We are witnessing renewed interest in sustainable farming. New opportunities in clean energy, healthcare, and small business offer opportunity in small towns. And our work is evolving to include a more diverse set of strategies to create welcoming and vibrant communities.
We'll be post each section of our 2014 annual report on our blog. (If you can't wait, download the whole annual report here.) Reading through it, I hope you get as excited as I did. With your help, the Center for Rural Affairs is having a real impact on the lives of people who call rural America home.
Consider a few examples from the last year:
- In 2014, the outstanding small business loan balance of the Center reached $3.9 million. As a new Community Development Financial Institute we are building our capacity to meet growing capital needs in the small business sector, and exploring the needs in the farm sector and in neighboring states.
- We launched an innovative new rural arts initiative this year. Starting in four small towns close to home, we are working to drive socially engaged art projects forward. The work is a model for what can be done in small towns across the nation.
- After a long fight, a new farm bill was signed into law. The new 5-year law renewed $15 million for small business development, $7 billion for the conservation stewardship program, and $100 million for beginning farmer training thanks to your advocacy efforts. Important work lies ahead to reform farm commodity programs.
- We launched a new land legacy stewardship effort, an innovative program to allow donors who own farmland to secure their legacy, help the next generation of farmers get a foothold, and steward the work of the Center. Meanwhile, 160 beginning farmers participated in our training programs.
- As part of a national initiative, we led the Midwest team focused on putting food from local farms on the trays of school children. In Nebraska, we worked with nearly 50 small rural districts to bring local food programs to rural kids too. If we can do it here, you can do it anywhere.
- Finally, more than 1,000 of you joined with us to speak up for action addressing climate change. As a critical rural voice in the climate debate, your voice helped move national and regional responses to climate down the field.
Your investment in the Center supports this diverse and bold approach. It supports work spanning from projects in individual communities to coordinated national campaigns.
In the annual report, you will read more about the rural America you are helping to build. Our work has never been more important, and it’s because of your support that the Center exists and works on issues vital to rural America.
There is no doubt, rural people and rural places will face new challenges in the coming year. The Center won’t shrink from these challenges. We will face them head-on in 2015, just as we have for 41 years.
That’s because, at the core of the Center for Rural Affairs, is the belief that by acting together in each of our communities, and banding together across the nation, we have the power to create a positive future for rural people and rural places.
This was a core belief at our founding, and it guides our work to this day. It is a belief we are proud to share with you.
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