2009, we were well into an economic recession and the job market was weak. That time period marked the beginning of a renewable energy revolution, and we did not know how quickly this industry would grow.

But I sensed then, and I now know, that investing in renewable energy can help revive our economy, improve national security, and provide a myriad of environmental and public health benefits.

When it was time for our group of Iowa students to meet with Sen. Grassley, he asked me why Congress should focus on advancing renewable energy rather than creating jobs for the millions of Americans suddenly facing unemployment. I told him the two were not mutually exclusive – investing in clean energy was also an investment in long-term job creation. Sometimes referred to as the father of the U.S. wind industry, Sen. Grassley has passed and defended numerous pieces of legislation demonstrating that he agrees with that mentality.

Fast forward less than a decade, and it is my job to meet with legislators to discuss how we build on the phenomenal success story that is the renewable energy economy. For example, although it only provides about 1 percent of U.S. electricity, the solar industry now accounts for more than a quarter million jobs. With solar costs plummeting, this industry grew 95 percent in 2016 alone.

This spring, I had a chance to meet with Iowa congressmen from both sides of the political aisle to learn first-hand about win-win scenarios resulting from renewable energy investment. We heard from business owners, school officials, and farmers who use solar and energy efficiency to save money.

We also heard from solar installers about jobs they have created across rural Iowa and the indirect economic and community benefits stemming from their work. The WACO school district in Wayland, Iowa, for example, invested in solar collectors to cut energy costs by 90 percent, ensuring their school can continue serving as the heart of this rural community.

Whether you care about the economy and job creation, clean air and water, national security, or energy choice — solar offers a viable solution. At a time when Republicans and Democrats believe we agree on very little, renewable energy — and especially solar energy — offers a refreshing opportunity to discuss where our values overlap.

Feature photo: Policy associate Stephanie Enloe (fourth from right) met with Iowa congressmen and solar installers on ar ecent tour in rural Iowa. About 1 percent of U.S. electricity is provided by solar, while the industry accounts for more than a quarter million jobs. | Photo submitted. Read more about Finding common ground on rural solar

  • Clean Energy
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New transmission connects renewable energy

Midwestern states have great potential to generate energy from renewable sources. Renewable energy provides these states with clean power as well as several other benefits in the form of new sources of income for landowners that host projects or job opportunities stemming from construction, operation, and manufacturing. But, these new power generators require connections to the larger electric grid, which allow the renewable energy to be shipped across the region where it can be used by homes and businesses.

Solving this issue of transmission is key to taking advantage of the Midwest’s renewable energy generation potential. The electric grid was built decades ago for different kinds of power generation, and connections for new renewable energy, such as wind, are limited. As the way we generate power changes, it’s important we continue to update the electric grid and find innovative ways to get renewable energy from where it is generated to where it is used.

The Grain Belt Express project provides an example of how new transmission can connect renewables. This project is a transmission line that will carry wind energy from western Kansas to customers in Missouri, Illinois, and the eastern United States. The project is essentially a superhighway for renewable wind energy, linking one of the nation’s best locations for wind energy generation to new markets across the Midwest.

There is no time to delay in improving our energy transmission system. Without improvements, the grid will be outpaced by the continued growth of the renewable energy industry. Regulators must take action to address the need for new infrastructure while balancing the concerns of community members. We must continue to seek new and better ways to develop our transmission infrastructure, use insight from landowners and communities to find the best path forward for a renewable energy future. Read more about New transmission connects renewable energy

  • Clean Energy
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Weekly column

When should farmers retire?

Retirement from a farm business may not mean moving away or giving up on mentoring the next generation, but it does entail transferring management decisions to someone else. It can be a gradual or sudden process. It may be driven by long-term goals, by sudden health issues, or events outside your family.

When should farmers retire? The answer is related to choices and goals, and can happen at any time. While many can’t imagine doing anything else except farming, their families may have other ideas and want to share more time with them. Discussions with your family can help design the retirement process.

Allan Nation, of Stockman Grassfarmer magazine, observed that a farmer or rancher is at his peak combination of labor, innovation, and management skills at age 50.

To maintain or grow the farm business after 50 can require an additional infusion of labor and maybe of innovation. That often means a young partner with energy and new ideas. Such a partnership process can greatly improve the income of the business, which may be the means to fund retirement savings after a lifetime of investing in farm assets.

A farmer can look for someone to work into the business at any time, but a planned process will take several years of testing the relationship, training to the uniqueness of the business, and a gradual shifting of management. A five-year time frame can work well to ensure a smooth transition and to demonstrate steady progress to the new farmer. Add ample time for readying the business framework and selecting the best candidate.

The Center for Rural Affairs has resources for retiring and beginning farmers at

Check out another blog by Wyatt, "Working in a farm successor as part of a retirement plan." Read more about When should farmers retire?

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher
  • Farm PolicyFarm and Food
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Rural Iowa school sets a shining example for how to reduce electricity costs

Tim Graber had just finished applying for a utility rebate for the new solar panels on his turkey building when he was struck by an idea: “Why couldn’t the school do this?” As a member of the WACO Community School district board, Tim was in the position to make his idea a reality. With the rebate for Washington County solar projects set to expire on Dec. 31, 2013, Tim, the superintendent, and a handful of other school leaders worked through winter break to complete the rebate application for what became the first school solar project in Iowa.

The WACO school district serves Wayland, Iowa, and surrounding areas of Washington and Henry counties. It includes an elementary and junior high school (grades 7 to 12) which serve almost 500 students. The district employs about 45 teachers, and about an additional 40 support staff.

In fall 2014, this rural school district began construction on the first phase of their solar project. The school board used the utility rebate and their bonding authority to pay for a solar photovoltaic (PV) system at the WACO Elementary School and two smaller projects on the junior high school sports field and concession stand. The students held a school assembly to “flip the switch” and celebrate their new electricity source.

A year later, the school district worked with local investors to install a large solar array at the WACO Junior High School. The investors formed a limited liability company (LLC) and currently lease the solar project to the school. This financing arrangement enables the investors and school district to take advantage of state and federal tax credits that ensure a faster payback time on the solar project. Once the project is paid off, the school will take ownership of the solar energy systems for the remainder of their useful lifespan.

Together, the WACO solar energy projects total 307 kilowatts (kW) and provide about 90 percent of the district’s electricity. Tim says the district saves between $40,000 and $50,000 on electricity costs each year – the equivalent of saving a teaching position. Earlier investments in energy efficiency and geothermal compound those savings.

Beyond the financial benefits, the WACO solar energy systems also provide educational value. Students have an opportunity to view real time solar electricity generation data when learning about how energy works. As technology continues to advance, Tim hopes teachers will take full advantage of new educational opportunities and more schools will be able to follow in WACO’s footsteps.

Would you like to see your school go solar? Iowa School Finance Information Services offers free tools to determine how to make a project pencil out, available here. The Community Power Network offers a free guide for schools across the U.S., available here.

Featured Photo: U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack tours WACO school district in Wayland, Iowa, this spring. | Photo by Stephanie Enloe Read more about Rural Iowa school sets a shining example for how to reduce electricity costs

  • Clean Energy
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Your stories

Cora grew up in the middle of everywhere

I am an Iowa native, raised on a century farm in the heart of the Loess Hills. I grew up in Monona County, near the town with the little star on the hill, to be exact. As part of the sixth generation to live and work on my family farm, I’ve learned farming isn’t an occupation, but rather a livelihood.

Looking back, all of my favorite childhood memories happened on the farm. I remember spending countless hours exploring in the Loess Hills, following worn cattle trails and looking for Pasque flowers. I loved riding in the tractor with my dad and grandpa. During the summer, I’d pick apples from our orchard to make pie for the local county fair (Iowa State Fair-worthy, I might add).  

Why is it we often want to get away from the rural way of life when we are young? In my high school years, I found myself wanting to live in a big city. I didn’t really have a reason other than wanting to experience something far different from what I had known.

I left home to start college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, studying political science. Though I enjoyed what I was studying, I felt an intrinsic motivation to serve my country and to be a part of something bigger than myself. After my freshman year, I decided I would enlist in the Air Force.

As an enlisted member in the Iowa Air National Guard, I spent most of the next four years supporting various contingencies worldwide, either deployed or on temporary duty in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Inherent Resolve. I commissioned in 2016 and currently serve as an officer.

During this time, I continued to further my education at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in political science and minoring in environmental sustainability. I am currently pursuing a Masters in Public Health with an emphasis on health policy and ethics at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.

Over the past year, life has drastically changed for me. I now serve in a part-time capacity, which allows me to pursue other ventures. I no longer keep packed bags by the door pending a call for the next trip halfway around the world. My boots aren’t worn; my hands aren’t covered in grease. Although I had loved my job in the Air Force, after each and every deployment and trip I found myself back on the farm. During these trips home, I developed a greater appreciation for rural Iowa and our family farm.

I think my parents knew all along I would come “home.” I didn’t just wake up one day to decide I would live on a farm the rest of my life. My life took a long, meandering path to where I am today. Though my experiences in the Air Force and in higher education have helped shape me, the rural way of life has always been a part of me.

Last week, I had a conversation with the Center’s executive director, Brian Depew. I casually mentioned I came from a rural county in the middle of nowhere. Brian made an insightful comment that really stuck with me — he’d stated that he disliked the phrase “the middle of nowhere.” After some thought, I responded, “You’re right, it’s the middle of everywhere.” Rural America isn’t empty, boring, or bland — it’s thriving, full of life, and anything but average.

I look forward to coming back to my roots and working with the most resilient, hardworking, and innovative people I know — Midwestern farmers. The Center for Rural Affairs has a longstanding history with the farming community, and I am excited to join the team. I understand many challenges rural communities face firsthand, and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve rural America.

If you enjoy the smell of fresh cut alfalfa as much as I do (or just appreciate the rural way of life), feel free to give me a call at 402.687.2100 x 1012, or send me an email at

Pictured: Cora's family farm near Turin, Iowa. She is the sixth generation to call the farm home. | Photo by Cora Fox Read more about Cora grew up in the middle of everywhere

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Wind energy setbacks are important to consider

South Dakota is fifth in the U.S. for wind energy potential. That’s enough potential to allow residents to meet their energy needs 300 times over. In fact, the state has already started down the path to realizing this possibility by producing more than 26 percent of its energy from wind.

As more wind energy projects are established in South Dakota, it’s important that developers and local officials work to identify and address community concerns around new projects. One piece to consider is crafting zoning standards that focus on citizens’ concerns while allowing for development of renewable wind energy.

On July 18, Lincoln County residents will have an opportunity to vote on new setback distances for wind energy in their county. These new rules would require that wind turbines be built at least 2,640 feet from a home, a significant increase from the current ordinance’s requirement of 1,500 feet.

When determining setback distance, the goal should be to provide reasonable space between wind turbines and homes or other areas like roads. Setback requirements are important because they can often limit the available locations for turbines in an area, decrease the size and benefits of a project, or make building a project difficult. To capture their wind energy potential, South Dakotans must aspire to have balanced zoning standards. These standards should not aim to stop or eliminate development, but provide guidance to new projects.

South Dakota can continue leading the way on wind energy development if local communities strike this balance between addressing community concerns and capturing the benefits of local wind projects.

To learn more about wind energy and siting issues related to new development, contact or call 402.687.2100 ext. 1022. Read more about Wind energy setbacks are important to consider

  • Clean Energy
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Barrera is first ever Latino Business Center Partner of the Year

Sandra Barrera, of Grand Island, Nebraska, was chosen as the first ever Center for Rural Affairs’ 2016 Latino Business Center Partner of the Year. She was recognized at an award ceremony on March 10 in York, Nebraska.

The Latino Business Center Partner of the Year Award is presented annually to an individual or organization that has demonstrated outstanding support for the Rural Entrepreneurship Assistance Project (REAP) Latino Business Center and exceptional dedication to small business development in rural Nebraska.

Sandra is a University of Nebraska at Lincoln Extension educator of community vitality in Hall County, and is an entrepreneur herself.

“Sandra is a great partner in sponsoring and promoting training opportunities to the community,” said Juan Sandoval, Center for Rural Affairs’ REAP Latino Business Center director. “She understands the importance of access to resources.”

Griselda Rendon, REAP Latino loan specialist, said she’s known Sandra for several years and now have worked in the same field for two years.

“She’s been a great partner. She has helped promote and sponsor a lot of trainings,” Griselda said. “She’s also great with clients, encouraging them. So I want to thank her for everything she’s done, and for her great partnership with us.”

Sandra helped start Coffee Tables, a monthly training for entrepreneurs in Grand Island, and refers clients to REAP so they can explore their financing options.

“Not only does Sandra encourage Latino entrepreneurs to utilize resources to help them be successful, but she is also an excellent mentor,” said Sandoval. “She is passionate about assisting small business owners to help them succeed.”

In 2016, Sandra’s support helped start 23 businesses in the Grand Island area.

“The extension and REAP have a great relationship with great teamwork,” Sandra said. “This is just the beginning.” Read more about Barrera is first ever Latino Business Center Partner of the Year

  • Small Business
  • Small BusinessREAP
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Conservation Reserve Program - Transition Incentive Program recommendations

We investigated statewide usages and participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Conservation Reserve Program – Transition Incentive Program (CRP-TIP) in South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska, and submitted the following recommendations to the USDA to make regarding program delivery. (Check out our report, "Pathways to Land Access.")

This project is supported by a cooperative agreement (#CCC-DAFP-6-060) between the USDA – Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the following organizations: the Center for Rural Affairs, Dakota Rural Action, and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

1. Facilitating the match between landowner and farmer or rancher

One of the challenges for program participation identified during this project was how to facilitate the match between a landowner and interested farmer or rancher. The landowners and farmers or ranchers must not only find a way to identify and connect with each other, they must also then build a base level of trust and come to a mutual agreement in order for both parties to decide to enroll in the TIP program together.

In order to help facilitate this matching process, we recommend that FSA:

  • Identify organizations in every state that maintain networks of beginning, socially-disadvantaged, or veteran farmers and ranchers. This includes grantees of the USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), State Departments of Agriculture, and state-based or regional land-link programs.
  • Reach out to these organizations to gain their buy-in on being listed as a resource for CRP-TIP. Potential actions that these organizations could be asked to take to support a landowner include: reaching out to their networks with an announcement for interested parties to contact the landowner, and/or sharing information about meetings or conferences that would offer good opportunities for landowners and interested farmers and ranchers to network. To the extent possible, these organizations should be included and flagged in the BRIDGES to Opportunity portal to allow ease in connecting interested farmers or ranchers and landowners with organizations who can assist in “making the match.”
  • Identify organizations and resources that can offer landowners support on land transition issues. In order to support landowners and farmers or ranchers who have identified each other and are interested in participating in CRP-TIP, FSA could create a similar list of organizations that offer education and support on questions of land rental and transition.
  • Utilize USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coordinators to develop state-level strategies for improving outreach, education, and facilitating the match between landowners and farmers or ranchers in any given state.

2. Outreach and education

A major challenge for CRP-TIP participation is general knowledge of the program, particularly among current (and future) CRP contract holders. FSA should increase program awareness by:

  • Notifying landowners earlier and more frequently about enrolling in TIP. Currently, FSA informs CRP contract holders of the TIP option in a formal letter sent during the year prior to the expiration of their CRP contract. However, six to eight months advance notice is often too short of a timeframe to realistically encourage TIP enrollment. Identifying a potential farmer or rancher and building a business relationship with them can realistically take years. Informing landowners about the TIP option when they first sign up for CRP, and again during annual communications with CRP participants, could certainly help boost program participation.
  • Increasing targeted outreach to landowners most likely to be interested in and eligible for TIP. To the extent possible, FSA should target these communications to landowners who are eligible for TIP (currently, those who are retiring or retired). Additional statutory changes should be made to the program to expand program eligibility beyond just retired/retiring landowners to those over the age of 65 or to other landowners who may be interested in participating.
  • Improving communications and outreach with landowners who utilize third parties to manage their CRP contracts. In addition, some CRP contracts are managed by a third party, making direct communication with the landowner difficult. FSA should take steps to identify best strategies for reaching and communicating with these landowners.

3. Procedural

Another opportunity to boost program enrollment is to increase FSA staff education and oversight about the CRP-TIP option, such as:

  • Ensuring county staff are aware of the program and are familiar with eligibility and sustainability requirements.
  • Standardizing the county office reporting process, and sharing progress in TIP participation on a statewide basis to ensure that every office is aware of funding availability. 
  • Releasing an annual report on participation by state or county. This would also serve to raise awareness of the program, both across state and county FSA offices, but also with policymakers and other stakeholders who work both with retiring landowners and with beginning, socially-disadvantaged or veteran farmers or ranchers.
  • Allowing CRP contract holders to opt-in to allow their contact information to be shared with beginning, socially-disadvantaged, or veteran farmers or ranchers who are interested in participating in CRP-TIP.
  • Launching a regular webinar or conference call series for state or local FSA staff to share successful strategies in promoting TIP and/or addressing state-specific barriers. Guidance should be provided to all state offices on best practices and creative strategies to increase outreach to landowners and beginning, socially-disadvantaged, or veteran farmers.

4. Conservation

The physical characteristics of land enrolled in CRP can affect whether or not it is suitable to be converted to agricultural production, and subsequently appropriate for enrollment in the TIP program. To improve targeted outreach for CRP-TIP, FSA should:

  • Analyze historic data of the CRP practice codes that land was enrolled under and that was then enrolled in CRP-TIP. FSA should then identify land currently enrolled in those same CRP codes and conduct targeted outreach to those landowners regarding CRP-TIP.

5. Structure of the Program

There are several changes that should be made to CRP-TIP, either administratively or in the next Farm Bill, that would improve program usage nationwide. FSA should consider adopting the following programmatic changes to increase program participation:

  • Examine leasing requirements. FSA should examine changes that would incentivize lease-to-own or actual farmland sales and transition of land ownership to beginning, socially-disadvantaged, or veteran farmers and ranchers.
  • Clarify or simplify eligibility requirements. Others encountered confusion with the definition of “retired or retiring.” Landowner eligibility requirements should be simplified, administratively if possible or through the upcoming farm bill, to either expand eligibility to any interested landowner as long as there is a sale or lease-to-own transaction through TIP, or any landowner over the age of 65 in the case of leases.
  • Provide stable and permanent source of funding for TIP. A concern cited by some FSA staff was their hesitation in conducting a wide outreach strategy on TIP with only minimal funds remaining. Stable and secure funding for TIP, established based on the CRP baseline, would also allow FSA staff to conduct wider outreach knowing the program’s funding and future to be secure, and TIP would benefit from this added funding stability. 
  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher
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Insure commodities you have not insured before

Farmers and ranchers, have you heard of Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP)?

WFRP is a crop insurance plan that allows a farmer or rancher to insure the revenue for their operation in its entirety. The program is available in all counties nationwide. You can utilize WFRP as your sole source of crop insurance or with other federal crop insurance policies.

The majority of crop insurance in the United States covers just four crops: corn, beans, wheat, and cotton. For producers of other commodities — such as organic oats or pumpkins — insurance coverage has been limited. Diversified producers have struggled to find policies that cover certain crops in the past, but WFRP may be a viable solution today.

Owners of diversified operations can use WFRP in combination with other crop insurance products or as a standalone plan. It allows farmers and ranchers to insure commodities they couldn’t insure before – small grains crop, livestock, even fruits and vegetables – as long as there is a history of revenue.

Do you have questions about WFRP, or want to share your experience with us? Now is the time to learn more about the program and find out if it is the right fit for your operation. Producers deserve to know what risk management protection options are available. Give us a call at 402.687.2100. Read more about Insure commodities you have not insured before

  • Crop Insurance Reform
  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill
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Corporate Farming Notes

Farmland owned by foreign interests on the rise

A recent report from the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that foreign holdings of U.S. farmland doubled between 2004 and 2014. Foreign investors now control 27.3 million acres of farmland.

Among the leading foreign owners of domestic farmland is the Chinese firm Shuanghui. The same firm purchased pork giant Smithfield Foods in 2013. Shuanghui owns more than 146,000 acres of farmland in the U.S.

The Center for Rural Affairs has long fought corporate control of our farmland and food production. Nebraska's Initiative 300 barred corporate ownership of farmland in the state. The 1982 ballot amendment won the support of Nebraskans concerned about maintaining control over the basic assets of their communities. The law was struck down after three decades in a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ownership by foreign corporations simply heightens the concern that led to corporate farming bans across nine largely agriculture states in the Midwest and Plains. As a first step toward addressing this issue, the Center supports proposals to strengthen reporting on foreign ownership of farmland and to strengthen enforcement of existing state laws governing such sales.

Merger-mania moves ahead

A major wave of consolidation in the seed and chemical industry that kicked off in 2016 continues to move forward through market and regulatory hoops. Mergers underway include the proposed unions of Bayer and Monsanto; Dow and Dupont; and ChemChina and Syngenta. The deals are reshaping an already highly consolidated market.

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. Farmers have lost access to seed varieties and genetic traits while seeing the prices they pay for biotechnology traits skyrocket.

The Center believes in the power of a competitive marketplace and the role of government in guarding against unfair and anticompetitive market practices. We continue to call on the Justice Department and on Congress to take action to block these mergers. Sadly, there appears to be little appetite to do so among D.C. policymakers. Read more about Corporate Farming Notes

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyCorporate Farming
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Lux receives REAP Extra Mile Award

Doris Lux, of Columbus, Nebraska, was chosen as the recipient of the Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) 2016 Extra Mile Award. She was recognized at an award ceremony on March 10 in York, Nebraska.

The REAP Extra Mile Award is presented annually to an individual or organization that demonstrates outstanding support to REAP and exceptional dedication to small business development in rural Nebraska.

Doris is the Entrepreneurship Center director of Central Community College - Columbus. She co-hosts training sessions offered by the REAP Women’s Business Center at the Central Community College Business Incubator and refers business owners to the group.

“When REAP offered monthly roundtables, Doris provided a place for our local group to meet,” said Juan Sandoval, Center for Rural Affairs’ REAP Latino Business Center director. “Doris is a great source of information for those looking to start or expand a business in the Columbus, Central City, and Grand Island areas.”

Juan and Doris have worked together to counsel clients since 2010. In 2015, the two started Table Talks, a monthly training for entrepreneurs, in Columbus and Schuyler. The partnership has hosted several lunchtime sessions including email marketing, social media, transition and succession planning, legal structures, basic bookkeeping, and contracting with the government.

“Doris has been instrumental in referring loan clients as well as providing assistance in developing a business idea or structuring a business plan,” Juan said. “Doris is an asset to her community and to the businesses she serves. In short, Doris always goes the extra mile.”

At the award dinner, Juan said he and Doris have been described as Bonnie and Clyde since they are always up to something, and helping entrepreneurs.

“She is dedicated,” he said. “She’s a great asset to the community. Congratulations, Doris.”

Doris said they could tell stories for a long time. REAP and the community college have offered a lot of joint trainings and provided assistance to aspiring business owners.

“I’ll say one tiny plan needs money. Juan is always there, willing to figure something out,” Doris said. “I appreciate REAP. I just really enjoy working with people and seeing them be successful. Thank you for this award.” Read more about Lux receives REAP Extra Mile Award

  • Small Business
  • Small BusinessREAP
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Health care

Veteran farmers’ service continues through agriculture

When I think of farmers, veteran farmers in particular, I think of hard working and innovative men and women. I see their work in rows of fields covering the rural landscape, in rolling green pastures dotted with livestock, and on shelves in grocery stores.

Farming is a livelihood, not an occupation. Family and community are at the center of its culture. These qualities help make farming an especially meaningful pursuit for many of our nation's veterans. The Center for Rural Affairs provides resources and education to help veteran farmers succeed.

The Center recently hosted a beginning veteran farmer conference, an experience where, as a member of the Air Force, I could connect with those whom I consider my brothers and sisters. We were in a setting that felt central to my being – both as a veteran and as a sixth generation Iowa farmer.

The day began with a great example of what it means to serve your country. Matt and Emely Hendl told us about their transition from a U.S. Navy career to living their dream as beginning farmers in Nebraska.

Their story is one of hard work, goal setting, partnership, mentorship, dedication, and innovation. It is an example of what it means to be a contributing member of society, which directly correlates to the skills, values, and ethics that Matt demonstrated in his military career.

Veteran farmers like Matt are keeping rural America vibrant, providing a safe place to raise our children, and securing the American dream. Their service isn’t over – it continues on through their work in agriculture.

If you are a veteran farmer and would like more information, please contact me at 402.687.2100 x 1012 or For online resources, visit

Feature photo: Veterans discussing land access at Answering the Call: Veteran Farmer Conference in Seward, Nebraska, on June 22. Read more about Veteran farmers’ service continues through agriculture

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher
  • Farm PolicyFarm and Food
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