Nebraskans identify overreliance on agricultural property taxes

Nebraskans work together; we’ve always had to. When big issues arise that affect our state, we get fired up.

Agricultural property taxes have come to the forefront of debate as they serve as the primary funding source of K-12 schools, community colleges, roads, and law enforcement. Nebraska, traditionally having a strong agricultural revenue source, has placed a heavy dependency on property taxes as a funding pipeline for these services. However, as the agricultural sector continues to take a financial hit, Nebraska’s overreliance on agricultural property tax is even more pronounced, further displaying the unsustainability of the current tax system.

This imbalance was the topic of conversation during a recent meeting hosted by the Center for Rural Affairs near Ohiowa, in rural Fillmore County. Residents from five neighboring counties attended, with representatives including school superintendents, business owners, farmers, elected officials, and community members.  

A common theme quickly emerged; Nebraskans are being suffocated by property taxes and are unsure where to direct their energy in order to bring about effective change to the tax system.

During the meeting, Dennis Richters, of Utica, and member of the Fair Nebraska organization said, “We have a right to be angry, but our anger is misplaced.”

From 2005 to 2014, property taxes on agricultural land increased an average 11 percent each year due to dynamic shift in land values. This opened the door for an overreliance on local funding for counties, Natural Resources Districts (NRD), community colleges, and public schools.

Nebraska’s school systems often take the brunt of this frustration, as the state’s current education funding formula leaves schools with little option but to rely on agricultural land property tax as the primary revenue source.

While schools depend heavily on local property tax collections for funding, Fairbury Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Grizzle demonstrated that this dependency was not a result of excessive spending increases. Over the last seven years, Fairbury schools saw an average 2.4 percent increase in spending, increases associated with everyday rising costs in salaries, health care benefits, and basic supplies.

And yet Grizzle noted, “The governor and senators tout out-of-control local spending as the culprit of high property taxes, but this simply isn’t the case. Yes, local entities are asking landowners for dollars, but this is only because this is the system we are working with.”  

When land valuations exceed the cost of schools needs, state funding is largely removed from the equation, leaving schools with no other choice but to call on landowners for revenue. Nebraska ranks 49th in the country in the percentage of K-12 funding that comes from the state.

Despite this limited investment from the state, Nebraskans want to maintain these quality schools; but where the funding comes from and what is done with the money creates community tension.

Hebron business woman, Deb Craig, shared, “If we don’t have quality school infrastructures and we keep our taxes so low, and our schools fall apart, what incentive do our children or other young people with families have to come to our communities?”

For rural towns, schools are often the epicenter of the community. School systems draw and keep people in the community, provide employment, and create a sense of pride in a place.

However, the funding of this vital community asset can also be a point of contention.

“You can do a lot of damage in a small community because school funding is a very emotional issue,” noted Craig, speaking from her experience as a former school board member for Thayer Central Public Schools. “If we could simply step back and look at the big picture, we will create better conversations and arrive at real solutions.”

As low commodity prices and high ag land property taxes continue to drive emotion and anxieties in rural communities across Nebraska, the wisdom afforded by Craig and Superintendent Grizzle needs to be noted and dually applied. By collectively stepping back to see the bigger picture and holding back on appointing blame, Nebraskans can come together to find solutions that meet school funding needs while providing much needed tax relief to the state’s ag land owners.

Check out the Center for Rural Affairs’ event calendar for upcoming community conversations in your area. Read more about Nebraskans identify overreliance on agricultural property taxes

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Farm Bill Priorities

Agriculture remains an important source of economic opportunity for people in rural areas.

Learn more about our farm bill priorities. We believe the farm bill can support small towns through crop insurance reform, conservation, beginning farmers, and rural development.

Pass a new farm bill before the existing one expires on Sept. 30, 2018. Read more about Farm Bill Priorities

Latino Business Center: We’re having a good time

We are happy to announce our new loan initiative, the New American Loan Fund Credit Builder Loan Program.

This product will help create credit history and make our clients bankable so they may expand their businesses in the future.

The New American Loan Fund creates a financial path for individuals who are looking to start a business but do not qualify for government loans or loans through traditional lenders.

To date, $800,000 has been loaned to individuals through the New American Loan Fund.

Since Oct. 1, 2016, the Latino Business Center has placed 40 loans to Latino microentrepreneurs in Nebraska. The loans total $466,600.

With an average of $11,665 per loan, the Latino Business Center is not only able to take risks to fund these businesses but we are able to prove it doesn’t take too much money to start a new project.

During the same time frame, 770 individuals were trained or counseled by our staff.

Additionally, in the last three months, we were able to make two loans to Latino entrepreneurs in the amount of $250,000 each. These larger loans are made available through a new Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) product introduced in 2016.

You can now see why we are having a good time.

Feature photo: The Latino Business Center has a sizeable impact on Columbus, Nebraska, population 22,800. Read more about Latino Business Center: We’re having a good time

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EPA seeks to step backward on clean water policy

Since President Trump issued an executive order calling for the repeal and replacement of the 2015 Clean Water, or Water of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule, my husband has discussed the issue with — and heard the concerns of — his fellow farmers.

As any wife would do, I shared with him the facts and premise of the rule:

  • The rule clearly defines which water bodies are protected by the Clean Water Act, eliminating the need for a costly and time-consuming case-by-case evaluation.
  • The Clean Water Rule does not infringe upon property rights or regulate land use. Practices such as the discharge of agricultural stormwater or return flow from irrigated agriculture do not require additional permitting or oversight of property use. A permit is only required if protected water is polluted or destroyed.
  • The rule maintains existing exemptions under the Clean Water Act for normal farming and ranching practices such as planting, harvesting, or moving livestock.

Much to my husband’s surprise, what I shared did not align with the concerns he had heard of the rule being a land grab or overreach of power. Instead, it affirmed his daily practices of protecting the land and water that is critical not only to our livelihood, but to the water sources our neighbors rely on for drinking water, agriculture, and recreation.

A formal public comment period on the reinstatement of the previous set of regulations was opened on July 27, and will remain open through Sept. 27, 2017, 30 days longer than originally published. During this period, the Environmental Protection Agency is only seeking comments as to whether the regulation in place before the 2015 Clean Water Rule should be recodified.

A second phase of the rulemaking process will encompass efforts to redefine the waters of the U.S. and will include an accompanying comment period.

The guidelines and definitions under the 2015 Clean Water Rule provide clarity for farmers and ranchers while protecting vital water resources. My husband and I will submit a comment asking the Environmental Protection Agency to not take a step backward and wipe away the Clean Water Rule. We encourage you to do the same.

You may submit your comments through Sept. 27, 2017 via the Federal eRulemaking Portal, under Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2017-0203. Read more about EPA seeks to step backward on clean water policy

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Bringing healthy, sustainable eating to rural areas

Sustainable and healthy eating is a challenge for many people, especially those in rural areas. However, some people may think the opposite.

Recently, Center for Rural Affairs community food specialists April Goettle and Suzi French were guests on Totally Rural, a podcast hosted by Daisy Dyer Duerr.

April and Suzi work alongside members of the Santee and Omaha Reservations with a focus on their local food systems. Both are located in northeast Nebraska, and the projects are managed in conjunction with Nebraska Indian Community College (NICC).

On each reservation, we work with community members to manage demonstration gardens that contain vegetables and herbs. We also use the gardens for workshops and trainings.

“We lead workshops on different topics like soil health, soil testing, weeds, and bugs,” April said.

“We have more than 200 families that I garden with in their backyards,” Suzi said. “We’re focused on healthy eating, and introducing and getting back to traditional foods.”

Additionally, we host farmers markets in Macy and Walthill on the Omaha Reservation and near Santee on the Santee Reservation. Extra produce from gardens are put into food baskets, which are distributed at an affordable price among community members.

“We give them an opportunity to make money by selling their produce at the farmers market,” Suzi said. “We do workshops where we demonstrate how to use what we’re growing and how to cook it healthier instead of frying. We also teach different ways of preservation, whether it be canning, drying, or dehydrating – we teach it all.”

Why does living in a rural area make it difficult to eat healthy?

Living in a rural area does not necessarily mean there’s access to fresh, healthy foods. In many instances, being located in a small community makes it more difficult to obtain produce grown in the area.

“Some of the problems we’re solving were problems that I had,” April said. “I moved from the city to a rural location where it’s a 45 minute drive to the nearest full-scale grocery store. So, we went from having access to healthy food whenever we needed it to not being able to find fresh produce.”

What challenges face residents of the Santee and Omaha Indian Reservations?

Diabetes and other health issues are prevalent on the reservations, so healthy eating is important.

“Health is our number one concern,” April said. “We talk about food sovereignty and the concept of having control over where your food comes from, and it’s getting a little bit better in Santee.”

“The importance of healthy food, and growing it as naturally as possible, is impacting our Native American health,” Suzi said. “As we meet our tribal members – and I go meet them at home where they’re comfortable – they can open up and tell me what kinds of vegetables they like.”

Both Suzi and April work in conjunction with tribal programs, such as wellness and diabetes prevention.

“We’re definitely on the right road to changing our epidemic of diabetes and finding alternative healthy foods to eat instead of pop, chips, candy, that kind of thing,” Suzi said.

Another positive effect of the program is that people are getting outside and are more active.

“The doctor who works at the Wellness Center said that is a big positive aspect,” April said. “People are not just sitting inside all day; they’re actually getting out and working in the ground and enjoying being outside. They are then connecting with family members and neighbors and there is more interaction among generations.”

Suzi said they are working to preserve traditions and culture.

“There’s a loss of communication between our elders and youth,” Suzi said. “Our work is to help them grow and access fresh produce, fruit, and vegetables, and make them realize the importance of eating healthy. We are connecting them to our traditional ways of gardening.”

Suzi worked with only 18 backyard gardens on the Omaha Reservation during her first year with the Center for Rural Affairs. In 2016, she worked with 104. This year, there are more than 200.

“Our people want to eat healthy,” she said. “They want fresh food.”

What is being done to bring about change to these areas?

With assistance from the Center for Rural Affairs, more and more residents are becoming interested in their food systems.

“In Santee, we do workshops during the winter to keep people interested,” April said. “Then, we hold signups for tilling in the spring. Those interactions get people interested.”

Residents are starting to earn profit for their hard work, as well, by selling extra produce at the farmers markets.

“This year, I’ll probably have 50 people sell their items at the farmers market,” Suzi said.

What other options are available to residents?

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are accepted at farmers markets on both the Santee and Omaha reservations, and for food baskets on the Santee Reservation.

After the growing season is over, there’s still a chance to sell and purchase healthy foods.

“We have a large bazaar in December that brings all the vendors together in Macy,” Suzi said. “We do a lot of canning of jams, jellies, and salsa. This year we’re going dehydrate and freeze our produce. The bazaar is an opportunity to make extra money in December before Christmas.”

How can you help bring a sustainable food system to your area?

“Reach out to existing farmers markets in the area or neighboring communities,” April said. “Or, if you have neighbors who sell items, start making connections.”

Those interactions can lead to discussions of creating more farmers markets, co-operative food baskets, or something similar.

“The internet makes it easier to find information to start growing produce, especially for people who don’t have experience,” April said. “And, I would always recommend to start small.” Read more about Bringing healthy, sustainable eating to rural areas

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Public-owned power: creating an opportunity for collective problem solving

In Nebraska, residents may be more connected than we realize. We share ownership of our power. This means Nebraskans have a voice in energy production, transportation, and usage.

On June 13, the Center for Rural Affairs hosted a community discussion in Broken Bow, Nebraska, on these energy issues.

Entering Broken Bow, it’s nearly impossible to miss the giant white turbines that rise above the landscape. Equipped with a thriving downtown and productive agricultural land, the community has a diverse group of farmers, ranchers, and entrepreneurs. This area represents the geographical diversity of Nebraska and the spectrum of rural interests.

Director Thomas Hoff, representing Subdivision 5 on the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) Board of Directors, was on hand for our event. We invited stakeholders to share their ideas and concerns.

Solar energy was brought up early in the conversation. Some attendees felt their operations were too small for personal power generation, or to build their own systems.

Creating a community-oriented solar energy project was suggested as an alternative. This kind of project allows the costs of energy production to be shared among community members.

“Community solar allows a lot of people to participate, and it offers an opportunity for everybody to contribute at various levels,” said Carol Brehm, of Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska, or MEAN.

Nebraska ranks in the top five nationally for wind power capability, and solar power ranks high as well. Residents can invest in renewable energies early in their development. However, some attendees had concerns in regards to the risk.

Upon concluding the conversation on community solar and wind projects, the discussion pivoted toward NPPD’s plan for the next five years.

Hoff explained that NPPD is in the process of building a transmission line in the area.

“Whatever energy we choose to invest in needs a transmission line to transport the energy produced,” he said.

Director Hoff used an excellent analogy to describe transmission line overload.

“When we are pumping water out of a one-inch hose, it doesn’t matter how much pressure we apply, because only so much water will run out,” he said. “Comparing to energy, we need a two-inch hose. This is why we are investing in transmission.”

As the only state in the U.S. with public power, we have a unique opportunity to collectively work to create a solution constructed by Nebraskans for Nebraska's needs.

The community of Broken Bow experiences several of the energy situations so many rural areas face, and also embodies the potential and problem-solving abilities of our small communities here in Nebraska.  

Photo: Wind turbines rise above the landscape near Broken Bow, Nebraska. | Photo by Lu Nelsen Read more about Public-owned power: creating an opportunity for collective problem solving

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A millennial’s growing understanding of diplomacy: my internship experience at the Center for Rural Affairs

Growing up on an acreage in rural Nebraska played a vital role in how I understand relationships.

At 4 years old, I was oblivious to “city kids” having the luxury of a friend living only a house or two down the street. I was willing to settle for friends a mile and a half down the gravel road, which by rural standards is next door.

Maturing in this fairly isolated area led me to engage in conversation with anyone I could find. This didn’t give me an option to only spend time with like-minded people.

I distinctly remember being in my teens and groveling for my father’s sympathy over a political argument I had with the childhood friend who grew up down the road. Dad offered me no pity or comfort. His instructions could be paraphrased to something along the lines of, “Well, you two better figure it out, because a disagreement isn’t worth losing a friend over.”  

Since that day, I’ve valued communicating with people whose ideas differ from my own and building relationships with those who share my vision. Funny enough, this dream of diplomacy led me to working on the policy team at the Center for Rural Affairs as an intern for the summer.

Coming in, I assumed policy work would be dry and technical, but equally rewarding. What I didn’t anticipate was how relationship-based and interpersonal the work would be. The organizational culture at the Center taught me this naturally.  

If you’ve ever stepped into the Center or had a conversation with one of the staff, it’s hard to miss each person’s passion for their work. I’ve worked a spectrum of odd jobs elsewhere from a grease-covered farmhand to a buttoned up teacher's assistant at Wayne State College, and I have yet to find an environment where everyone is so intertwined.

For example, as soon as tomatoes and cucumbers ripen, our office counter is overflowing with produce for others to take home. Early on, these daily contributions displayed to me a unifying environment.

Even lunch reflects the organization’s culture, as each of us sits around a half-moon table that can only resemble a family dining experience. We have never lit candles, but it would be the next logical step.

During the meal, each person shares about their garden, livestock, family, or pets. Conversations settle and meals wrap up with a refill of coffee and each person goes their own way. There is no boss micromanaging everyone, but rather people voluntarily shift back to their vocation out of passion rather than duty. A laissez-faire leadership style would easily be noticed by any independent observer.

The Center has been able to locate my strengths and push me forward in areas I thrived. Oddly enough, my favorite part of the three-month internship was receiving a calling list of 263 people.

Dialing phone numbers, listening to each person's story, and asking them to join in on a community conversation about the future of rural Nebraska is empowering. Each phone call was engaging and became second nature to me as everyone in the office displayed such love for their work it was contagious.

You feel people’s excitement, passion, and resilience over the phone. Together, they are willing to walk uphill and search for a solution to the most difficult challenges both our generations have faced.

Policy advocacy has offered me an avenue to engage people who are both like-minded and on the fence about serious issues. This work can be technical, but it’s far from dry.

The Center taught me how to build relationships without directly giving me instructions. The culture here is a lesson all its own, and I’m going to miss the excitement. Read more about A millennial’s growing understanding of diplomacy: my internship experience at the Center for Rural Affairs

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Students and educators benefit from growing food

In the last 20 years, small schools facing budget cuts often removed elective classes. This left skills like cooking and growing fruits and vegetables unlearned.

Center for Rural Affairs’ Greenhouse to Cafeteria program has been a solution for schools that have faced those decisions in the past. Not only does it fill a hole left in the curriculum, it also means healthier foods are served at lunch.

The program allows students to grow fruits and vegetables in school greenhouses. After harvesting, students deliver the produce to the cafeteria. Cafeteria staff then have an opportunity to buy and use the fresh food in the lunch program.

Growing food is an experience both students and educators benefit from. Hands-on activities turn pulling weeds and snapping beans into math and science lessons.

Exploring the food system teaches insights that may go untaught. Students have shared with us they feel empowered to know they are taking care of the healthy menu items.

In some schools, the summer months are being used to teach skills needed to run a market stand. These programs are helping build entrepreneurs, farmers, and experts - both culinary and in the food system.

Greenhouse to Cafeteria pilot schools are investing in serving healthier options to rural students' bodies and minds. These schools are providing experiences in careers youth may want to explore. Schools are also serving up a new dialogue about the community and rural America; one where students can envision their future self inside of, rather than leaving.

Learn more about the Center’s Greenhouse to Cafeteria program by visiting Read more about Students and educators benefit from growing food

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Center for Rural Affairs July and August newsletter

Note from the Editor:

This edition of our newsletter focuses on our value of widespread OWNERSHIP of small businesses, farms, and ranches by the people who work them.

In our executive director’s essay, he outlines our agenda to combat capital control by spreading small business ownership in rural communities.

We helped Vicente Acevedo and Magdalena Barrios obtain their land, adding one more family farm back into the rural landscape, and allowing the couple to achieve their ownership dream. Read more about Center for Rural Affairs July and August newsletter

Utilizing soil test results to maintain garden health

With the help of a grant from the Nebraska Academy of Sciences, students from Nebraska Indian Community College (NICC) and staff from the Center for Rural Affairs conducted soil testing on gardens throughout the Santee community.

Samples were taken from 10 different locations, including the demonstration garden located on the NICC campus. Samples were sent to the University of Massachusetts (UMASS) Extension Soil and Plant Nutrient Testing Laboratory in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Results showed that all locations tested above optimum for potassium, calcium, and magnesium levels, with a few locations testing at optimum levels for phosphorus. Santee’s proximity to the Missouri River and Lewis and Clark Lake makes the results understandable.

A couple of tested locations in Santee were lacking organic matter. These sites were near recent housing construction, where construction crews have removed the topsoil.

Soil testing can seem like a challenging task for the beginning gardener, however, it is a very easy and inexpensive tool for increasing garden productivity. UMASS is just one of the labs that offers mail-in soil testing, with easy-to-follow instructions available online. Instructions include how and where to take the sample, based on the size of the garden. The website also describes how to prepare the soil before mailing it in. The cost for a standard soil test is $15. Results are received via email within a few weeks in an easy-to-understand format. This time frame allows gardeners plenty of time to take a soil sample early in the year, get results, and add amendments, such as minerals or organic matter, before the planting season begins.

Results were discussed during a beginning gardening workshop held at the NICC demonstration garden in May. Soil test reports were mailed to all participants. The Center and NICC will offer a follow-up workshop in the fall to discuss ways to maintain these positive soil test results. Topics will include replenishing nutrients through composting and increasing phosphorus levels — including using traditional applications such as fish bone meal, studying organic matter levels, and increasing organic matter levels during fallow months.

Soil testing is a part of the Community Foods Project, a collaboration between the Center and NICC on the Santee Reservation in Nebraska. The program includes a farmers market, fresh food basket program, demonstration garden and workshops, and a garden advising program.

For more information, check out the Santee Community Foods Project page on our website. If you are interested in soil testing for your garden, visit the UMASS website.

Photos: Soil samples were taken from several sites in Santee this spring. Results showed the soil has above optimum levels of potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Read more about Utilizing soil test results to maintain garden health

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REAP Women's Business Center: Eight trainings recently completed, more planned

Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) Women’s Business Center continues to partner with local organizations to offer “Online Marketing Strategies.”

In June, training sessions were held in O’Neill, Valentine, Ainsworth, and Alma.

We also offered a “Facebook for Business” session in Sidney.

One key to business success is accurate and timely recordkeeping. QuickBooks trainings were held in O’Neill and Hartington this spring.

A “Business Plan Basics” course was offered in Walthill in cooperation with the City of Walthill.

More training sessions are coming up in the future.

A session on sales/use tax will be held in Beatrice in September. Marketing Strategies is planned for Hebron in September. QuickBooks will be offered in Atkinson in October.

Check out for more information and additional opportunities.

Feature photo: Presenter Diane Siefkes gives an "Online Marketing Strategies" training in Alma on June 12. The session was presented by Center for Rural Affairs' REAP Women's Business Center and local organizations. | Photo by Monica Braun Read more about REAP Women's Business Center: Eight trainings recently completed, more planned

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Working in a farm successor as part of a retirement plan

Are you one of the many farmers without an identified farm successor? Purdue University says that's around 75 percent, and about half expect nonfamily members to take over. A gradual shift of responsibilities and ownership, plus an extended mentoring period, can help ensure the continued success of the farm business.

After checking out a candidate's experience and references, a short trial period with paid labor can be a good step. This probationary period can help both of you assess how well you work together, how your daily priorities match up, and how you deal with setbacks.

A phased transition plan can follow, based on the goals and capabilities of you and your successor. Responsibilities for farm decisions and management can be shifted gradually or by specific enterprises. Critical elements may be held for later, while new enterprises conceived by the new farmer could be her or his full responsibility and ownership right away.

A written transition plan can ensure that timing and responsibilities are clear. A five-year plan for major progress will tell you if it's working.

A new farmer will benefit from your knowledge of your land and from your experience in the business. Remaining a minority partner or a mentor gives access to your valuable advice. However, there are no guarantees of the farm business surviving the transfer, or indeed, from any year to the next under your control. You have gained skills and have built a business to withstand financial, weather, and market risks. But your successor will be operating in a world with a market and regulatory climate that differs from when you farmed. You have to be prepared to accept that decisions will be made that would not match yours.

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

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

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A bright idea: family business installs on-farm solar energy systems in rural Iowa

In early 2013, Jason Egli and his wife, Gabrielle, were living and working as engineers in Cedar Falls, Iowa. They had been trying for years to find jobs that would allow them to move back home to rural Louisa County, but jobs suited to their experience and talents were hard to come by.

That same year, Jason’s cousin, a farmer in Jefferson County, Iowa, asked him to help design and install a solar photovoltaic (PV) system for some of his hog buildings. As a contract feeder, one of the few expenses he could control was his energy bill. At the time, his utility offered a temporary rebate on solar panels. With solar on his buildings, he was able to substantially reduce his electricity costs, taking advantage of available tax credits and depreciation on the panels to lower his tax burden.

Jason and his cousins, Nathan, Ryan, and Mark Porter, installed several solar systems on family members’ farms and quickly began getting calls from neighbors asking for help with their solar installations. EPo Energy was born, and Jason and Gabrielle were able to move back to Louisa County, Iowa.

EPo Energy now has four full-time employee-owners, including Jason and Nathan, and employs 20 to 30 part-time contractors. Among them, the four primary owners have 50+ years of business and farming experience. Although this experience certainly contributes to their success, EPo works hard to build trust within a community where most customers hear about them by word of mouth.

In the four years since this rural, family-owned business formed, it has installed more than six megawatts (MW) of solar in Iowa – about 16 percent of the solar installations in the state. EPo specializes in on-farm solar and helping nonprofit organizations take advantage of this technology. A couple years ago, they helped WACO community school district in Wayland, Iowa, locate investors for a solar project that saves the district the equivalent of a teacher’s salary every year.

Jason explains that the main reason for a farmer to invest in solar is to control electricity costs. An on-farm solar PV system can pay itself back in just a few years, and will lower a farmer’s energy costs for decades. At a time when farmers are subject to increasingly negative stereotypes, Jason says investing in solar is a good way for farmers to demonstrate their commitment to helping solve environmental problems such as poor water quality and global warming.

EPo Energy is on the forefront of an energy revolution that is already bringing economic opportunity, lower electricity costs, and energy choice to rural communities across the country. Policies that invest in tax credits and research help spur this transition. As the market grows, solar energy will drop further in price and become even more accessible. In the meantime, companies like EPo will continue to do what rural businesses do best – serve their communities through innovation, hard work, and leadership. Read more about A bright idea: family business installs on-farm solar energy systems in rural Iowa

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Meet our 2018 Farm Bill team

The upcoming 2018 Farm Bill is in the works and we want your voice heard!

The Center for Rural Affairs has been working diligently to advocate for rural America in a variety of areas including conservation, crop insurance, and beginning farmer assistance.

Congress’ agriculture committees who write the Farm Bill have started hearings already. We expect they will be gearing up to do further work this fall. We’re planning to send you updates as this unfolds and we’ll let you know key times when your legislators need to hear from you.

Today, we’re writing because there are some new faces with the Center for Rural Affairs who are advocating for your interests in the 2018 Farm Bill. Read a little about us and why we care about the Farm Bill!

Iowa staff

Anna is a Policy Program Associate and is leading the Farm Bill and agricultural policy work at the Center for Rural Affairs. She is passionate about supporting family farms and is glad to be advocating for rural communities. Anna is based in our office in Nevada, Iowa. You can contact Anna at 515.215.1294 or

Lacie is a Policy and Advocacy Organizing Intern based in our Nevada, Iowa, office. She will be a senior at Iowa State University studying Agriculture and Society, and Public Relations. Lacie believes the Farm Bill is invaluable because it not only helps farmers, but also helps many Americans beyond those in agriculture. You can reach Lacie at 515.215.1294 or

Kansas staff

Jim is a fifth generation farmer in south central Kansas. He has been involved inagricultural advocacy since the mid-1980s. In the past 20 years, he has worked in communications and advocacy for the Kansas Rural Center and Oxfam America. He now serves as the Senior Advocacy Advisor for the Center. He is passionate about a regenerative agriculture that sustains thriving communities and a healthy environment. You can contact Jim at 620.200.0260 or

Nebraska staff

Cora is a Policy Program Associate focusing on agricultural policy work at the Center for Rural Affairs. As part of the sixth generation on her family farm in Iowa, she understands farming is not only an occupation, but a livelihood. She feels the Farm Bill is important in supporting rural America at its cornerstone—agriculture. Cora is based in our main office in Lyons, Nebraska. You can reach Cora at 402.687.2100 x 1012 or

Stay tuned for more information regarding the Center’s work for the 2018 Farm Bill.

We value your input and look forward to advocating for your interests in the upcoming Farm Bill. If you would like to share your story with us or learn more about our work, visit us at or give us a call at 402.687.2100 x 1012. Read more about Meet our 2018 Farm Bill team

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