Recognizing the importance of SNAP in rural America 

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

Yet, the president’s budget for 2019 outlines a nearly $214 billion budget cut to SNAP over the next decade. A cut of this magnitude would undoubtedly impact rural Americans.

Formerly known as the nation’s food stamp program, from 2010 to 2015, rural America’s SNAP participation rate rose from 12.5 percent to 16 percent, exceeding the national average. Overall SNAP enrollments have declined following the Great Recession, however, rural SNAP rates have remained high as economies have been slow to recover.

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

SNAP exists as a resource to help negate concerns of food security for seniors with limited incomes as they care for themselves and balance expenses. The program is also a resource for families with children under the age of 18, providing nutrition that is essential for childhood development. A greater percentage of rural households among both of these demographic groups participate in SNAP than do nationally.

As policymakers deliberate the funding and future of SNAP in the 2018 farm bill and broader entitlement reforms, SNAP must be recognized as an investment in rural communities. SNAP is, and needs to be, maintained as a critical safeguard against food insecurity and poverty for rural residents. Read more about Recognizing the importance of SNAP in rural America 

  • Farm PolicyFarm and Food
  • Rural Health
  • Small Towns
Blog (deprecated)
Weekly column

President’s budget proposals would hurt rural America

Jordan Rasmussen contributed to this blog.

The president’s fiscal year 2019 budget was released last week. This is an annual event, where the president formally requests funding for government programs from Congress. Since government programs live and die by their funding, this is the major annual opportunity for the president to set comprehensive positions and priorities for the government’s work.

This latest budget includes many proposals that would be detrimental to rural America. While Congress has the final say on how to fund or not to fund, the president’s budget starts those negotiations for the next fiscal year.

We are concerned rural America has been dealt a very poor hand by this budget. Below, we unpack several of the most troublesome proposals.

Rural development

Once again, the president has proposed to eliminate many of the programs under Rural Development, including the entire Rural Business-Cooperative Service, the Water and Waste Disposal Grant program for rural areas, and Single Family Direct Home Loans. Also included are the Value-Added Producer Grant Program and the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program. In a time when rural businesses often struggle and rural housing stocks are aging, this shows short-sighted thinking for the future of rural America.

Along with the budget, the president also released a $200 billion infrastructure proposal, including a $50 billion proposal with Formula Grants for rural areas supporting rural infrastructure. This funding structure implies that states will need to chip in to these projects. We are concerned about this difficult extra expense that is hard to justify during a time of low commodity prices.

Conservation severely threatened

The president’s budget proposes to completely eliminate two major conservation programs, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). This would severely hamper farmers’ abilities to incorporate conservation into their operations. While the budget also includes a proposal to increase funding for the related Environmental Quality Incentive Program, there is no mention of how CSP's mission would be preserved. EQIP offers a valuable entry into conservation by helping to fund individual conservation practices, however, CSP allows farmers to take conservation on their farms and ranches to the next level. Our farmers, communities, and landscapes deserve and need the comprehensive approach to conservation that CSP offers.

President Trump proposes to reduce funding to the account “Conservation Technical Assistance,” which supports the Natural Resource Conservation Service county conservation offices. This account received $759 million in 2017; the 2019 budget proposes to reduce this by $183 million, which is a 24 percent reduction.

We’ve heard from many farmers that their county offices are already struggling with small staff and high workloads. Now, imagine your county conservation office taking a 24 percent hit to its funding. Would it be open four days out of five? Would it lose one of four staff people? Such cuts to these offices should not be made – we remain very concerned of the impact these cuts would have on county offices’ ability to support farmers and ranchers incorporating conservation practices on their land.

Changes to crop insurance and commodity payments

President Trump proposes limiting commodity payments and changing crop insurance. We are heartened to see consideration given to payment limitations, which we have encouraged for several decades. Some of the proposals, however, are being made without consideration to the impact they would have on farm country.

For example, one proposal is to limit commodity and conservation payments and crop insurance subsidies to entities with an adjusted gross income of $500,000 or less. Currently, there is a similar limitation for farmers and ranchers with adjusted gross incomes of $900,000, applied only to commodity and conservation programs, and no similar limitation on crop insurance subsidies. While we have long thought that adjusted gross income limitations should be applied to crop insurance as well as commodity and conservation payments, our plan to extend the existing limitation of $900,000 to crop insurance subsidies would be the fairer course.

Another proposal in this budget, one we support, is to limit all farms to one manager who can qualify as “actively engaged.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture was required to pass such rules, ordered by the previous farm bill, but the final rules were watered down. The above limitations of payments to farms and ranches with an adjusted gross income under a certain level can only be enforced with strong “actively engaged” rules.

In addition, the president proposes to slash subsidies for most crop insurance policies by 10 percent. We take issue with the current structure of crop insurance premium subsidies, and support a premium subsidy cap of $50,000.  Last year’s president’s budget included a more stringent version of this proposal (a lower premium subsidy cap of $40,000), and we are concerned this new approach would not bring fairness to the crop insurance system. It would instead have the largest impact on farmers who are struggling the most.

We do support a related proposal to reduce the premium subsidy for a crop insurance policy, called the Harvest Price Option. We urge Congress to eliminate this subsidy for Harvest Price Option altogether. The current Harvest Price Option allows farmers to use taxpayer subsidy dollars to bet on future crop prices. Harvest Price Option should not be subsidized.

SNAP

The president’s budget outlines a fundamental reshaping of the nation’s largest food assistance program, SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Currently under the program, recipients receive money loaded onto an EBT card that can be used to purchase qualified food items at local food retailers, including many farmers markets.

President Trump is proposing to slash more than $214 billion in SNAP funding during the next 10 years, by halving direct SNAP assistance for most beneficiaries, and substituting this cash assistance with a monthly distribution of shelf-stable items like milk, peanut butter, and canned meats.

This drastic reallocation of funding would severely limit attempts to bring more healthy, fresh foods into the homes of America’s food insecure, while also keeping these dollars out of local groceries and farmers markets.

Farm bill programs assumed to expire

Unfortunately, budget rules are also stacked against several programs vital to rural America. These rules state that any program that did not receive $50 million per year in the previous farm bill will expire, unless Congress actively decides to renew it. This is why the proposal shows that several incredibly valuable programs will no longer continue past September, including:

  • The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program;
  • Outreach and assistance to socially-disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers;
  • Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion programs; and
  • Conservation Reserve Program - Transition Incentive Program.

The decision for these programs to continue lies with your representatives in Congress.

Organic agriculture

The National Organic Certification Cost Share Program and the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative are proposed to be zeroed out. However, we are glad to see a proposed increase in funding of $3 million to the National Organic Program to protect against fraudulent imports.

In short, the majority of the proposals in this budget would do a great deal to hurt rural America. We urge Congress to reject the harmful proposals in this budget. Read more about President’s budget proposals would hurt rural America

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill
  • Small Towns
Blog (deprecated)

CAFO regulations target livestock production

Just as the debate over water quality has shifted in recent years, debates over confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in Iowa continue to ratchet up. Increasingly, these two issues are seen as intertwined; one cannot be addressed without the other. Building on our previous post, this blog looks at legislation targeting livestock production.

Quality of life remains an issue in rural areas. Farmers want to make a living growing livestock, but that can conflict with neighbors who want an idyllic setting for a rural lifestyle. When mismanagement occurs, farmers can find themselves in a nuisance lawsuit with their neighbors. Conflict can also arise when property values decline with the presence of more CAFOs.

In 2017, Iowa enacted a law limiting the scope of nuisance lawsuits against CAFOs. These new provisions cap damages, limit who can sue, and create strict claim requirements. (Click here for a good summary of changes, starting on page 17.) The new law also makes all nuisance permanent, which means a CAFO can only be sued once, even if the nuisance recurs. Individual leaks of manure and runoff are considered temporary, rather than permanent nuisances, and can occur multiple times, resulting in multiple potential lawsuits.

Laws like this are in line with “Right to Farm” regulations passed in several states. These limit damages in lawsuits from the environmental impact of farming. An Iowa law passed in 2017 expands an existing statute that was challenged in 2004. The existing statute was found unconstitutional by the Iowa Supreme Court as applied to the facts of that case. Knowing these new laws are based on a weak foundation does nothing to deter litigation between CAFOs and their neighbors. The 2017 expansion is currently being challenged in the Iowa Supreme Court.

What can rural residents do to avoid being implicated in a CAFO lawsuit? Jefferson Farmers and Neighbors, a nonprofit organization focused on education and stopping the expansion of “factory farms,” has written an online booklet focusing on avoiding secondary liability in a CAFO lawsuit.

This year, the Iowa Legislature has started to swing back against CAFOs and the legislation passed in 2017. Anti-CAFO groups packed the capitol during the first week of session as Sen. David Johnson (I-Osceola) and Rep. Sharon Steckman (D-Cerro Gordo) introduced a suite of bills addressing how CAFOs are regulated in Iowa. Bills range from giving more local control to county officials in siting CAFOs, revamping the master matrix which sets administrative rules for CAFOs, and requiring more notification and transparency in siting, to a full moratorium on new or expanded CAFOs. None of the bills are expected to get much action this session, but represent a dramatic shift in approach.

These policies are missing incentives that would help beginning farmers. Many farm operators build a CAFO to expand their business and give an opportunity to the next generation. None of these bills address that reality, and neither party is stepping up to lead a new conversation. Read more about CAFO regulations target livestock production

  • EnvironmentWater
  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyCorporate Farming
Blog (deprecated)
Weekly column

Farming: A Viable Post-Military Career for Nebraska Veterans

By Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - Nebraska

Nebraska's rural lands offer abundant opportunities for farming and ranching, and also are home to nearly half of the state's 133,000 military veterans. 

This combination makes agriculture a great fit for young men and women returning home from service. Veterans interested in farming and ranching can learn more at the second-annual Answering the Call conference in Hastings. 

Jordan Rasmussen, policy program associate with the Center for Rural Affairs, said it's an opportunity to connect with others who have converted their military skills into a career in the field.

"That sense of service that occurs as a member of the military is something that translates into how you approach your work as a farmer,” Rasmussen said. “Farming can be seen as a solitary vocation. That's not really the case. Instead, there is a comradeship that's similar to military service that exists in agriculture."

The March 24 conference is sponsored by the Center for Rural Affairs and Legal Aid of Nebraska. It's a free event, but pre-registration is required by March 16.

Rasmussen said veterans will be able to learn more about programs and resources that can help them get a start in agriculture. And they'll cover other topics for those already in the business including conservation and diversification. 

"Whether that be agri-tourism or, in addition to your row crop, growing more of a cash crop like pumpkins or something of that nature,” she said. “And so helping them to find identified different avenues for resource development is part of what we're trying to accomplish here."

She added that farmers looking to transition their ownership to veteran farmers or who are willing to mentor are also encouraged to attend. It's estimated that about half of current farmland will have new ownership in the next 25 years. And Rasmussen said they are hoping to help bridge that gap by connecting experienced farmers with those just getting started. Read more about Farming: A Viable Post-Military Career for Nebraska Veterans

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher
Blog (deprecated)

Aging and Disability Resource Centers, a wise investment for Nebraska’s aging population

Navigating resources needed by and available to Nebraskans as they age in their homes and communities can be challenging, especially in rural areas.

Nebraska’s Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRC), housed within local Area Agencies on Aging, serve as a resource navigation hub for elders and their families. Yet, the future of the centers rests with the legislature in LB 1004,  as the pilot phase of the ADRC project comes to an end later this year.

The need for assistance that ADRCs provide, such as initial consultations and options counseling, is particularly pronounced in rural communities. Nearly 47 percent of the state’s population over the age of 65 currently live in rural counties.

Yet, there remain factors that can impede aging in a rural community. Rural residents must travel farther for health care or basics like grocery shopping. As people age, these once nondescript inconveniences can prove to be barriers to successful aging in place.

While moving to a more urban setting is an option, this negates the ideal of aging at home. Instead, it removes the elder from social structures of the community, which promote healthy aging.

Limited social and financial resources can also narrow rural elders’ choice in where they live. There are often only two options – remaining in a home they can no longer care for or moving to a skilled nursing care facility. This can be a detriment to the individual, the care system, and the state.

Medicaid covers the care of one in two Nebraska nursing home residents. Multiply that by the average annual cost for care in a long-term care facility, roughly $83,000, and growth in the aging population. The figure adds up. Caring for our elders could cripple state budgets in decades to come. ADRCs exist to help residents find more cost effective and healthful solutions.

By providing a hub for elders and their caregivers to navigate and identify available resources via a website, phone hotline, and in-person consultations, ADRC staff help identify the right resource at the right time. ADRCs serve rural Nebraskans well.

As the Health and Human Services Committee and the legislature consider the future and funding of Nebraska’s ADRCs, short-term program costs must not detract from the long-term cost savings that ADRCs afford to both the state’s aging population and future state budgets. A vote for LB 1004 provides that cost savings. Read more about Aging and Disability Resource Centers, a wise investment for Nebraska’s aging population

  • Rural Health
  • Small Towns
Blog (deprecated)
Weekly column

President's budget eliminates rural programs

America stands to suffer as a result of President Trump’s 2019 budget, released on Feb. 12.

The president has proposed again to eliminate or shrink many programs that serve rural America, including those supporting rural businesses, cooperatives, and housing.

Trump is also calling for an investment of $50 billion in rural infrastructure, but this could put the onus on states already struggling with the economic fallout of depressed commodity prices.

In addition, the budget slashes working lands conservation programs by proposing the elimination of the Conservation Stewardship Program. The program gives farmers and ranchers opportunities to do such things as plant cover crops or improve pasture land. Eliminating it would do serious damage to our farmers’ and ranchers’ abilities to preserve water quality and build soil health while also maintaining productive operations.

On a positive note, the president’s budget includes proposals that would bring greater fairness to farming communities. For example, the budget targets commodity, conservation, and crop insurance assistance to producers with adjusted gross incomes of $500,000 or less. A similar proposal would limit the number of people who can register as a farm manager and thereby receive payments.

For too long, the largest farms have had access to more support than small and mid-sized farms. This competitive advantage for large farms has contributed to farm consolidation and shrinking rural communities. These proposals would bring long-awaited fairness to our agricultural communities.

Mostly, however, Trump’s budget proposal would drain support for rural America. We fear these actions represent a lack of understanding of rural America’s struggles.

We urge President Trump and our national lawmakers to cease these actions that undercut rural Americans and rural communities. Read more about President's budget eliminates rural programs

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill
Blog (deprecated)
Weekly column

Iowa Lawmakers Hear Bills to Scale Back Energy-Efficiency Programs

By Roz Brown, Public News Service - Iowa

A state Senate bill under consideration would scale back energy efficiency programs offered by utility companies such as home energy audits, benefits for home lighting upgrades and the rebates Iowans receive to install smart thermostats or energy-saving appliances. 

Katie Rock, policy associate with the Center for Rural Affairs, said an estimated 20,000 jobs in Iowa are linked to energy efficiency. She noted that Iowa reported 800 new jobs in the solar industry in 2017, a 45 percent increase over the previous year. 

She said any additional job gains in the solar industry could be undone by the bills under consideration.

"If you put a solar panel up on your house or your business to help lower costs, they could charge you a fee for that connection,” Rock said. “That's a discouragement to people to do distributed generation of small-scale solar or wind or geothermal or anything."

A 2014 survey showed 97 percent of Iowans support increasing energy efficiency to meet the state's energy needs. Rock said Senate Bill 3093 as amended by the Senate this week would make participation by the state's utility companies in energy-efficiency programs voluntary rather than mandatory. 

Those in favor of the legislation say the mandatory requirement that utility companies offer energy efficiency programs amounts to a hidden tax for consumers. But Rock argues that energy efficiency is a resource for people to use in their homes, and much cheaper than coal or gas.

"Every dollar that's invested in energy efficiency results in $2 to $3 in benefits,” she said. “And people need to start thinking about energy efficiency as the other energy source, just like wind and solar."

The Iowa bills mirror the Trump administration's goals included in the 2019 budget proposal to cut renewable energy and energy efficiency programs by 72 percent.  Read more about Iowa Lawmakers Hear Bills to Scale Back Energy-Efficiency Programs

  • Clean Energy
  • Environment
Blog (deprecated)

Center for Rural Affairs January and February newsletter

This edition of our newsletter focuses on genuine OPPORTUNITY for all to earn a living, raise a family, and prosper in a rural place.

Brian writes about current opportunities that may be slipping away from rural citizens. As they stand at the time of print, both tax bills in Congress benefit the wealthy and large corporations, while doing little for everyday people and small town development. Read more about Center for Rural Affairs January and February newsletter

Value of rural communities weighed at conference

What do you love about rural communities? We asked attendees of the Practical Farmers of Iowa’s annual conference last month, when they stopped by our Center for Rural Affairs booth.

“Neighbors invest their time, talents, and equipment to improve my farm, and vice versa.”

“The ability/willingness of the community to come together in times of need.”

“Connections and supporting small businesses.”

“Close-knit community of friends.”

“Farmer wave.”

The responses were heartwarming and drove home the conference theme, “Revival of Rural Communities.” People want to see their homes repopulated, their businesses thrive, and young people returning to start families and grow the community even more.

One way to boost a revival in your rural community is to get involved. In the session, “Better Food, Farm, and Conservation Policies Thorough Involvement,” Anna Johnson, Center for Rural Affairs policy associate, spoke about policy engagement alongside Dr. Kamyar Enshayan, University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Energy & Environmental Education.

In the session, attendees shared thoughts and concerns for their rural communities, ranging from rural economic opportunity to clean water, habitat for pollinators, and food access. Many shared concerns about soil health, local foods, rural cultural vibrancy, and land access for beginning farmers.

Anna encouraged conference goers to engage with their legislators on these issues. One avenue she suggested was to share support for farm bill conservation programs, such as the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentive Program. These programs allow farmers to continue production while implementing practices that help build soil health and maintain water quality.

Dr. Enshayan followed up with attendees about other ways to get involved, including serving on a Farm Service Agency committee, extension board, or Soil and Water Conservation District Board.

Farmers also shared their stories during the conference. Through the Conservation Stewardship Program, one farmer had the opportunity to install pollinator habitats. Another was thankful for networking at beginner farmer programs, as he had just moved to Iowa and didn’t have many connections.

Talk of conservation continued with Dr. Alejandro Plastina, of Iowa State University, who gave  an evaluation on the economics of cover crops in the Midwest. He spoke of limited science-based information, and talked about the Agricultural Production System Simulator that will reduce the uncertainty of planting these crops. With the simulator, Plastina hopes more acres of cover crops will be planted.

The focus then turned to soil health through carbon-building. Keith Berns, co-owner and operator of Green Cover Seed, in Bladen, Nebraska, gave a talk on “Carbonomics,” comparing soil health to economics. In this framework, soil carbon can be considered similar to money and capital. Some activities, such as intensive tillage will “spend” soil carbon, while others, such as planting cover crops, will build it. With a strong reserve of carbon, soils are more resilient to drought and flooding, compared to strong savings and assets helping businesses through times of low crop prices.

The Practical Farmers of Iowa conference is just one opportunity for people to come together and talk about the value of rural communities. These events are critical for the growth and revival of rural spaces.

Feature photo: Center for Rural Affairs Policy Associates Anna Johnson and Katie Rock ask, "What do you love about rural communities," at the Practical Farmers of Iowa annual conference last month. | Photo by Lacie Dotterweich Read more about Value of rural communities weighed at conference

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill
Blog (deprecated)

Bayer-Monsanto merger survey is open until Feb. 12

Clarification: The Center for Rural Affairs is a supporting partner in this survey. Please direct questions to Friends of the Earth.

The farm economy is once again in the midst of substantial structural changes.

A major wave of consolidation in the seed and chemical industry that kicked off in 2016 continues to move forward through market and regulatory hoops. The deals are reshaping an already highly consolidated market. 

The European Union just extended its deadline to complete its decision on the Bayer-Monsanto merger because it has serious concerns. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice is deep into discussions with affected parties and deciding how it will act on the merger.

Please fill out this survey to help us understand whether some recent changes in corporate control (for example, the Dow & DuPont merger or the proposed Bayer & Monsanto merger) may affect farming practices. Answers will be used to inform policymakers in D.C. and in state capitals about the impact of corporate power on farming.

The time is now for us to have our voices heard, and this survey is a critical way for us to get important information to the Department of Justice and policymakers.

Please take this survey about the impact of concentrated corporate power on your farming operations and your opinion about the Bayer-Monsanto merger by midnight, Monday, Feb. 12. It should take about 10 minutes. 

As giant transnational corporations increase their power over the market, independent farmers are left with fewer options and suffer from less competition among input providers. Farmers have lost access to seed varieties and genetic traits while seeing the prices they pay for biotechnology traits skyrocket.

The Center believes in the power of a competitive marketplace and the role of government in guarding against unfair and anticompetitive market practices.

We are working with a number of organizations to collect information through this survey. Some of the other organizations include National Farmers Union, National Family Farm Coalition, Organization for Competitive Markets, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Organic Farmers Association, and Farm Aid. 

Remember, the deadline to fill out the survey is midnight on Feb. 12:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ZHXFB8B Read more about Bayer-Monsanto merger survey is open until Feb. 12

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyCorporate Farming
Blog (deprecated)

60,000 beginning farmers benefit from USDA program

Interest in farming is strong. We hear from beginners, as well as retiring farmers and ranchers, each day who are looking for opportunities and searching for solutions to farm transition.

The 2008 farm bill introduced USDA’s first, and so far only, program focused on the next generation of farmers: the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

The program funds organizations to conduct training activities, and during the past nine years, 250 projects have reached 60,000 beginners. Nearly all projects include business management training, skills previous generations of farmers largely had to learn on the job.

Surveys and interviews with project leaders have revealed farmer-to-farmer mentoring and information sharing were very effective; helping new farmers create networks of peers and advisors was valuable; and one-on-one advising addressed specific needs.

Organizations have also benefited from the program. Many developed tools and resources, now widely shared; with a majority still available. The Center for Rural Affairs, for example, led one project (with three partners), and has participated in six other projects nationwide.

Fifty-six percent of projects were led by organizations, and 40 percent were led by land-grant universities. Partnerships are required, which joins the strengths of several organizations and creates lasting networks. The program required 25 percent of funds to reach underserved and socially-disadvantaged farmers; more than half the funding served these audiences.

A report on the program’s impacts, “Cultivating the Next Generation,” by National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, can be found at http://sustainableagriculture.net/publications/bfrdp/Read more about 60,000 beginning farmers benefit from USDA program

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher
  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill
Blog (deprecated)
Weekly column

Proposed tax legislation places burden on rural residents, relief to wealthy

The governor’s tax plan, LB 947, should be recognized for its attempt to address Nebraska's property tax challenge. However, this plan does little to bring balance and sound tax policy change to the state’s tax system.

By giving permanence and prioritization to income tax cuts for our state’s highest earners and corporations, rural Nebraska’s property tax plight remains secondary, and leaves residents reeling from continued cuts to health care, education, and public services.

Rural residents have shared, often publicly, they would rather see an increase in income taxes to help offset the costs of property tax relief. They are desperate for property tax relief, but this desperation does not supersede the demand for pragmatism and wise investment in health care, schools, and services critical to communities. Failing to account for the significant and long-term budget gap, which this legislation stands to create, is not only irresponsible, but will fundamentally reshape rural Nebraska.

The state’s metaphorical three-legged tax stool is imbalanced, leaning heavily upon property tax. The proposed tax plan exacerbates this imbalance by reducing income tax revenues and issuing income tax credits guised as property tax relief. Structural reliance on property taxes to fund education and local governments will remain. Gaps are left in Nebraska’s budget for today and into the future.

LB 947 recognizes rural Nebraskans’ need for property tax relief. Yet, residents are not willing to carry the burden of an income tax cut for the state’s wealthiest residents, while foregoing access to health care and investments in public education and public safety which uphold their communities.

For real property tax relief, the legislature must bring forth and vote for legislation that not only addresses the actual property tax burden, but also identifies how the state will fulfill its obligations. Read more about Proposed tax legislation places burden on rural residents, relief to wealthy

  • Farm Policy
  • Small Towns
  • Small TownsCommunity Development
Blog (deprecated)
Weekly column

Spindola is excited to develop meaningful relationships with borrowers

My goal is to help small towns in rural Nebraska stay vibrant places to live by creating new businesses, and assisting communities grow from the inside out. I want to keep small towns attractive for individuals to stay in or come back to their birthplace.

This job gives me an opportunity to provide assistance to individuals who are looking to start or expand their businesses. Part of my role as a Latino loan specialist is to help people with financing, technical assistance, and training.

I’m excited to develop and maintain meaningful relationships with borrowers before, during, and after their loan transactions. I feel privileged for the chance to work with people who have a dream, and to be part of and witness the moment when that dream becomes a reality.

Over the years, I’ve done work on a contract basis for the Center on different occasions. First, as a REAP technical assistance provider for two years, then as an instructor for the Business Plan Basics training in Spanish for three years.

My previous employment experiences have given me plenty of opportunities to prepare for my new, full-time role with the Center. In 2016, I joined the Central Community College Entrepreneurship Center as a business coordinator, and I assisted the director of regional economic development agencies, helping with small businesses. In Venezuela, I worked for more than 10 years in small business development, then I was involved in international trading. I obtained an MBA in management from Universidad de Carabobo in Valencia, Venezuela, and I have experience in marketing research and customer service culture.

My husband, Julio Reyes, and I live in Columbus, Nebraska, a place we feel lucky to raise our 3-year-old son and call our home. I’m originally from Venezuela, growing up in Valencia, the industrial capital and third largest city in the country. Julio and I moved to Nebraska in 2013 to reunite with my parents and siblings who have lived here since 1998.

Rural Nebraska is one of the best places to grow and establish a family. The warmth and generosity of the people around my own family has made our transition into this amazing state so much easier.

I am grateful and feel privileged to have this job. I get to help people and communities, and I get to learn something new every day.

I can be reached at 402.942.1113 or veronicas@cfra.org.

Veronica assists small businesses in 10 counties, including Burt, Cedar, Cuming, Dakota, Dixon, Madison, Pierce, Stanton, Thurston, and Wayne counties. She serves Latino businesses in 18 counties, including Antelope, Boone, Burt, Cedar, Colfax, Cuming, Dakota, Dixon, Dodge, Knox, Madison, Nance, Pierce, Platte, Stanton, Thurston, Washington, and Wayne counties. For a map, click here. Read more about Spindola is excited to develop meaningful relationships with borrowers

  • Small Business
  • Small BusinessREAP
Blog (deprecated)

PACE lending: What is it?

Clean energy from wind and solar continues to grow our economy nationwide, mainly due to decreasing costs making renewables more competitive than non-renewables.

However, another force is at play. Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) lending provides financing for property owners to make efficiency and clean energy upgrades. Financing is administered through energy districts, typically at the county or municipal level, and is added to their property tax bills during the useful life of the installation upgrades.

For example, a homeowner installs energy efficient windows and a geothermal energy system. Rather than borrow a 10-year loan to pay for it, the homeowner works with their local energy district (typically a county or municipal utility) for a 20-year PACE loan. The homeowner and energy district officials work through the approval process, agree on repayment rates, and comply with consumer safeguards to install the upgrades. The PACE loan is added to the homeowner’s property tax bill, and is transferable, which means if the property is sold before the loan is paid, the next owners will continue the repayment plan. In most cases, the energy savings are greater than the increase in the property tax bill. The property owner comes out ahead, and so does the lender.

PACE lending is enacted at the county or state level, and is split between programs for residential and commercial/industrial properties. Currently, residential PACE lending is only available statewide in California, Missouri, and Florida, and is somewhat controversial. PACE lending for commercial or industrial properties is up and running in 20 states. To view a map, click here. Enabling legislation has been passed in many more states, and work needs to be done at the local level to help municipalities take advantage.

Where PACE lending is smartly implemented, it works and works well. Each state can adapt PACE lending legislation in their own way. For example, Nebraska, a public power state, introduced PACE legislation with municipal utilities in mind. Energy districts were aligned with municipalities. However, rural residents living outside municipal boundaries were excluded from these energy districts and PACE lending. The rule was amended the following year.

The U.S. Department of Energy has published best practice guidelines for PACE programs. Key guidelines include defining eligible improvements and criteria, and establishing consumer and lender protections. PACE lending has grown with bipartisan support and can drive economic growth and energy independence. Which states will be next?

Feature photo: Adobe Stock/Highwaystarz Read more about PACE lending: What is it?

  • Clean Energy
Blog (deprecated)

Pages

Get the Newsletter