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Annual Report - Message from the Executive Director

The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. - Ecclesiastes 1:5

The Center for Rural Affairs is helping give rise to a new day in the communities of rural America. We don’t work alone. The Center is part of rural America, and rural people are essential partners in our work. Our role is to provide vision for the future, to lead with persistence in the face of challenges that dim the hope of the fainthearted.

Our vision looks to the future as it draws on our past. Farms, businesses, and communities must change to thrive. But our values must remain constant. They are the unchanging markers that guide us in shaping a future that serves the common good.

Rural Policy in 2007 — Building New Alliances on Rural Issues

In 2007 the Center led the fight for farm program payment limits reform, arguing that farm program money is better spent supporting beginning farmers, protecting our natural resources, and encouraging rural small business development. Support for rural small business development became one linchpin of our argument. It was not the only thing we fought for, but it was an issue that many new allies coalesced around.

Many agriculturally-based rural communities have suffered a precipitous loss of small businesses that serve their communities. Small businesses are vital to their future success. They are our grocery stores, hardware stores, local retail, and local service businesses. When we work to strengthen these businesses, all of rural America benefits.

Grassroots Letters Supporting Microenterprise

Through the efforts of various farm bill coalitions, hundreds of letters poured into Congressional offices this past year. We are proud to share one written on behalf of rural microenterprise assistance.

Research and Analysis — Growing in Recognition and Importance

Since its start in 2002, the Center’s Rural Research and Analysis Program has become a nationally recognized source of data, materials, and exploration on issues of importance to rural people and rural places. In the program’s five years, we have highlighted promising practices in rural communities, illuminated strengths and weaknesses in current and proposed policy, and stressed the impacts of current and proposed policy on rural people. Two recent activities demonstrate our growth and reach.

REAP Assisted Record Number of Rural Small Businesses in 2007

The Center’s Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) works with startup and existing small businesses with five or fewer employees. The largest full-service microenterprise development program in the state, REAP strives to serve all of the Nebraska’s rural areas with business management training, networking, one-on-one technical assistance, and small loans.

The past year was an exceptional one for REAP in reaching rural entrepreneurs and placing micro loans. The services offered also continued to grow and expand through the Women’s Business Center and the Hispanic Business Center.

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