Free Resource Center for Nonprofits

Get FREE access to up-to-date information, statewide listings of trainings and events, and topical experts. Let’s Build Nebraska is a free online resource that increases the capacity, skills, and abilities of individuals assisting nonprofits, community-benefit organizations, and volunteers that strengthen the great state of Nebraska.

Let’s Build Nebraska offers:

  • An extensive resource library featuring knowledge on topics including starting a nonprofit, board development, marketing, financial management, volunteer management, and much more.
  • Access to experienced experts who specialize in the nonprofit sector and have proven success helping nonprofits build organizational capacity.
  • Links to webinars, events, and on-site training that enhances the knowledge of nonprofit professionals, board members, and volunteers.

How you can help:  Visit www.letsbuildnebraska.org or contact letsbuildne@gmail.com to become involved or be included as an expert. You can also follow Let’s Build Nebraska on Facebook, Twitter and blog.

Thank you for your support!

Submitted by Dawn M Garcia, Let's Build Nebraska Project Coordinator Read more about Free Resource Center for Nonprofits

Blog (deprecated)

Op-Ed: Other utilities should buy wind energy

The Midwest gains a lot from investing in wind energy. It is a homegrown resource, and it's abundant -- Nebraska ranks third in the nation for wind energy potential.

Wind energy also offers new jobs -- in manufacturing, construction and services -- and is a welcome source of revenue for communities and landowners that host projects.

When all is said and done, investing in wind energy carries a lot of benefits that utilities and customers should want to promote and take advantage of at the same time.

The recent contract signed by Lincoln Electric System to purchase 100 megawatts of wind energy is a positive step by the utility to not only increase its renewable energy portfolio, but because it offers cheaper energy to consumers.

Wind energy has grown quite a bit as an industry, with the power and materials becoming cheaper to produce by the year, and many parts are being produced right here in the United States. In fact, in 2012, 75 percent of all parts used were produced domestically. That's a significant jump from the 25 percent made in the United States in 2007.

This local sourcing also has lead to lower prices for turbines, which decreases the overall price of wind farms and other projects. That drop in price, along with improvements in the transmission that helps move wind energy to different markets, led to cheaper wind energy. From the high point in 2009, prices have fallen from an average of $70 per megawatt hour to an average of between $20 and $40 per megawatt hour in 2012.

Right now, utilities get a great bargain from purchasing wind energy, getting it for the best price to date.

As the Lincoln Journal Star pointed to in an editorial July 26, "Lincoln Electric System should be encouraged," LES more than doubled its projected renewable energy use through this purchase, going from 11 percent by 2016 to the current projection of 23 percent. This investment means that customers will be getting a lot more of their power from renewable resources, and it increases LES' investment in a growing industry.

The rest of Nebraska's utilities would be wise to do the same.

Because of this drop in price, wind energy has become one of the most successful forms of renewable energy for the Midwest and has begun to rival fossil fuels. Coal, which has experienced a rise in price, has become more costly than wind energy.

Considering that many coal plants are aging and require expensive maintenance or upgrades, the overall cost of coal is expected to increase even further.

LES has made a wise investment for the future, and that investment will pay off for customers in the long run. While we would have preferred to see LES purchase power from wind farms here in Nebraska, we understand that the economics didn't allow for it.

What we don't understand is the reluctance on the part of the rest of Nebraska's utilities to get serious about locking in these affordable prices. Instead, they extol the virtues of fossil fuels, pretending as if we as customers are not smart enough to know that the costs -- both long-term and short-term -- aren't worth it.

We need to be bold, and we need investment in the future of our rural communities. Customers in Nebraska have a unique opportunity to reach out to their power providers, as well as elected officials that help make power purchase decisions. We can all make it known that we don't want to reinvest in something that is only going to get more expensive, especially when we have the opportunity for savings now and in the future.

  Read more about Op-Ed: Other utilities should buy wind energy

  • Clean Energy
Weekly column

Op-Ed: Transmission project supported

Recently the Nebraska Public Power District held a series of hearings to discuss a new transmission project planned for northeast Nebraska. The 40 mile line, stretching from the Hoskins area to a new substation near Neligh, is designed to improve reliability in a part of the state hit hard by the drought.

Increasing the reliability of our transmission grid is important. But expanding our electric grid also serves a role that many of us don’t consider. Today, a lack of wires is the single biggest limiting factor as we work to build wind farms in our rural counties. 

More transmission leads to more wind power. It also ensures that our rural communities can begin to benefit from the economic advantages wind energy can create.

NPPD understands this. Though what I believe to be its failure to capitalize on the economic and environmental benefits of wind energy routinely disappoints many Nebraskans, they recognize that this technology will play a role in Nebraska’s future. They know that any significant transmission expansion must enable the operation of a new generation of wind projects.  

Some are concerned that this project might also provide electricity needed to power pumping stations along the Keystone XL pipeline. We know that the Hoskins to Neligh line isn’t being built expressly for that purpose. Might some of the electricity delivered on this line be used for that purpose? It’s hard to tell. Once electricity makes its way to the grid, it’s close to impossible to pinpoint where it’s going and how it might be used

The Center for Rural Affairs uses a core set of principles when evaluating whether a transmission project deserves our support. Will the project enable wind generation? Has the developer sought out the input of each local community? Will affected landowners be compensated fairly?  In this case, the answer is yes. We support the Hoskins-Neligh transmission project.  

  • Clean Energy
Weekly column

Effective Messaging to Rural Voters

What would small town and rural Americans like to hear from organizations and elected officials about the issues facing their communities? How do they see the role of government in addressing small town and rural issues? We provide some insights in a new analysis, Lessons for Advocates in Small Town and Rural PollThe analysis explores these questions and more:

How many of us would like to run our own farm or business? Lots! Over half said "owning my own business or farm is a big part of the American dream for me." Entrepreneurial communities that support aspirations for people to own their own business will be attractive to a large segment of rural and small town Americans.

What do we think about government help for small business and beginning farmers? Rural Americans hold very strong support for investments in small business development and other forms of community and economic development. That support extends to beginning farmers. Over 85% of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents favor helping "small and owner-operated businesses and farms get started and grow through loans, tax credits, and training."

What do folks who don’t farm think about cutting farm programs to invest in small towns and rural communities? We found bipartisan support for shifts from big farms to broader rural and small town programs. But we found little support, irrespective of party affiliation, for across-the-board cuts in farm programs to fund rural development.

How do we feel about help for the working poor? Rural Americans are very responsive to messages that advocate assistance to the working poor. Six in 10 say government has some or a lot of responsibility to help the working poor advance economically. About half of Republicans and over 60% of Independents agree.
 
Check out our new report and the topline polling data at cfra.org/rural-poll.

  Read more about Effective Messaging to Rural Voters

  • Small BusinessSmall Business Policy
  • Small TownsCommunity Development
Newsletter

Scholarships Now Available for Women in Sustainable Agriculture Conference

Our friends at the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) office of Nebraska will help up to 20 female  environmental or sustainable agriculture educators from Nebraska attend the 4th National Conference for Women in Sustainable Agriculture to be held Nov 6-8th in Des Moines. 

Applicants don't need to be formal teachers. Field personnel, community sustainability facilitators, grad students - a range of vocations and avocations from committed women will be considered. Scholarships will be for $250 ($125 deducted from up-front registration costs, and the remainder to be rebated after attendance and evaluation forms are received). Find details on Scholarships here

This conference has not previously been held west of Pennsylvania. Do NOT miss this local chance to enjoy 42 breakouts, the company of like-minded, dedicated women, arts events, fantastic field trips, locally grown food, and inspiring national keynote speakers!

Contact Carol at the Women Food & Agriculture Network, 641.430.2540 or carol@wfan.org, with any questions. Scholarship applications are due before Sept. 20! Read more about Scholarships Now Available for Women in Sustainable Agriculture Conference

  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher
Blog (deprecated)

Op-Ed: Legislature leaves much work unfinished

The Nebraska Legislature adjourned their 2013 session without so much as taking a vote on one of the most significant issues before them - a bill to expand health coverage to 54,000 low-income working Nebraskans.

Senator Kathy Campbell, a Republican, advanced a bill that won the support of a clear majority of senators - Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike. Polling shows that a majority of Nebraskans support the policy. An AARP poll during the legislative session found that 55% of Nebraskans favor extending Medicaid to low-income, working adults who aren’t eligible now (as provided for in LB 577). A recent Center for Rural Affairs poll found that 65% of rural Americans, including rural Nebraskans, favor assisting the working poor with affording the necessities of life with Medicaid coverage for healthcare.

Senator Campbell’s proposal allows the state to accept funds available under the Affordable Care Act to enroll low-income working Nebraskans in the Medicaid program. The proposal is especially important to rural Nebraskans, who are more likely to be uninsured than their urban counterparts.

The proposal is fiscally smart for Nebraska too. The cost is fully paid for with federal funds for the first three years, gradually decreasing to 90% after that. The legislature’s fiscal office found that the proposal saves the state money over the next two fiscal years and eliminates several state programs.

Business-friendly groups agree. Bloomberg News and Moody’s Investor Service wrote that the policy is good for businesses and good for hospitals. The new program will return up to $3.5 billion to Nebraska through 2020 and create tens of thousands of good jobs in health services, not to mention over $1 billion that currently insured Nebraskans will save because less uncompensated healthcare for the uninsured would no longer be shifted to those with insurance.

At the same time, Moody’s warns that hospitals in states that do not expand Medicaid could have credit rating problems and face higher interest rates.
But commonsense and bipartisan support was not enough to overcome politically crass opposition to the bill. Debate on the bill stalled after 17 members in the 49 member body filibustered the bill. Aware that the bill had strong majority support, opponents took the unusual step of demanding a 2:1 super-majority to cut off debate. They refused to even allow a vote on the bill.

That is unfortunate in Nebraska where the nonpartisan unicameral is usually a refreshing relief from the partisan trickery and gridlock in Washington. For generations, Nebraskans have put good governance ahead of party loyalty.

Without this bill, low-income working Nebraskans in poverty will fall into a health care gap. Most don’t qualify for the current Medicaid program, and they also won’t qualify for federal credits that will make health insurance affordable for middle-income Americans.

This health care gap is real. The jobs that the Medicaid expansion would create are real.

A handful of legislators should not stand between bipartisan majorities to block health care coverage for tens of thousands of our low-income, working friends, neighbors, and family members.

You and I elect legislators to make decisions, not just when it is easy, not just when it is popular, but when the stakes are high and the outcome controversial. Nebraskans deserve legislators who finish the job.

Luckily for us, as the political dust-up clears, the legislature can take Campbell’s proposal up as their first order of business next January. With 54,000 working Nebraskans without healthcare coverage until they act, we will be working hard to bring the issue to a vote. Read more about Op-Ed: Legislature leaves much work unfinished

  • Rural Health
Weekly column

Business Boot Camp

Are you starting a business and have no idea where to begin? Our Business Boot Camp will take you through six essential steps in six hours, and it's free! Camp will be held at the Kearney Public Library in Kearney, Nebraska. It runs from 9am to 3pm, with lunch included.

Come and learn how to:

  • Write a business plan
  • Identify your customers
  • Research your target market
  • Develop financial projections
  • Finance your venture
  • Certify as a Woman-owned small business

For questions or to confirm your spot, RSVP to Elizabeth Yearwood, Elizabeth.Yearwood@sba.gov or call 402.221.7200.

Boot Camp is brought to you by the US Small Business Administration, the Center for Rural Affairs' REAP Women’s Business Center, the Nebraska Business Development Center, and more! Read more about Business Boot Camp

Coalition of Farm and Rural Groups Celebrates 25 Years

During August at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition summer meeting, we helped celebrate the coalition’s 25th anniversary. In 1988, the Center for Rural Affairs, and many other family farm and rural organizations, helped create the coalition.

It formed out of a simple desire. The founding groups wanted to work together to have a positive impact on federal agriculture policy to strengthen family farming livelihoods, rural communities, and natural resources.

Over 25 years, much has been accomplished. If you are a farmer or rancher who has benefited from on-farm, sustainable agriculture research, you have this coalition to thank. They (along with others such as Rodale and American Farmland Trust) fought for funding to make the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program happen. NSAC continues to fight for its funding year in and year out.

Another early accomplishment was adding the definition of sustainable agriculture into the 1990 Farm Bill.

Other victories included the Wetland Reserve Program, which provides landowners the opportunity to restore and enhance wetlands. The Conservation Reserve Program buffer initiative helps farmers integrate buffers on their working farmland to prevent soil erosion and improve water quality. 

More recent wins include the:

  • Value-Added Producer Grants Program, serving small and mid-size family farmers and ranchers in creating high value, niche markets. 
  • Conservation Stewardship Program, the first ever conservation program designed to reward farmers and ranchers for being good stewards of their working farm and ranch land.
  • Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, specifically focused on training and mentoring the next generation of farmers and ranchers.
  • Farmers Market Promotion Program to support many forms of direct marketing. 

There is more to this story, but not enough room to tell it all in this space. No other farm-based coalition has accomplished so much with so little. We are proud to be a part of it. Here’s to another 25 years! Read more about Coalition of Farm and Rural Groups Celebrates 25 Years

  • Farm Policy
Newsletter

Rural Advocate says Goodbye

I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes as I walked out the door of the Center for Rural Affairs on August 30.  It was my last day.

After 37 years, the Center will always be a big part of me. And I will always be indebted to all who helped make it the nation’s leading force fighting for the rural and small town way of life.

I first set eyes on the Center one summer Sunday in 1976, at the age of 21. It was based in an old, one room storefront with high tin ceilings on Main Street in Walthill, Nebraska. It was led by the balding and brilliant 29 year old Marty Strange and the grizzled and thoughtful 32 year old Don Ralston.

That day changed my life. And the Center for Rural Affairs changed the course of history in rural America, with a lot of help from you who share its commitment to creating a better future. Together, we upheld the value of strong communities with responsible citizens, genuine opportunity for all and stewardship of the land and water. 

Together, we opened doors of opportunity to beginning farmers, small businesses and new leaders. Together, we fought important fights in Washington and state capitols to support family farms, ranches, small business, small towns and to care for the land and water.  And we won our share of those fights.

The Center has reached a crucial point in its history. Leadership change tests the mettle of organizations. Strong organizations thrive by growing their own leaders to step up when needed.  Marty Strange and Don Ralston tutored and nurtured me. I in turn tutored and nurtured Brian Depew, who is taking my place. Brian hails from a Laurens, Iowa family farm and is deeply rooted in rural America.

After seven years working alongside Brian, I know he is prepared. I know the Center will march into the future with its supporters, allies and citizen leaders, as a strong champion for rural America’s people, small towns, and the values we all share. Read more about Rural Advocate says Goodbye

Weekly column

Chuck Says Goodbye

I had a lump in my throat and a tear in my eyes as I walked out the door of the Center for Rural Affairs on August 30. It was my last day. 

My heart, however, has not left the Center. After 37 years, it will always be a big part of me. And I will always be indebted to the supporters and citizen leaders who have helped make it the nation’s leading force fighting for the rural and small town way of life. 

I first set eyes on the Center on a summer Sunday in 1976, at the age of 21. It was based in an old, one-room storefront with high tin ceilings on Main Street Walthill, Nebraska. It was led by the balding and brilliant 29 year old Marty Strange and the grizzled and thoughtful 32 year old Don Ralston. 

That day changed my life. And that organization has changed the course of history in rural America, with a lot of help from you who share its commitment to creating a better future. 

Together, we have upheld the value of strong communities with responsible citizens, genuine opportunity for all, and stewardship of the land and water. 

Together, we have opened doors of opportunity to beginning farmers, small businesses, and new leaders. Together, we’ve fought important fights in Washington and state capitols to support family farms, small business, small towns, and care for the land and water. We’ve even won our share of those fights. 

Now, the Center has reached a critical point in its history. Leadership change tests the mettle of organizations. Some fail. The strongest organizations thrive by growing their own leaders to step up when needed. 

Marty Strange and Don Ralston tutored and nurtured me, before I took their place. I’ve tutored and nurtured Brian Depew, who has taken my place. Brian is deeply rooted in rural America, hailing from a Laurens, Iowa, family farm. 

After working alongside Brian for seven years, I know he is prepared. I ask each of you who has been there for the Center under my leadership, to be there for Brian and the rest of the Center’s excellent staff. 

This is a bittersweet time. I have invested my entire professional life to date in the Center. I care deeply about its board, staff, and supporters. I am fully invested in its mission. 

I am proud that I answered my call to this work and assured in knowing that others will take my place, enabling me to go on to an exciting new challenge. I know the Center will march into the future with its supporters, allies, and citizen leaders, as a strong champion for small town and rural people, small communities and the values we share. Read more about Chuck Says Goodbye

Newsletter

Farewells and Job Opening

We extend our farewell and thanks to Bailey Mahlberg, Cristina Perez, and Sadid Carillo, interns with our community foods and inclusion work. The contribution of each to the mission of the Center has been outstanding. We wish them the best of luck in future endeavors.
 
The great news, though, is that we may have a place for you! We’re looking for an AmeriCorp intern to join us as a Community Food Specialist. Hurry though – we need your skills right away! Read more about Farewells and Job Opening

  • Small TownsCommunity Food
Newsletter

Healthcare and You: Questions about the Affordable Care Act

Do you know all you need to know about the Affordable Care Act, and the changes that will happen soon? Yeah, me either. But that’s why your questions are so helpful! I find the answers, and share them with everyone. Keep them coming.

Are families who can’t afford the employer provided health insurance eligible for subsidy on the health insurance marketplace, or “exchange”?

If your employer offers a health insurance plan, you first need to look at what it covers and how much it costs. It must be a comprehensive plan that meets or exceeds the essential benefit package.

If your employer offers a comprehensive plan, next look at how much they require you to pay. If the annual premium is more than 9.5% of what you report on your tax forms as your income, the plan is considered “unaffordable.” You would be eligible to purchase insurance in the health insurance marketplace. If you are between 100-400% of the federal poverty level, you’ll be eligible for a premium subsidy too.

I got a check in the mail from my insurance company recently. Why?

One of the ways the Affordable Care Act seeks to lower costs is by making sure insurers aren’t padding their pockets or using a majority of your premium dollars for things that aren’t medical care. It’s sometimes known as the 80/20 rule – at least 80% of your premium dollar goes to actual medical care. It may not be your medical care, but that’s the nature of insurance. If the insurer charges too much and doesn’t meet this threshold, they are required to give every customer a rebate until they meet the rule.

These articles are meant solely to answer questions we receive and provide general information about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Center for Rural Affairs does not offer or provide legal advice. CFRA is not an insurance agency, broker, or consultant; does not recommend any health insurance product or policy or provide any advice on the purchasing of health insurance; and does not accept any compensation or consideration from an insurance company, insurance broker, or insurance consultant. Read more about Healthcare and You: Questions about the Affordable Care Act

  • Rural Health
Newsletter

Land Link Sneak Peek: Beekeepers for Rural America

This is a honey of an opportunity! Owners of a small acreage in Nebraska, located between Omaha and Lincoln, are looking ahead for a successor. They have an ideal location for direct marketing at farmers markets, restaurants, and grocery stores.

The owners are experienced beekeepers and would gladly train their successor in beekeeping. The acreage is not currently for sale, but the owners could assist a successor with financing when they are ready to sell (approximately by 2019).

Right now, the landowners are interested in leasing part of the farm to the right beginners as a trial before they commit to a long-term lease or sale.

Buzzing with interest? Find out more by contacting me, Virginia, at 402.687.2100 or email virginiam@cfra.org. Read more about Land Link Sneak Peek: Beekeepers for Rural America

  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher
Newsletter

Center Appoints New Executive Director

Friends, I am pleased to announce a leadership transition at the Center for Rural Affairs. Assistant Executive Director Brian Depew has been named the new Executive Director, effective Sept 1, 2013. Chuck Hassebrook, who shaped the Center for decades through his hard work and leadership, will depart to pursue new challenges.

This transition follows a thorough and rigorous process the Center for Rural Affairs Board of Directors established some time ago to meet this eventuality.

We cannot thank Chuck enough for his dedication and selflessness in serving the mission of the Center. 

I am excited and confident in Brian’s ability to lead this organization. He was honed during his time as Acting Executive Director in 2012. Speaking for the board and staff, we are fortunate to have his talent and dedication. We have great expectations for the Center’s future.

On September 5, 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs was incorporated as a nonprofit organization. Now, almost 40 years later to the day, we’ll head into a new future. I know it is one where you, our supporters, will be at the heart of every decision we make.

Here’s to another 40 years of representing the best in rural America, with you by our side.

Sincerely,

Jim Knopik | President, Board of Directors | Center for Rural Affairs Read more about Center Appoints New Executive Director

Passing the Torch

I am pleased to announce a leadership transition at the Center for Rural Affairs. Assistant Executive Director Brian Depew has been named the new Executive Director, effective Sept 1, 2013. Chuck Hassebrook, who shaped the Center for decades through his hard work and leadership, will depart to pursue new challenges.

This transition follows a thorough and rigorous process the Center for Rural Affairs Board of Directors established some time ago to meet this eventuality.

No one associated with the Center for Rural Affairs can thank Chuck enough for his dedication, hard work and selflessness in serving the mission of the Center for 36 years, 17 of those years as Director.

I know I speak for the members of the Center’s Board of Directors and staff when I say we are excited and confident in the abilities and leadership that Brian honed during his time as Acting Executive Director in 2012. And we are fortunate to have his talent and dedication at hand. We have great expectations for the Center’s future.

On September 5, 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs was incorporated as a nonprofit organization. Now, almost 40 years later to the day, we head into a new future. 

Here’s to another 40 years of representing the best of rural America. Read more about Passing the Torch

Weekly column

Pages

Get the Newsletter