Number of older Americans expected to double by 2050

Rural America, and the nation as a whole, has entered a phase of significant demographic change. 

As of the last decennial census, there were more than 40.4 million Americans over the age of 65, composing 13.1 percent of the total population. 

With the wave of the baby boom generation entering this demographic, the number of older Americans is estimated to more than double by 2050. This significant demographic transition is exacerbated in rural communities and locations, where the population is already older than the nation as a whole. Rural areas have a median age of 51, compared to the national median age of 37.

Nebraska counties and the state are also experiencing this shift in the age demographic. As presented in a report to the Legislative Planning Committee, the state’s population of those age 65 years and older is expected to reach nearly 419,000 by 2030. This estimate presents nearly 70 percent growth in this age demographic over two decades.

Even ahead of the full effects of this significant demographic shift, rural Nebraska counties have a higher percentage of residents over the age of 65. As of 2014, 18 percent of residents in rural counties were 65 years of age or older, compared to 11.5 percent in Nebraska’s urban counties. A full 47 percent of Nebraskans of retirement age live in rural counties. 

While the aging of rural communities is in part a result of an increased trend toward urbanization, rural citizens play a significant role in the fabric and future of the state and ultimately the nation. It is in these rural areas where much of the nation’s food, fiber, and natural resources are brought from the earth to the market supplying the vast network of goods and services that fuel the country.

Allowing this significant population asset to age without consideration of the implications could be detrimental. The ramifications of this demographic shift upon the social, civic, and economic structures of rural communities and the need for policies which recognize and accommodate this growing population are worth examining.

Over the upcoming months, the Center for Rural Affairs will be formalizing a task force on aging in rural areas. The objective of the task force is to explore the opportunities, challenges, and needs that are unique to rural elderly residents and the communities they call home. Residents from any state are welcome to join in.

If you are interested in participating in the task force or have recommendations for areas of focus or policies to consider, please contact Jordan Rasmussen at 402.687.2100 x1032 or

Feature photo: As of the last deccennial census, there were more than 40.4 million Americans older than 65. The number of older Americans is estimated to more than double by 2050. This demographic shift will affect civic, economic, and social structures of rural communities, such as Hastings, Nebraska (above), where residents enjoyed a concert this summer. | Photo by Rhea Landholm Read more about Number of older Americans expected to double by 2050

  • Rural Health
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There’s a buzz about Outhouse Honey Farm

Along a gravel road on the Omaha Reservation is a white house surrounded by gardens and fruit trees.

On one side of the property is an aging outhouse – the namesake of the small operation, Outhouse Honey Farm.

Bees in the outhouse

Four years ago, owner Lowell Osborne noted something peculiar.

“On the side of the outhouse, there were a whole lot of bees going in and out of that big hole,” he said. “I looked, and it was just full of bees in there.”

Lowell decided to make something of the find, and contacted a retired beekeeper. He bought a bee box and supplies at an affordable price.

This year, the hive was divided into three – one swarm of bees took to a second box and the third decided to choose their home – the side of the house.

Head gardener duties

Honey production is just one part of the Outhouse Honey Farm. Vegetables, herbs, and fruit grow almost everywhere you look. Lowell, his wife, Milissa, and their five daughters, Zena, Anabel, Zora, Olivia, and Alannah, all pitch in.

Lowell took over as head gardener three years ago.

“Originally, Lowell gardened because this was a way for him to make a little extra money,” Milissa said. “That’s why we expanded like we did.”

“I have a lot of kids to feed,” Lowell said.

The Osbornes are faithful vendors at the Omaha Reservation farmers market and the Christmas Bazaar, both run by the Center for Rural Affairs.

Expanding the garden

Suzi French, Center for Rural Affairs community foods specialist, said the Osbornes have nearly quadrupled the size of their garden from 2016 to 2017.

Among the new items are watermelon, sunflowers, lettuce, kohlrabi, turnips, green beans, spinach, eggplant, celery, Brussels sprouts, and additional pepper and cabbage plants.

Their one and only cabbage last year – Cabbage Carl – won a purple ribbon in open class competition at the county fair. Zena received the plant as part of a school project.

Most of the produce is taken to the kitchen for canning, making jellies, pickling, and to put into pies. The Osbornes are known for their cinnamon pickles which uses an “old family recipe.”

Planting a garden this size takes some planning. Milissa explained there are hot peppers and sweet peppers on either side, with tomatoes in between, preventing the sweet plants from turning hot.

She has also studied companion planting, so in the front flowerbed, garlic is planted among the rose bushes and walking onions are growing next to morning glories.

Other produce found throughout the garden includes potatoes, onions, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, Swiss chard, collard greens, squash, eggplant, celery, and more.

Everyone pitches in

Just beyond the garden, one can find the source of the Outhouse Honey Farm soundtrack – a rooster, a goose (named Nancy), and chickens. (They use the eggs for baked goods to sell.) A pig chimes in once in awhile, when he’s not playing with his basketball or eating bread, his favorite food.

On the day I visited, the Osbornes cut butter crunch lettuce and pulled radishes for the afternoon farmers market. While talking to me, each one started automatically tending to the garden.

“We can’t walk through the garden without pulling weeds,” Milissa said.

Before I could drive away, they piled into the family SUV with buckets to go raspberry hunting, and told me about chokecherries and grapes they had found on a previous foraging excursion.

They have plans to expand their operation even more. Milissa said fruit trees need to be replaced, and Lowell said they will get meat goats, “hopefully soon.”

Feature photo: Four years ago, Lowell Osborne found bees in an old outhouse on his property. He successfully moved the bees into a bee box to produce honey. For the last three yeras, Lowell and his family have sold their honey, produce, and baked goods at a farmers market run by the Center for Rural Affairs. | Photo by Rhea Landholm Read more about There’s a buzz about Outhouse Honey Farm

  • Small TownsCommunity Food
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Your story

Sodsaver program could be extended

This week, the American Prairie Conservation Act was introduced by Sens. John Thune (R-SD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Reps. Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Tim Walz (D-MN).

This bill strengthens the protections for native prairies and prime grasslands that were established in previous farm bills. It expands the existing “sodsaver” provision from six states (Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota) to the entire U.S.

On average, the government covers about 60 percent of farmers’ crop insurance premium costs. The sodsaver provisions provide a disincentive for farmers to plow up native sod by reducing the amount of crop insurance subsidies available when they plow these lands.

Expanding these provisions nationwide would not only protect fragile lands, it would ensure that crop insurance subsidies are available consistently for farmers in all 50 states.

If passed, these proposals could save $52 million over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

In addition, if a farmer plows native sod and plants a noninsured crop such as alfalfa, they can avoid sodsaver restrictions. This bill proposes to close that loophole.

Stewardship of our land and water is an invaluable legacy. By expanding the sodsaver rules nationwide, this bill will help protect our natural resources, keep land in production, and support farms and rural communities.

To read about our farm bill priorities, visit Read more about Sodsaver program could be extended

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill
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From the desk of the executive director: Farm bill renewal is in sight

Congress is in the process of writing another farm bill. Political distractions are running high in Washington. But distracted or not – the current farm bill expires in September 2018. 

If Congress fails to act, key farm bill initiatives that support beginning farmers, local and regional market development, and rural small businesses will come to a screeching halt. An opportunity to reform federal crop insurance and improve conservation programs also hangs in the balance. 

Our policy platform for the new farm bill stands around three pillars. 

Protect and improve farm conservation programs – Stewardship of our land and water for future generations is a core tenet of our work at the Center. Programs that support working lands conservation – soil, water, and habitat conservation on land that is also cultivated or grazed – help to steward our natural resources, while also keeping land in production to support local farms and local economies. We’ll work to retain major gains made in conservation programs in the last two farm bills, while also streamlining programs so they work better together. 

Reform commodity programs – Under current policy, the very largest farms can collect crop insurance subsidies without limit. If one operation farmed the entire state of Iowa, the federal government would subsidize their crop insurance on every single acre. That blocks beginning farmers out of the system and ensures that as the largest farms grow, they collect even more subsidies. We support a $50,000 cap on crop insurance premiums. One government report showed this cap would reduce subsidies to the largest 2.5 percent of farms, helping level the playing field for everyone else. Along with reforms to expand access and enhance conservation, we can make crop insurance work in alignment with our values and priorities. 

Protect investment in beginning farmers and entrepreneurial development – Entrepreneurial development is a proven strategy to create opportunity in rural America. A large set of programs that support entrepreneurial development, beginning farmers, local and regional market development, rural small businesses, and small towns are all set to expire at the end of the current farm bill. Extending, improving, and building on these programs is a central pillar of our policy platform and a key strategy for driving change in small towns across the nation. 

Over the course of the coming months, we will call on you to reach out to members of Congress to support specific policy proposals that align with these three pillars. Your voice in prompting members of Congress to act will be critical. Read more about From the desk of the executive director: Farm bill renewal is in sight

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  • Small TownsCommunity Development
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Smart policy creates sunny outlook

The Iowa legislature created the Iowa Solar Energy System Tax Credit in 2012. Designed to encourage local investment, the credit offsets up to 15 percent of the cost of a new installation. Legislators included limits of $5,000 per home or $20,000 per business to ensure accessibility.

This incentive led to 2,524 new solar projects between 2012 and 2016. The new installments are spread across the state, with at least one in 97 of Iowa’s 99 counties. In total, the $16.4 million provided by the solar tax incentive has generated $123,248,595 of private investment.

One project is located on the Joe and Dianne Rotta farm near Merrill, Iowa. The Rottas farm 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans and have a 24,000 hog operation. In cooperation with a local solar developer, they recently built a combined 121 kilowatt (kW) installment to meet their energy needs. They used net metering, and any excess is banked for use during the harvest season, when grain drying and augering systems increase energy demand.

The farm has been in Dianne’s family since 1884. During that time, it has seen a lot of changes. At the end of July, I had an opportunity to visit. I was joined by several members of the Iowa legislature, along with a representative for Sen. Grassley. Solar installers, project developers, and members of the local electric cooperative were on hand to provide perspective. 

During the tour, Joe and Dianne listed the reasons why solar worked for them. They first pointed to independence and the ability to act as their own electric provider. They acknowledged the flexibility and autonomy. But in the end, it came down to cost.

“Once it’s paid off, it’s yours,” Dianne explained. “We would not have went forward unless it made sense financially. We see this primarily as a way to control inputs and lower costs.”

Because of the Iowa Solar Energy System Tax Credit, the pay-off period is shorter than ever. Combining a state or local incentive with the federal investment tax credit can offset costs by up to 45 percent. This reduces the payback period by two years.

The price of installed solar has fallen by more than 200 percent since 2009. Farm, home, and business owners have taken notice. Due to growing demand, the industry now employs almost 375,000 individuals across the country. Nearly 1,000 of those live in Iowa, many of them rural.  

This is what opportunity looks like in rural communities across the Midwest and Great Plains. Joe and Dianne found a way to lower costs and improve their bottom line. They identified a local business that could help them do it. It’s a win-win for Merrill and northwest Iowa.

The Iowa Solar Energy System Tax Credit is a small investment that creates a big return. The result is a new industry in the state’s rural towns. Smart policy like this is what helps keep our communities strong.

Feature photo: Lawmakers, solar installers, project developers, and electric cooperative members recently took a tour of solar installments in northwest Iowa – a tour co-organized by the Center for Rural Affairs. | Photo by Patrick Snell of the Nature Conservancy Read more about Smart policy creates sunny outlook

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Let’s accurately frame Nebraska’s property tax challenge

Property tax relief and adequate funding for schools and local governments was the topic of a recent community conversation in Nebraska City, hosted by the Center for Rural Affairs. Community leaders and Otoe County residents gathered to discuss property tax challenges facing agricultural land and residential property owners and the radiating impact on schools and local governments.

Dr. Jeff Edwards, of Nebraska Public Schools, reiterated the message shared by superintendents and school boards across the state: the reliance upon agricultural land property taxes is not a challenge created by school spending, but one that has been shifted from the state.

“Our budget is increasing by only 1.02 percent this year, with all of the new money going to general budget increases,” Edwards said. “Despite the rhetoric, public schools are not overspending.”

Like most Nebraska schools, more than 80 percent of Nebraska City Public Schools’ budget is consumed by staffing costs like salaries and health insurance; costs that are often beyond a district’s control. Yet Nebraska ranks 49th in state funding for education, so schools are forced to turn to property taxpayers to shoulder the burden.

This weighs heavily upon farmers, like Gene Hobbie of rural Dunbar.

“Going to the courthouse twice a year to pay property taxes on my farm land really hurts,” said Hobbie. “But, there is nothing that can be done about it. Even the banker has started to talk about how we can cut costs even further so that the property taxes can be paid.”

Attendees also mused on possible solutions to help bring better balance and equity in funding for schools and other local entities. Options such as sales tax on luxury services like dry cleaning or limo services were also offered as revenue generators.

“I am in favor of an income tax increase to help fund schools,” said Hobbie.

Consensus was found in the need to roll back tax incentive programs like the Nebraska Advantage Act and return the dollars to the revenue stream. Nebraska City resident Stephanie Schrader shared that the Nebraska Advantage Act no longer benefits small and local businesses as it was originally designed.

“Instead of using the funds to incentivize on a per job basis, the act has evolved to give multimillion dollar tax breaks to big businesses without consideration of the cost per job,” said Schrader.

As solutions to Nebraska’s tax imbalance are explored, it is imperative that we highlight those who would be most affected by these policies. Tax cuts and revenues which push back rhetoric and instead bring fairness and equity to Nebraska’s tax system are required in order to fund schools, services, and communities – and protect the good life.

Pictured: The Nemaha County Courthouse in Auburn. Nemaha County is just south of Otoe County on the eastern edge of Nebraska. Read more about Let’s accurately frame Nebraska’s property tax challenge

  • Farm Policy
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Local food served on school lunch trays nationwide

Para la versión en español de esta historia, por favor oprima aqui.

October is National Farm to School Month, a time to recognize the importance of improving child nutrition, supporting local economies, and educating communities about the origins of their food.

In 2016, the Center for Rural Affairs joined more than 220 organizations nationwide to promote farm to school throughout October. This year marks the seventh year for National Farm to School Month, designated by Congress to bring awareness to the growing importance of these programs in child nutrition, local economies, and education.

What makes farm to school special? The program helps students learn where their food comes from and provides healthy access to more fruits and vegetables. It is an avenue for rural schools to keep spending in their communities with purchases made from local farms and food businesses.

Educators can also weave farm to school into math and science curriculum. The program is a great addition to business and entrepreneurship classes, as well as cooking classes. Imagine learning culinary skills using seasonal, local ingredients and how to buy them.

According to the 2015 U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School Census, farm to school programs have invested more than $789 million in local communities; offered 17,089 salad bars with healthy options to students and staff; and grown 7,101 school gardens. Approximately 1,039 school districts serve local foods during the peak season in the summer months and 1,516 school districts start farm to school early in their pre-K programs.

The numbers don’t lie. Farm to school is a win for students, farm, food businesses, and communities. For more information on National Farm to School Month, visit our online toolkit at Read more about Local food served on school lunch trays nationwide

  • Small TownsCommunity Food
  • Small TownsCommunity FoodFarm to School
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Weekly column

Protect your rural health care coverage

The latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Graham-Cassidy Health Care Repeal Plan, is a prescription for harm to rural America. The legislation is anticipated to be brought before the Senate early next week, and if passed will be quickly picked up by the House.

Here is what the Graham-Cassidy bill would do:

  • Completely eliminate the ACA’s marketplace subsidies, which currently help 10 million people afford health care coverage. They would no longer be guaranteed any assistance to buy plans.
  • Gut Medicaid through deep, permanent cuts that would grow over time and threaten care for millions of low-income seniors, children, and people living with disabilities, and shift massive costs and risks to states through a system of per capita caps and block grants.
  • Allow states to waive the pre-existing conditions and essential health benefits requirement. That means a previous cancer diagnosis or treatment for diabetes could leave you ineligible for coverage, even under your insurance through work.
  • End the expansion of Medicaid, which has extended coverage to close to 12 million low-income adults. The plan offers no guarantee of alternative affordable coverage for these beneficiaries.

This bill would mean fewer people covered, weaker protections, and higher costs for consumers. It's time to tell our representatives that this bill is not what constituents want. Here are some starting points for a conversation with your senator:

  • Tell your senator how your access to coverage has made a difference in your life and the life of your family.
  • Encourage senators to ensure that low and middle income Americans will be able to secure affordable and adequate coverage.
  • Ask senators to ensure that protections are in place for consumers with pre-existing health conditions.
  • Share the need to fix the challenges of the ACA instead of decimating the health care coverage that protects millions of Americans.

As has been demonstrated by the previous failed attempts to repeal the ACA since January – your voice and your calls MATTER! Please call your senator and congressperson today! Read more about Protect your rural health care coverage

  • Rural Health
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Farm bill could help farmers, soil health, and water quality

Do you care about soil health, clean water, and farmers’ ability to make a living and steward their land? Time to tune in. Congress has started work on the next farm bill, and now is when they need to hear from you: the voters.

The next farm bill offers a major opportunity to support conservation through the crop insurance program. Crop insurance is a must-have for most farmers. Linking crop insurance to conservation is therefore a smart way for Congress to invest taxpayer dollars in supporting farmers and strengthening stewardship of natural resources.

However, many farmers may be hesitant to use conservation practices due to confusing crop insurance regulations. They may ask, “Does planting cover crops impact eligibility?” Congress could eliminate this barrier by making clear that all conservation activities count as good farming practices under crop insurance.

The farm bill could also strengthen the tie between farmers’ conservation practices and their eligibility for crop insurance subsidies. Congress already passed a measure requiring farmers with highly erodible land or wetlands to meet a conservation threshold in order to receive crop insurance subsidies. It makes sense to expand this and offer a higher crop insurance subsidy to all farmers who practice conservation. These individuals are preserving the land for future generations.

Whether you are a farmer or not, everyone has three representatives in Congress: two senators and one congressperson. All three will eventually vote on a farm bill. Let your lawmakers know today that conservation is important to you. Read more about Farm bill could help farmers, soil health, and water quality

  • Crop Insurance Reform
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  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill
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Center joins advocacy organizations in support of Dream Act of 2017

This week, the Center for Rural Affairs joins more than 320 child and youth advocacy organizations in a letter to Congress expressing our support for the bipartisan Dream Act of 2017.

The bill would provide lawful status and a path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth and young adults who came to the United States as children, including recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The letter urges Congress to take immediate action to pass a clean Dream Act following President Trump’s decision to terminate DACA. As a result, more than 800,000 Dreamers who have been able to access work authorization and protection from deportation are once again facing an uncertain future.

As an organization committed to equity and inclusion for all, we recognize that rescinding DACA will have immediate, severe consequences for recipients and their families. Recipients will lose their work authorization and once again be at risk for deportation, threatening their safety, economic security, and mental health — as well as that of their families. An estimated 25 percent of DACA recipients are parents to U.S. citizen children. The decision also means that more than 200,000 Dreamers under age 15 who were waiting to age into DACA no longer have the opportunity to apply.

These DACA recipients are our students, neighbors, coworkers, and community members. The bipartisan Dream Act is common-sense legislation that will provide a permanent solution for these and many more young Dreamers, ensuring their wellbeing and future success.

We join advocates from around the country to urge Congress to immediately pass the Dream Act.

For the number of DACA recipients as of June 30, 2017, by state, click here.

Letter to Congress

Dear Member of Congress,

The undersigned organizations are writing to express our strong support for the immediate passage of the bipartisan Dream Act of 2017 (S.1615/H.R. 3440), which would provide lawful status and a clear path to citizenship to certain immigrant youth and young adults who came to the United States as children, including recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. As organizations concerned with the emotional, psychological, physical, educational, and economic wellbeing of children and youth, we are united in our commitment to ensuring that all children in the United States have opportunities for educational and economic success.

Swift Congressional action on the Dream Act is imperative following President Trump’s decision to terminate DACA, an action that will uproot the lives of more than 800,000 Dreamers who have been able to access work authorization and protection from deportation through the program. DACA has proven to be smart policy—not only for DACA recipients but also for their families and communities. A large survey of DACA recipients found that 45 percent of DACA youth are enrolled in school and more than 90 percent are employed.

The decision to end DACA will have negative consequences for children and youth across the United States. It immediately caused upheaval for almost a million young immigrants, who are once again worried about their safety and security in the only country they call home. Dreamers report that receiving DACA gave them hope for the future, instilled a greater sense of belonging and value, and reduced their fear of authorities. Being forced back into the shadows will significantly undermine their mental health and wellbeing. Furthermore, Dreamers are forced to worry about how they will continue to support their families and fund their education without the ability to work.

Ending the program also undercuts the wellbeing of families who depend on DACA recipients, including U.S. citizen children. Roughly a quarter of DACA recipients are parents to U.S. citizen children. Decades of developmental research tells us that children markedly benefit when their parents are mentally and physically healthy and have access to higher education and quality jobs. Moreover, an emerging body of research exposes the developmental harm that children experience when parents lack status. In addition to the negative effects of financial hardship during childhood, children experience tremendous fear and stress at the prospect of being separated from their parents.

Finally, the termination of DACA dashes the hopes of approximately 200,000 little Dreamers who have been waiting to turn 15 to meet the program’s age requirements. Like citizen children, they have and will continue to spend the majority of their young lives learning and growing in our schools and communities. Without Congressional action, their dreams of becoming our nation’s future lawyers, doctors, teachers, soldiers, scientists, and policymakers will be cut short.

As organizations dedicated to the health and wellbeing of children, we submit that the bipartisan Dream Act is common-sense legislation to provide a permanent solution for DACA recipients as well as other eligible immigrant youth. The bill reflects the diverse talents and passions of the Dreamer population, including those who are parents. Advancing educational and employment opportunities for millions of children and youth supports their wellbeing and future success as well as that of our country. We urge members of Congress to act quickly and pass a clean Dream Act.


National Organizations

Advocates for Youth
Alliance for Early Success
Alliance for Strong Families and Communities
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Dance Therapy Association
American Federation of Teachers
American Psychological Association
BUILD Initiative
Building Movement Project
Campaign for Youth Justice
Center for American Progress
Center for Immigration and Child Welfare
Center for Law and Social Policy
Center for Public Interest Law
Center for Rural Affairs
Child Care Aware of America
Child Labor Coalition
Child Welfare League of America
Children's Advocacy Institute
Children’s Defense Fund
Children’s Defense Fund Southern Regional Office
Children's Leadership Council
Coalition for Juvenile Justice
Coalition on Human Needs
College Success Foundation
Community Catalyst
Council of Administrators of Special Education
Courage Campaign
Democrats for Education Reform
Educare Learning Network
Family Focused Treatment Association
First Focus Campaign for Children
Forum for Youth Investment
Gateway to College National Network
Generations United
Girls Inc.
Heartland Alliance
HighScope Educational Research Foundation
Immigration Partnership and Coalition Fund
Jobs for the Future
Justice in Motion
Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)
Learning Disabilities Association of America
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Make it Work
MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership
National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds
National Association for College Admission Counseling
National Association for Family Child Care
National Association for the Education of Young Children
National Association of Secondary School Principals
National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
National Center for Youth Law
National College Access Network
National Consumers League
National Council of Young Leaders
National Crittenton Foundation
National Education Association
National Health Law Program
National Human Services Assembly
National Immigration Law Center
National Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Association
National Network for Youth
National Women's Law Center
National Youth Employment Coalition
New Horizon Academy
New Leaders
Nonprofit Leadership Alliance
Opportunity Nation
Opportunity Youth United
Ounce of Prevention Fund
Pacific Northwest Association for College Admission Counseling (PNACAC)
Partnership for America's Children
PCACAC Government Relations Committee
People's Action
Pre-Health Dreamers
Public Advocacy for Kids
Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES)
Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
School Social Work Association of America
SchoolHouse Connection
Southern Association for College Admission Counseling
Southern Center for Human Rights
Stand for Children
StandUp For Kids
The Advocates for Human Rights
The Children's Partnership
Think of Us
True Colors Fund
United We Dream
We Belong Together
Women’s Refugee Commission
Year Up
Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights
Young Invincibles
YouthBuild USA, Inc.

State and Local Organizations

Alabama Possible
Alabama Family Child Care Association
Girls Inc. of Central Alabama
Madison County Home Child Care Association
Voices for Alabama’s Children

Alaska Children’s Trust

Arizona Council of Human Service Providers
Children’s Action Alliance
Phoenix Youth & Family Services, Inc.

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families

American Sports Institute
Association for California School Administrators
California Alternative Payment Program Association
California Association for the Education of Young Children (CAAEYC)
Child Care Law Center
Children’s Defense Fund—California
Children's Law Center of California
Children Now
Clinica Monseñor Oscar A. Romero
Coalition of Orange County Community Health Centers
Community Clinic Consortium of Contra Costa and Solano
Community Health Councils
Community Health Partnership
Educare California at Silicon Valley
Equality California
Girls Inc. of Greater Los Angeles
Girls Inc. of San Diego County
Law Foundation of Silicon Valley
Northern California Association of Counsel for Children
Parent Voices CA
PDAP of Ventura County, Inc.
Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network
Southern CA Association for the Education of Young Children

Clayton Early Learning
Colorado Children's Campaign
Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition
Denver Scholarship Foundation
Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network

All Our Kin
Center for Children's Advocacy, Inc.
Connecticut Association for Human Services
Connecticut Voices for Children
Our Piece of the Pie, Inc.
SEIU Connecticut State Council

Delaware Association for the Education of Young Children

District of Columbia
District of Columbia Association of Secondary School Principals (DCASSP)
Girls Inc. DC
La Clinica del Pueblo

Catalyst Miami
Children’s Forum
Girls Inc. of Bay County
Girls Inc. of Jacksonville
Girls Inc. of Winter Haven

Columbia Presbyterian Church
Georgia Budget and Policy Institute
Interactive College of Technology
Los Vecinos de Buford Highway

Hawaii Association for the Education of Young Children
Hawaii Association of Secondary School Administrators

Idaho AEYC
Idaho Association of School Administrators

Casa Central
Catholic Charities Diocese of Joliet
Center for the Human Rights of Children, Loyola University Chicago
Erikson Institute
Illinois Action for Children
Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling
Illinois Collaboration on Youth
Illinois Principals Association
Voices for Illinois Children

Girls Inc. of Monroe County
Indiana Association of School Principals
Indiana Institute for Working Families

Girls Inc. of Sioux City

Kansas Action for Children

Family & Children's Place
Girls Inc. Owensboro

Louisiana Policy Institute for Children

Bonny Eagle High School
Maine Association for the Education of Young Children
Maine Children's Alliance
Maine Principals’ Association

Advocates for Children and Youth
Asylee Women Enterprise
Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals
Prince George's County Family Child Care Association
Professional Child Care Provider Network of Prince George's Co. Inc.
Ready At Five

Girls Inc. of the Berkshires
Girls Inc. of Holyoke
Girls Inc. of the Seacoast Area
Massachusetts School Administrators Association
MIRA Coalition
Northeast Justice Center
Strategies for Children

Michigan Association for College Admission Counseling
Michigan’s Children
Mothering Justice
Priority Children

Children’s Defense Fund—Minnesota
Minnesota Association for College Admission Counseling (MACAC)
MN Association for the Education of Young Children (MNAEYC) & MN School-Age Care
YWCA Minneapolis

Mississippi Low Income Child Care Initiative

Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals
SLATE Missouri Job Center

Montana Association of County School Superintendents
Montana Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals
Montana Association of School Superintendents
Montana Association of Secondary School Principals
Montana Council of Administrators of Special Education
Montana Educational Technologists Association
School Administrators of Montana

ACLU of Nebraska
Black Men United
Compassion in Action, Inc.
Early Childhood Services
First Five Nebraska
Food Bank of Lincoln
Heartland Workers Center
Holland Children’s Movement
Latino Center of the Midlands
Nebraska Appleseed
League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha
League of Women Voters of Lincoln and Lancaster County Nebraska
League of Women Voters of Nebraska
Nebraska Youth Advocates
OneWorld Community Health Centers
Unity in Action
Voices for Children in Nebraska

Children’s Advocacy Alliance

New Hampshire
Mont Vernon Village School
Woodman Park School

New Jersey
Advocates for Children of New Jersey
New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association

New Mexico
New Mexico Voices for Children

New York
Advocates for Children of New York
Atlas: DIY
Brothers At Bard
Center for Children's Initiative
Child Care Council of Suffolk, Inc.
Child Care Resource Network
Children’s Defense Fund—New York
Citizens' Committee for Children of New York
Early Care & Learning Council
Girls Inc. of Long Island
Lawyers For Children, Inc.
NYS Association for College Admissions Counseling (NYSACAC)
NYS Association for the Education of Young Children
Prevent Child Abuse New York
School Administrators Association of New York State
Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy
Women's Housing and Economic Development Corporation

North Carolina
NC Child
North Carolina Justice Center

Action for Children
Children’s Defense Fund—Ohio
HAPPY Homes Ohio Association
Ohio Association for College Admission Counseling
Ohio Association for the Education of Young Children
Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators
Southwest Ohio AEYC
YWCA of Hamilton

Oklahoma Association of Secondary Principals
Oklahoma Child Care Resource and Referral Association
Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy

Children's Institute
Confederation of Oregon School Administrators
Oregon Association of Secondary School Administrators

Pennsylvania Principals Association
Pennsylvania Association for College Admission Counseling
Public Citizens for Children and Youth

Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico Association for the Education of Young Children

Rhode Island
Rhode Island Association of School Principals
Rhode Island KIDS COUNT

South Carolina

Black Children's Institute of Tennessee
Community Legal Center
Tennessee Association of Secondary School Principals
Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth

Center for Public Policy Priorities
Children’s Defense Fund—Texas
Children's Rights Clinic
Hispanic Faculty Staff Association of the University of Texas at Austin
Texas Association for College Admissions Counseling
Texans Care for Children
Voices for Children of San Antonio

Professional Family Child Care Association of Utah
Utah Association of Secondary School Principals

Vermont Principals' Association

Child Care Connections of Richmond
Virginia Alliance of Family Child Care Associations

Association of Washington School Principals
Northwest Health Advocates
Washington State Association of Head Start and ECEAP

West Virginia
West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy

Association of WI School Administrators
CAP Services, Inc.
Center for Resilient Cities
East Madison Community Center
Girls Inc. of Greater Madison
Kids Forward
Wisconsin Association of College Admissions Counselors

Wyoming Association of Secondary School Principals Read more about Center joins advocacy organizations in support of Dream Act of 2017

  • Small TownsInclusion
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Farm bill conversations: crop insurance

The Center for Rural Affairs farm bill team has been working hard to make sure you have up-to-date and important farm bill information. Over the past few weeks we have sent out information regarding our farm bill priorities. This week, we’re talking about crop insurance reform and how you can get involved by contacting your representatives.

Here are two things we’d like to see change with crop insurance through the 2018 farm bill:

  1. Stop allowing taxpayer dollars to go without limit to the largest farmers; and
  2. Manage risk through conservation.

Want to learn more about crop insurance reform?      

Check out our crop insurance fact sheet here. It covers the basics - why it is important to reform crop insurance policy in the 2018 farm bill and how you can get involved.

Now is the time to have your voice heard! Call your representatives.

A brief call to your representative is all it takes! If you aren’t sure who your representatives are, call the Congressional Switchboard at 202.224.3121.

Think your call isn’t important?

Even if you can’t talk to your representative personally, a staff member will be taking notes and ensuring your message is delivered. Now is the time to take action - the farm bill is in the early stages, but it is ramping up fast!

If you’ve never called your representative before, no worries - here’s how to do it:

“Hello, my name is _________, and I live in___________[town where you live, so they know you are a member of their district]. I’m calling to let Representative/Senator _________ know I support [crop insurance reform: capping crop insurance premium subsidies, managing risk through conservation, etc.]. Thank you for your time!”

We’d like your input in the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill.

You can get involved here or you can contact me at 402.687.2100 x 1012 or Read more about Farm bill conversations: crop insurance

  • Crop Insurance Reform
  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill
  • Farm PolicyFarm and Food
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People powered capital

Almost weekly, I read surprising new statistics about capital concentration.

The eight richest people in the world control as much capital as half the world’s population. The richest 158 families in the United States were the source of more than 50 percent of early cash in the last presidential campaign cycle.

In a world where fewer individuals control more capital, efforts to rebalance the scales of capital become increasingly important. At the Center, we attack this problem through public policy and by operating a revolving loan pool to finance small businesses in rural Nebraska.

Through our Rural Enterprise Assistance Project, the Center makes small business loans to rural people who cannot access capital elsewhere. Our borrowers often have poor (or no) credit history, are start-up businesses without a track record, or lack traditional collateral that a bank requires.

Ana Gonzalez, who dreamed of starting her own business, is one such borrower. The Center assisted with a loan, training, and hands-on help to get her business started. We have placed more than 1,300 of these loans.

Business ownership remains one of the key ways for individuals to build assets over time. Each small business loan we place is an opportunity to rebalance the scales of capital.

Across the nation, there is a significant unmet need for alternative financing such as ours. We face a world where traditional financial institutions are failing too many average people. A national network of nonprofit and community-oriented lenders are stepping up to fill the gaps.

Each loan — and each nonprofit lender — may seem small relative to the challenge of capital concentration. But mission-driven and community-oriented control of capital will be a key strategy to help rural people build a future for themselves and their communities. Read more about People powered capital

  • Small Business
  • Small BusinessSmall Business Policy
Weekly column

Apply for value-added producer grants by January 2018, read about success stories

“Creating and marketing value-added products has the potential to significantly enhance our farm's profitability, but this is no easy task. Our value-added funds will help pay for processing, marketing, distribution, and sales of our pasture-raised chickens and eggs, as well as microgreens that we grow,” said Alex McKiernan, co-owner of Robinette Farms near Lincoln, Nebraska. The farm received a working capital grant in 2015.

Robinette Farms is now packaging and selling microgreens at local grocery stores, often partnering with a distributor and offering tastings to shoppers. Without the assistance of the Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG) program, it would be difficult for small farming operations like Robinette Farms to develop new products and access higher-value markets.

What is the opportunity?

On Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the availability of at least $18 million in funding through the competitive VAPG program.

Administered by USDA Rural Development, the VAPG program provides competitive grants to producers for working capital, feasibility studies, business plans, and marketing efforts used to establish value-added businesses. Up to $75,000 is available for a planning grant, and up to $250,000 is available for an implementation grant. Value-added grants can be used to develop new product lines from raw agricultural products or to promote additional uses for established products.

Who is eligible?

Independent producers, agricultural producer groups, farmer or rancher cooperatives, and majority-controlled, producer-based business ventures are all eligible to apply for these grants.

The program prioritizes funding for applicants who are beginning, veteran farmers and ranchers, or socially-disadvantaged farmers and ranchers; operators of small- and medium-sized family farms and ranches; farmer and rancher cooperatives; and majority-controlled, producer-based business ventures whose projects “best contribute” to creating or increasing marketing opportunities for the aforementioned groups of farmers.

New this year, there are reserved funds for applications that support opportunities for beginning and socially-disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and for proposed projects that develop mid-tier value marketing chains, as well as projects located in persistent poverty counties.

Who else has received VAPG funds?

William Powers, who owns and operates Darby Springs Farm in Ceresco, Nebraska, alongside his wife, Crystal, was another recipient of a $50,000 VAPG in 2015. The federal money helped finance construction of a creamery that allows them to make and sell ice cream using milk from their pasture-grazed dairy cows.

“The program is crucial for young entrepreneurs with a cash-flow situation,” William told Huffington Post in a recent interview. “We’re not independently wealthy, so that grant helped us make up some of those upfront payments.”

Darby Springs opened the doors of their microcreamery in August 2017, offering tours and tastings of the ice cream they now make and sell.

Why should I apply?

Nicole Saville, co-owner and operator of Spiritus Vitae Botanicals, a small medicinal herb farm located outside of Lincoln, Nebraska, is eyeing the working capital grant, as well, to assist with marketing and other costs.

“I believe the funding will help us become better at what we love to do, while allowing us the opportunity to get our products into the hands of more people in southeast Nebraska,” she said.

Kathy, who runs a garden to market business with her husband outside of Stanton, Nebraska, was surprised to learn that she could apply for funds. The money could help the business owners better prepare for their local farmers market by funding business supplies, such as a tent, and marketing items, like brochures.

She started off with making jams and jellies from excess produce in the garden. But, after attending a few sessions of the Center’s Rural Food Business Growth project, Kathy told us that she began to learn more and visualize “the bigger picture.”

“Being awarded this grant would give us a boost,” she said. “We could have a real presence at the market, and when I called Rural Development to ask questions, they helped me figure out what I needed most.”

How do I apply?

The best way to get started is to contact your local Rural Development office:

This year’s notice included an extended application period to allow farmers and ranchers time to put together high-quality proposals before and after their busy harvest seasons.

The deadline to submit paper applications is Jan. 31, 2018, and the deadline to submit electronic applications is Jan. 24, 2018. Electronic applications must be submitted through

Additional resources:

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is currently updating their “Farmer’s Guide to Applying for VAPG” and will possibly offer a webinar again this year. Stay tuned for details on their blog.

Nebraska 2015 VAPG program recipients can be found here.

Feature photo: Crystal Powers, co-owner and co-operator of Darby Springs Farm near Ceresco, Nebraska, gives a tour of the microcreamery in August. She and her husband, William, received a $50,000 value-added grant in 2015 to help finance construction of the building. The building features a walk-through milking station and three separate rooms - one for milk, one for ice cream, and one for a store. Read more about Apply for value-added producer grants by January 2018, read about success stories

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyFarm and Food
  • Small Business
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Preserving life for the next generation - a guide to barn restoration

Barns. They stand proudly against blue skies along the interstate, a highway, or even a lonely gravel road. Some are the centerpiece of a family farm, often as big or bigger than the old farmhouse near it. Others are modest in size, standing alone in the middle of a field, surrounded by crops, or are shadowed figures hidden by decades of overgrowth on long-abandoned homesteads.

These wooden time capsules are now being replaced by modern, metal versions. Brightly colored machine sheds take up space where many family barns once stood. However, on some farms and ranches, barns that have stood the test of time by providing decades of shelter for livestock and storage for feed can get a new shot a life; a chance to live on for generations to come.

Barn restoration may seem like a tedious undertaking. With the right tools and resources, the task is not only manageable, but also worth the effort to preserve the hard work and dedication of farm and ranch families of the past.

Financial assistance may also be available to aid in this process. Through state and federal tax credits or incentives, you can breathe new life into an old structure.

There are several steps owners must take to be eligible for barn restoration funding.

Declaration of historic significance

Many states will insist your barn be registered with the National Register of Historic Places. Tax credits and incentives only apply to barns or other buildings that have been designated as historic places and produce an income.

To determine where you stand, explore the different options the National Register offers.

Property tax incentives

Most states have an option for property tax incentives. This means your local government has to approve the use of the incentive within that jurisdiction. Your local government and/or state historic preservation office will be able to tell you if you can take advantage of these incentives.


When a restored or rehabilitated building is used for business purposes, depreciation may be claimed to the extent of the taxpayer’s basis in the property, including funds provided by the taxpayer for rehabilitation.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules state barns are usually depreciable over 20 years. If a credit is claimed, depreciation is generally limited to straight line depreciation, which is the same allowance each year during the 20-year life. Otherwise, it might be possible to step up depreciation to one and one-half times the straight line rate.

Grants and loans for private individuals

Grant and loan programs are very limited for private individuals; however, it’s a good idea to see if you can find any local assistance. Get in touch with your area preservation organization, state historic preservation office, county development office, and/or statewide preservation organization to see if they can help in any way.

Let the restoration begin!

Once these steps are taken, you may be eligible for much-deserved assistance to preserve history and tradition for generations to come!

For additional information and guidance on your restoration journey, the best national resource specifically for barns is the National Barn Alliance.

Local groups that are particularly active and may have funding activities are The Iowa Barn Foundation and Michigan Barn Preservation Network. (A list of other local groups and resources can be found on the National Barn Alliance resource page.)

Other reference sites are National Trust for Historic Preservation and USDA Barn Restoration.

Feature photo: The Kai Family Barn near Pender, Nebraska, was restored in 2014. The barn now serves as an event space. | Photo by Kylie Kai Read more about Preserving life for the next generation - a guide to barn restoration

  • Small Towns
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