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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Weekly column

Paying more and receiving less health care coverage does not make sense for rural America

The Senate’s current draft of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, strikes directly at the vulnerabilities of health care in rural America. For rural populations that tend to be older, poorer, and have more health concerns, this plan would implement even greater barriers to health care access.

Paying more for less does not make sense when buying cereal or laundry soap at the grocery store and it certainly does not make sense make sense when purchasing health insurance. Yet this is exactly what the Senate’s bill proposes. For rural residents who were able to gain health care coverage because of the Affordable Care Act, this bill would only allow them to purchase lesser plans with much higher deductibles, meaning more out of pocket costs.

In addition to increased deductibles, coverage of essential benefits may no longer be required. Under the proposed plan, states would be able to apply for waivers to cut the coverage of basic health benefits like mental health care, rehabilitative services, or prescription drug coverage, resulting in added out of pocket costs even for those with insurance. In rural areas that are already facing provider shortages and greater travel distances for patients, returning to a system where these basic health services come with added costs only exacerbates the inequities of rural health.

The proposed cuts of $772 billion in federal Medicaid spending over the next 10 years will have a particularly negative impact upon rural communities. Currently, Medicaid covers 16 percent of adults and 45 percent of children in small towns and rural areas. A cut of this magnitude will negatively impact children, older adults, and people with disabilities who depend on Medicaid for access to care.

Just because Medicaid funding goes away does not mean that the health challenges facing rural populations will do the same. People will still need medical care, and hospitals and clinics will attempt to find ways to provide care without reimbursement, but ultimately, all rural residents who rely on hospital services for care will suffer.

Despite its shortcomings, the Affordable Care Act has helped to close the health disparities gap in rural America. The Senate’s plan erases the advances to rural health that have been made over the last five years, and instead places the health of rural residents on an backwards trajectory. Rather than pausing to consider minor changes to the Senate’s bill over a long holiday recess, leaders need to continue to work toward a solution that moves health care forward for all Americans.

Protect your health care and contact your senators today. Read more about Paying more and receiving less health care coverage does not make sense for rural America

  • Rural Health
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What It Means to “Answer the Call”

When applying for my current position at the Center for Rural Affairs, I spent quite a bit of time researching what the organization was about, who it worked with, and the audience it served. This information was important to me because I felt like I needed to be a part of something bigger than myself, something that served others and contributed to the greater good. These same thoughts were part of my motivation to serve my country in the military. These are my impressions from Answering the Call, a Veteran Farmer Conference.

Six years ago, I was finishing my freshman year of college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I was studying political science, specifically international relations, and was doing well in school, but I found myself yearning for something more.

I came home that May after finals and told my parents I needed to join the Air Force. I felt a calling to serve my country. I knew this was something I had to do.

Veteran Farmer Conference - Cora Fox

Choosing to join the military was a pivotal point in my life, and my experience serving our country shaped me into the individual I am today. Many veterans share a similar story, with common values and experiences that inform our mindsets as we pursue other endeavors.

Fast forward to my third week at the Center for Rural Affairs as a policy program associate – I was assisting in the planning and organization of the Veteran Farmer Conference in Seward, Nebraska on June 22.

For me, this experience was so much more than an informative session. It became a way that I could connect with those whom I consider my brothers and sisters, in a setting that central to my being, both as a veteran and a sixth generation Iowa farmer.

The day began with a great example of what it means to serve your country. Matt Hendl and his wife Emely told us about their transition from a lengthy career in the U.S. Navy to living their shared dream as beginning farmers in Nebraska. The welcome change has been the opportunity of a lifetime, allowing Matt and Emely to pursue their dreams of raising chickens, keeping bees, and growing their own vegetables.

The Hendls’ story wasn’t just a story telling others how to begin farming. It was also a story of hard work, goal setting, partnership, mentorship, dedication, and innovation. It was 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 Farmer Conference - Matt and Emely Hendl

The conference allowed for conversations between participants and organizations. Farmers shared stories of the struggles they faced, especially as beginners. Many discussed poor market prices and high input costs. The sheer amount of capital required to start farming can be enough to make a prospective farmer shy away from this lifestyle. Fortunately, there are many programs available to help beginning farmers achieve their goals. Many of the participants told success stories about how they overcame these barriers and started their farms.

Despite the struggles, veteran farmers are thriving in Nebraska and throughout rural America. I think this speaks to the caliber of people who attended this conference. There is no struggle too great; resilience is in their nature.

When I think of farmers, and veteran farmers in particular, I think of hardworking 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 the shelves in grocery stores.

Farming is a livelihood, not an occupation. Family and community are both at the center of the farming culture. These qualities help to make farming an especially meaningful pursuit for many of our nation's veterans. Veteran farmers are keeping rural America vibrant, providing a safe place to raise our children, and securing the American dream. Their service isn’t over – it is continuing on through their work on the farm.

The Center for Rural Affairs would like to thank the following sponsors and supporters for their efforts in making this event a success for veteran farmers: Legal Aid of Nebraska, USDA/NIFA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Ficke Cattle Company Graze Master Genetics, Green Acres Cover Crops, USDA/NIFA SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education), Prairie Plate Restaurant, and Marrow Market and Meats.

If you are a veteran farmer and would like more information on resources available to you, please contact me at the Center for Rural Affairs, 402.687.2100 x 1012 or

Veteran Farmer Conference - ShadowBrook Farms

Feature photo: Answering the Call: Veteran Farmer Conference attendees at Ficke Family Farms near Pleasantdale, Nebraska. | Photos by Rhea Landholm

Top photo within blog: Cora Fox at Answering the Call: Veteran Farmer Conference.

Middle photo within blog: Matt and Emely Hendl at Answering the Call: Veteran Farmer Conference.

Bottom photo: Answering the Call: Veteran Farmer Conference attendees at ShadowBrook Farms near Denton, Nebraska. Read more about What It Means to “Answer the Call”

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher
  • Farm PolicyFarm and Food
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Knives, your friends in the kitchen

With farmers market season upon us, we’re all excited to dive into the tasty local harvest. But how can we get the most out of this delicious produce? Proper preparation!

This summer, I will be at the Harrison County Farmers Market in Missouri Valley, Iowa, hosting fun, interactive culinary demonstrations for the whole family. Last month, I hosted a knife skills demo.

For many of us, knife maintenance, care, and proper usage can be an afterthought. However, well-maintained, sharp knives can make cooking more fun, easier, safer, and even tastier.  

Here are some tips, facts, and tidbits to get the most out of your knives, and the produce they cut.

A sharp knife is safer than a dull knife

While it may not seem intuitive, a sharp knife is always safer than a dull knife. A sharp knife used for the appropriate application will cut with little effort, while a dull knife requires more force applied to the blade, making a more dangerous situation for your fingers. To keep your knives (and fingers) happy, sharpen them once a year, and hone them with steel before each use.

Use your knife for its intended purpose

While a chef’s knife certainly can be used to peel a carrot, and a paring knife will cut a chicken, it is always easier and more effective to use the appropriate knife for the job. A chef’s knife should be used to cut and break down large items, while paring knives are more suited to small, detailed applications.

The Claw!

Almost everyone who makes a habit of cooking has a few “battle wounds” from the kitchen. A great way to avoid those are to use the “claw hand” technique. Curl your fingers and thumb of your off hand and rest them on top of whatever you are about to cut, using your thumb to keep the item stable. This ensures the safety of your fingers, while helping you achieve even cuts.

Always hand wash and dry your knives

After using your knives, a quick trip to the dishwasher may sound like a tempting proposition. However, your knives will appreciate you for resisting the urge. Dishwashers will knock your knives around during the washing process, causing them to dull and corrode the cutting edge.

Never store uncovered knives in a drawer

Another mortal enemy of a sharp knife is the kitchen drawer. Much like the dishwasher, leaving your knives in a drawer will cause them to knock around and become nicked and dulled. This could also pose a threat to your fingers when reaching into the drawer to retrieve a knife.

Use plastic or wooden cutting boards

Equally important to what you cut with, is what you cut on. While stone and glass cutting boards may look nice, they will dull your knives in a hurry. Remember, something has to give: if your knife doesn’t leave marks on the cutting board, the cutting board is leaving marks on your knife (in the form of a dulling blade). Always choose wood or plastic!

Anchor your cutting board

Always make sure your cutting board is securely “anchored,” meaning it won’t move around while using it. Some cutting boards have rubber feet or edges that anchor them in place. If yours does not, simply place a wet dish rag underneath your cutting board to achieve the same effect.

With a little practice and patience, these tricks will go a long way in keeping you safe and your meals tasty!

Feature photo: Jordan at the Harrison County Farmers Market. He has a degree in culinary arts and eight years of cooking experience in restaurants, catering, and farmers markets. He enjoys answering cooking questions around preparation, techniques, preservation, and general tips and tricks. Read more about Knives, your friends in the kitchen

  • Farm PolicyFarm and Food
  • Small TownsCommunity Food
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McClure is REAP Friend of the Year

Glennis McClure, of Beatrice, Nebraska, was chosen as the Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) 2016 Friend of the Year. She was recognized at an award ceremony on March 10 in York, Nebraska.

The REAP Friend of the Year Award is presented annually to an individual, organization, or institution that provides invaluable service to entrepreneurs by assisting REAP staff in offering technical assistance, business training, loans, and networking across rural Nebraska.

“Glennis is a longtime friend of REAP,” said Monica Braun, REAP Women’s Business Center director. “She is a constant source of referrals to our program as senior development coordinator of Gage Area Growth Enterprise.”

Glennis has not only been a friend, she served as the first REAP Women’s Business Center director in 2001, and became co-director of REAP in 2004. In 2006, she moved on to new ventures but has continued to support REAP.

In subsequent careers with the Federal Reserve Bank, Nebraska Enterprise Fund, and Gage Area Growth Enterprise, she has promoted REAP to clientele. Further, with the Nebraska Enterprise Fund, she provided additional loans to REAP clients; and with Gage Area Growth Enterprise, she collaborates on and sponsors Women’s Business Center training activities.

She has served on the REAP advisory committee and on the Rural Investment Corporation loan review board.

Glennis’ passion for entrepreneurs in small business aligns with REAP’s mission,” Monica said. “Her continued support and partnership are vital to our program. Glennis, we thank you.”

“I think the main thing I’d like to say tonight is that to have a friend, you must be a friend,” Glennis said at the awards dinner. “All of you are friends of mine.”

She continued, “We have come a long way since 1999. People in this state now are recognizing how small business is very foundational to economic development.”

“Of course, in our rural communities, we all know that sometimes the only way communities are going to grow is if you help the small businesses,” Glennis said. “I’m just really blessed to be working in Beatrice and Gage County where they recognize that.”

Feature photo: Glennis McClure, middle, receives the Center for Rural Affairs Rural Enterprise Assistance Program's (REAP's) Friend of the Year Award at a ceremony on Friday, March 10, in York. L-R: Eugene Rahn, senior loan specialist; Jeff Reynolds, past director of REAP; McClure; Janelle Moran, southeast loan specialist; and Monica Braun, REAP Women's Business Center director. McClure, a longtime friend of REAP, refers clients to REAP and assists with training activities. She served as the first Women's Business Center director and was a co-director of REAP. Read more about McClure is REAP Friend of the Year

  • Small Business
  • Small BusinessREAP
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Provide for cover crops in insurance guides

Published on Iowa Farmer Today, June 24, 2017.

Farmers are master jugglers: They manage crops, maintain equipment, and market products, often while balancing a second job and family demands.

Adding a dispute with a crop insurance company is often the last thing farmers need.

That’s exactly the situation Kevin Glanz, a farmer near Manchester, Iowa, found himself in last spring.

Kevin, who also sells seed and serves on his county Farm Bureau board, has been planting cover crops for five years. Last year, Kevin’s crop insurance agent raised concerns about his cover crop planting practices.

The insurance company immediately implemented a quality control audit on Kevin, who was forced to grant the company unlimited access to his farm. Even after three in-person inspections, Kevin received a clear message that if he filed a claim in the fall, the insurance company might refuse to cover his loss due to a cover crop practice.

Kevin has since switched agents and insurance companies, and they have been much more receptive to his cover crop practices than his previous company.

Crop insurance is managed by the federal government, which underwrites policies. The government also establishes Good Farming Practices to help farmers and insurance companies have a common understanding of what constitutes good management of a crop. The Good Farming Practices do not address cover crops and their conservation benefits, so the government has an additional set of guidelines that describe when farmers should terminate their cover crops before planting their main crop in order to remain eligible for crop insurance.

Even with these guidelines in place, many crop insurance companies do not have expertise in conservation. They are often still wary of how conservation activities, such as cover crops, work within a cropping system, and can therefore be reluctant to provide coverage for them.

Many farmers are also unfamiliar with planting cover crops. Trying out a new practice during a tight farm economy can seem like too high of a barrier for many. Farmers need to know that if they try a new practice, they can still depend upon their crop insurance.

Billions of taxpayer dollars go to crop insurance companies to provide products to farmers. The government spent nearly $8 billion on administering crop insurance in 2015, including support for farmers’ crop insurance bills (or premiums), the indemnities they received and reimbursement to crop insurance companies for certain expenses. ...

With Congress beginning its preliminary work on the next farm bill, we urge our elected representatives to consider policies that encourage crop insurance companies to support conservation practices such as cover crops. For example, the Risk Management Agency could integrate cover crop termination rules into the existing Good Farming Practices guidelines.

In addition, claims adjusters could be required to take continuing education classes on agronomic practices such as cover crop management. These sorts of changes would go a long way toward reducing the barriers farmers face when considering whether to plant cover crops. Read more about Provide for cover crops in insurance guides

  • Crop Insurance Reform
  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill
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Your stories

Transmission lines and your health

Do transmission lines negatively impact human and animal health? Mounting research shows we have no cause for concern. 

To ensure safety, all electric wiring systems must be properly grounded. Small currents may flow from these grounding points, and are called neutral-to-earth voltages. Some of this is stray voltage that comes into contact with livestock and may cause behavioral changes.

Transmission developers try to avoid and mitigate stray voltage. Usually, this means siting transmission lines a certain distance from distribution lines.

When negotiating an easement, landowners and developers should discuss how stray voltage will be avoided or corrected. We found most developers are willing to work with landowners to “microsite” transmission infrastructure to minimize risk to a farm operation.

Another common concern is electric and magnetic fields (EMF). All electronic devices emit EMF, which can be damaging at high levels. X-rays are a familiar source of high EMF.

Transmission lines emit lower levels of EMF than most household devices. For example, computers give off 60 to 100 hertz, while transmission lines emit 50 to 60 hertz. Because EMF levels decrease over distance, at 300 feet levels are similar to average homes and offices.

There is no epidemiological evidence for other health consequences, and no study has found a cause and effect relationship between low levels of EMF and negative health effects.

If a landowner is worried about EMF, developers should work with them to increase setback distances from homes and buildings. Read more about Transmission lines and your health

  • Clean Energy
Weekly column

Horner is Women's Business Center Entrepreneur of the Year

Linda Horner, of Ord, Nebraska, has been chosen as the Center for Rural Affairs’ 2016 Women’s Business Center Entrepreneur of the Year. She was recognized at an award ceremony on March 10 in York, Nebraska.

The Women’s Business Center Entrepreneur of the Year Award is presented annually to an individual who has utilized the Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) Women’s Business Center services and is successfully operating and growing their business. The award exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit so crucial to women-owned businesses and the rural Nebraska communities they call home.

“Linda is a true entrepreneur willing to take a chance starting a new business, expanding that business, making the change to a larger facility, and overcoming many obstacles, all while maintaining a positive attitude,” said Monica Braun, REAP Women’s Business Center director.

“This year, I wanted to nominate someone who has a successful business, who has a history with REAP, who has proven they can fly as an entrepreneur, and who provides a service to the community they live and work in,” said Gene Rahn, REAP senior loan specialist, who works closely with the business owner. “It was easy for me to nominate Linda who owns Linda’s Preschool & Discovery Center.”

In 2003, Linda and her husband Paul received an initial loan from a bank, and a REAP loan provided gap financing to complete the purchase and conversion of the building into a daycare. Then, she worked with former REAP staff member Phil Menke. She now works with Gene.

“Linda has a long track record as a great client,” Gene said. “Because of that, she has been able to access emergency financing from us when unexpected plumbing or electrical problems have come up. We hope there are no future emergencies, but if one arises, we will not hesitate to assist where needed.”

In 2013, Linda and her husband, Paul, purchased a new building. They had bank financing and a loan from a local revolving loan fund.

“They got down towards the end of it, and the construction costs overran,” Gene said. “We were able to step in and do a loan to take care of that.”

Linda’s Preschool & Discovery Center has provided care to children for 14 years. Services include preschool education, child care services, and after school programs.

Gene said he doesn’t want to forget Paul who does handiwork.

“He’s the guy who holds the glue together,” he said.”

Looking to the future, Horner hopes to hand down the business to her two daughters who are studying early childhood development. She is also looking at expanding the business to provide services for infants.

“They have been and are a big benefit to the community of Ord, and will be in the future, I’m sure,” Gene said. “She’s been a pleasure to work with.”

“This has been a nightmare since I could remember,” Linda said at the awards dinner. “I would not be here without the help of REAP, the support of my husband, and my family. Thank you very much.”

Feature photo: Linda Horner, left, and Monica Braun, right. (Gene Rahn is in the thumbnail photo.) Read more about Horner is Women's Business Center Entrepreneur of the Year

  • Small Business
  • Small BusinessREAP
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A call to farms: help for military veterans

By Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service

Military veterans in Nebraska who are new to farming, or just interested in finding out about it, have an opportunity this week to see how others have turned their military skills into a career in agriculture. 

The Answering the Call conference on Thursday in Seward offers an opportunity for veterans to get an up-close look at how other veterans are building farming operations. 

Jordan Rasmussen, a policy program associate with the Center for Rural Affairs, explains farming is a challenge, but many veterans have what it takes. 

"Often farming and ranching can be a natural fit for them because the dedication and commitment and work ethic kind of remains the same,” she explains. “With that said, there's also a difficulty in breaking into the farming business."

Beginning farmers often face challenges accessing financial resources and land, and expert panelists at the conference will address those issues along with other topics. 

A highlight of the day, says Rasmussen, will be tours of Ficke Cattle Company and Shadow Brook Farm.

"This is an opportunity to take these veterans and to introduce them to others in similar situations that have begun their own farming operation so they can see how the chicken operation is working or how some folks are beginning small-scale local produce production," Rasmussen points out.

The event is sponsored by the Center for Rural Affairs and Legal Aid of Nebraska. And for those who cannot attend, Rasmussen says there are resources available through both organizations. 

"We also have staff members that are willing to sit down and talk with veteran farmers if they're looking to get started or wherever they're at in their operation to help them understand some of the resources available and also troubleshoot in a variety of those piece," she states.

According to census data the average farmer is 58 years old, and the number of U.S. farms has dropped 4 percent in the past decade. 

Rasmussen says, with the right support, veterans returning to civilian life can become the next generation of farmers.  Read more about A call to farms: help for military veterans

  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher
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Immigration and inclusion: the Center for Rural Affairs perspective

For hundreds of years, immigration has shaped U.S. history. And, it continues to shape America, especially in rural areas.

The Center’s immigration and inclusion work was recently featured on Totally Rural, a podcast hosted by Daisy Dyer Duerr.

Guests were Carlos Bárcenas and Jordan Feyerherm, who lead our community work. They promote inclusion in rural communities by hosting leadership trainings that focus on growth, diversity, and demographics.

What does inclusion mean?

Inclusion is making sure everyone in the community has a chance to participate and knows how to participate, according to Jordan. He said it’s welcoming new people to the community and helping them access resources.

“A big part of inclusion is making sure people have the knowledge and tools to successfully navigate a new life,” Jordan said. “What can the community do to be a welcoming community? How can you mitigate those biases? We’re trying to talk about biases and put biases at the forefront, so we can successfully navigate those and not let those influence decisions.”

In some rural communities, a person who is not from the community but has been living in the community for 20 years may even be seen as an outsider, especially in local elections.

“We know immigration plays a big role in the inclusion conversation, but we’re not only focusing on ethnic diversity,” Carlos said. “Instead, maybe their issue is about religion, gender, or generational differences.”

The Center’s goal is to empower community leaders to identify biases and set up plans to intentionally work on leadership.

“It’s not an agenda to teach one side to work with the other, it’s how we can empower community leadership to look at differences,” Carlos said. “When we talk about inclusion, many times, people think it’s about accepting immigrants. It’s not just about accepting immigrants. There is more to diversity than ethnic diversity.”

How do conversations begin with community leaders?

“Lots of coffee,” Carlos said. “It’s not an easy task. We’re encouraging leaders to have uncomfortable, comfortable conversations. How do we move forward in order to make our communities stronger?”

“One thing we’re finding in communities is that there are a lot of differences among everyone who lives there,” Jordan said. “We feel the differences are what make each community vibrant, and we’re just trying to explore those differences and celebrate them."

Our staff members are not experts. Their goal is to build relationships with leaders and help out at community events.

“There are many people in rural Nebraska who are making things happen, so there are things that are already working,” said Carlos. “We believe that you cannot change a community without changing the individual, so that conversation has to start at the individual level.”

Conversations begin with, “It’s OK to have biases. We all do.”

“We start a safe conversation about looking at the bias,” Carlos said. “Is this bias preventing you from becoming a better leader, or from making better decisions that affect your community? We let the community drive the conversation.”

Jordan and Carlos have found success in introducing people to others and finding people who are passionate about their communities.

“It’s enriching when you can meet someone who brings a new, fresh perspective,” Jordan said. “Sometimes those differences that seemed scary or seemed strange turn out to be some of the most rewarding parts of getting to know someone new.”

Has the national political climate affected the conversations?

Yes. They said the immigration and inclusion conversation has changed in the last year, along with the national political climate.

“Before the president was elected, we really saw the race conversation pushed forward,” Carlos said. “Let’s talk about documented, undocumented. Let’s talk about our immigration system. That conversation was moved forward.”

He said as soon as Trump was elected, there was almost a complete shift.

“People really did not want to talk about it anymore,” Carlos said. “They were not as curious or open to talk about race, diversity, and inclusion. We also saw more people justifying their prejudice and their bias. We saw more acts of pushback.”

What work is on the horizon?

Carlos said conversations about inclusion are some of the most challenging things, especially in a community climate where the conversation seems to be dominated by one group.

“How can we sit down, behind closed doors if we need to, to say, ‘how do we move forward and challenge our own bias, our biases?’” Carlos asked.

The demographics are changing in rural America. And in a lot of rural communities people are asking how they can keep their small towns vibrant.

“I think being forward-thinking about how we approach future problems is a big part of keeping rural areas vibrant,” Jordan said.

About Totally Rural

Totally Rural is dedicated to increasing awareness and expanding the discussion of rural issues.

This is the second time we have been guests on Totally Rural, and we look forward to another podcast later this month on community food systems. Click here for a blog on our first podcast on the Farm Bill and other rural policy issues. Thank you to producer Michael Levin Epstein and assistant producer Susan Sempeles.

Listen to the podcast

You can download the episode any of these ways:

  • Small TownsCommunity Development
  • Small TownsInclusion
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Help rural American farmers and ranchers by finalizing USDA rules

Farmers and ranchers have waited years for USDA to institute basic fairness protections in the contract poultry and livestock industry.

USDA seemed to be making progress last year, when it began accepting comments on three rules. The Center for Rural Affairs submitted comments to the Federal Register supporting all three rules and posted them to our website.

However, they opened up the comments again on April 12 for another 60 days, delaying the rules even further. We submitted the below comments in support of basic fairness for family farmers and ranchers.

Our submission:

This comment is in regards to the rule (GIPSA-2016-PSP-0009-RULEMAKING-0348) posted in the Federal Register Number 2017-07361 on April 12, 2017. The Center for Rural Affairs urges the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make the Interim Final Rule on Competitive Injury effective immediately (option 1). 

This competitive injury rule represents an important step in creating a level playing field for small family businesses who contract with packing companies. Many rural communities struggle from lack of economic opportunity, and contract poultry and livestock production is an important source of jobs and income for many rural people. These hard-working farmers and ranchers who contract with meat-packing companies when raising poultry and livestock deserve the important and common-sense provision that this rule provides. 

Specifically, the rule makes it clear that ranchers and farmers do not have to do something nearly impossible - prove a harm to the whole market - in order to prove that a practice by a packing company is unfair. 

Farmers and ranchers who raise poultry and livestock on contract have waited many years for this protection to be finalized. Please help rural American farmers and ranchers by making the interim final rule effective immediately. Read more about Help rural American farmers and ranchers by finalizing USDA rules

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyCorporate Farming
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Program aids beginning and retired farmers

A federal program created by the 2008 Farm Bill is a win-win for retired and retiring landowners, and beginning, socially-disadvantaged, and veteran farmers and ranchers.

Center for Rural Affairs staff members recently conducted a report on the implementation of Conservation Reserve Program - Transition Incentives Program (CRP-TIP) in Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. This program is available nationwide, administered by U.S. Department of Agriculture - Farm Service Agency (FSA).

Retired or retiring landowner with land enrolled in CRP can receive two additional years of payments if land is transitioned back into production. The land must be sold or leased to a beginning, socially-disadvantaged, or veteran farmer or rancher.

Factors affecting program participation include:

  • Relationships. An interested landowner often has difficulty finding a farmer or rancher to work with in enrolling in CRP-TIP, and vice versa.
  • Agricultural economy. Falling commodity prices and CRP re-enrollment rates impact landowners’ decisions to enroll in a CRP-TIP contract. The high cost of starting a farm or ranch was a reported barrier for many beginning farmers.
  • Knowledge of the program. FSA staff with more knowledge of the program conduct multiple forms of outreach resulting in higher participation in certain counties.
  • Quality and character of the land. FSA county officers reported land that is more readily convertible to commodity production was more commonly enrolled.

In the focus states, the most common farmer and rancher participant group was beginning farmers.

The full report, “Pathways to Land Access,” is available at Read more about Program aids beginning and retired farmers

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher
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