Business Plan Basics offered to entrepreneurs in Cozad

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Nancy Flock, southwest loan specialist,, 308.534.3508; or Rhea Landholm, brand marketing and communications manager,, 402.687.2100 ext 1025

Cozad, Neb. - Existing, transitioning, and startup small business owners have an opportunity to examine their ventures in “Business Plan Basics,” a workshop organized by the Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) Women’s Business Center and Cozad Development Corporation.

Five sessions will be held on Wednesdays starting May 2 to May 30, from 6 to 9 p.m., at Cozad Development Corporation, 121 W. 9th St., Cozad, Nebraska.

The workshop series will focus on marketing, promotion/advertising, financial management, customer relations, and goal setting. REAP uses the Business Plan Basics NxLevel Guide for microentrepreneurs curriculum.

"Planning is key to success in business, and these five hands-on exploratory sessions are designed for those thinking of starting a business, businesses that need a boost, and business owners considering exiting the business," said Monica Braun, REAP Women’s Business Center director. “Sessions will cover important information to complete a business plan.”

The course will be facilitated by Lorre McKeone, who has a background in business, finance, and communication. She is the founder of The Executive Extra, which specializes in customized training and facilitation services tailored to the specific needs of their clients.

To register, visit or Cozad Development Corporation. For more information, contact Nancy Flock at 308.534.3508 or

Center for Rural Affairs’ REAP provides business training, technical assistance, microloans, and networking to small businesses in Nebraska.


Center for Rural Affairs: Farm bill first draft makes the wrong sweeping change

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Anna Johnson, policy associate,, 515.215.1294; Emilee Pease, executive assistant,, 402.687.2100 ext. 1017; or Rhea Landholm, brand marketing and communications manager,, 402.687.2100 ext 1025

Lyons, Neb. - Center for Rural Affairs Policy Associate Anna Johnson said today that the released draft of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, commonly known as the farm bill, has several proposals of concern for rural America. The draft bill was released yesterday by the House Agriculture Committee. The current farm bill expires Sept. 30, 2018.

“The House farm bill is a nonstarter,” said Johnson. “It completely eliminates the popular Conservation Stewardship Program that currently protects 70 million acres nationwide. It wipes out funding for the Value-Added Producer Grant Program and the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, two programs that support new enterprise creation in rural America. And it fails to put any sort of cap on unlimited crop insurance subsidies for the largest farms.”

Johnson continued on the subject of crop insurance premium subsidies. 

“Structural reforms of this nature, that put common-sense limits on subsidies to only the largest operations, are needed to level the playing field for all farmers. The House Agriculture Committee’s decision to ignore these needed changes indicates an unfortunate reluctance to do what is right for our small and mid-sized farmers.”

The proposed elimination of the Conservation Stewardship Program wipes out the largest working lands conservation program in the U.S. The Conservation Stewardship Program offers farmers and ranchers who can demonstrate existing land stewardship efforts the opportunity to improve and expand them for their whole operation. The program emphasizes conservation practices that support natural resource concerns, such as soil erosion and water quality. 

“Terminating the Conservation Stewardship Program undermines farmers’ and ranchers’ abilities to implement conservation practices on their land,” said Johnson. “Hundreds of farmers from around the Midwest have shared with us how important Conservation Stewardship Program is to their operations and stewardship efforts. Ending the program, along with the more than $7 billion in proposed cuts to other working lands conservation programs, would strike a serious blow to farmers’ and ranchers’ abilities to better steward their soil and water.”

Members of the House Agriculture Committee describe proposed changes to crop insurance as minor.

“This is a missed opportunity to create a stronger connection between conservation and crop insurance,” Johnson said. “Offering higher subsidies for higher levels of stewardship would make crop insurance more accountable to taxpayers and reduce risks for farmers – these measures would go a long way toward creating further support for conservation.”

The draft bill also proposes changes to several programs that support beginning farmers, rural development, value-added production, and rural entrepreneurs.

“Seeing level funding in the bill for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, and the Conservation Reserve Program – Transition Incentive Program is encouraging,” Johnson said. “However, the bill eliminates mandatory funding for the Value-Added Producer Program and the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, which is a step towards disinvesting in rural small businesses. The similar decision to not renew organic cost-share program funding also undermines farmers’ and ranchers’ abilities to certify as organic and access the higher price points that organic products provide.”

The House Agriculture Committee will revise this draft during a meeting called “markup,” announced by Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), chairman of the committee, set for 10 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday, April 18, 2018.

“We hope the House of Representatives can make needed amendments to improve this bill, restore these valuable programs, and reach bipartisan agreement,” said Johnson.

First draft of farm bill was released today: Your opinion matters

The House Agriculture Committee released their first draft of the farm bill today. We’ll share a statement about the content as soon as we can. Below are a few details on the process and a reminder of what you can do to engage.

First, a very simplified summary of the process:

  1. The House Ag Committee (members are here) released their draft today.
  2. The committee meets for "markup," set for next Wednesday, when they suggest and vote on changes ("amendments").
  3. The date is not set yet for the next stage, when the revised draft goes to the House floor for a vote. At this time, any member can introduce an amendment, and those are voted on.
  4. Finally, the House votes to pass a further revised version.

Then, we turn to the Senate to start a similar process on their side. After that, the bills will advance to conference committee where lawmakers will approve its the final passage.

Every step in this process matters in shaping the final farm bill. If you see something in our statement or in the press about the current farm bill draft that you support or object to, next week will be great time to reach out to your representative in the House – whether or not they are on the House committee – and let their office know.

The most effective calls are short, polite, and to the point. Check out our tips on how to engage with lawmakers.

Not sure who your representative is in the House? Look them up here.

All my best, and stay tuned,
Anna Read more about First draft of farm bill was released today: Your opinion matters

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Business owners bring a taste of Colombia to Grand Island

Memories of Colombian fruit and juice stands inspire the restaurant, FRUIT, in Grand Island, Nebraska.

Husband and wife business partners, Diego Leon and Jenny Lopez, recreate vibrant and unique dishes of their homeland. 

“We saw the need for healthier food that would please all ages and nationalities; food free of artificial fat, artificial flavors, and especially fresh food prepared on-site,” said Leon. “We have always been passionate about the culinary field, and we pride ourselves in taking extra care in how we process and decorate the fruit.”

FRUIT’s menu offers combinations of fruit, such as mangoes, papayas, bananas, pineapples, kiwis, melons, and berries, as well as juices and extracts of Colombian-grown fruits that are more difficult to find in Nebraska. Catering, and gift items, such as fruit bouquets, strawberries with chocolate, decorations for baby showers, surprise breakfasts, and desserts are also available.

The couple immigrated to the U.S. in 2014, and opened their business in January 2016. Leon owned and operated several businesses in Bogota, Colombia; his experience in graphic design and the food industry aided the couple in opening FRUIT.

Leon says starting their venture was an intensive process, but a labor of love. Market research was his first step, followed by investigating possible competition and the cost of good produce and where to acquire it. They received business training from the University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension office and the Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Program (REAP).

REAP Latino Loan Specialist Griselda Rendon provided counseling through the Women’s Business Center, and REAP provided the couple with a loan. Rendon has helped Leon and Lopez since the beginning of their business-ownership journey.

“Diego and Jenny are dedicated and hard workers,” Rendon said. “They started coming to our Coffee Tables, a monthly training for entrepreneurs in Grand Island, with an idea of someday starting their own business. At the time, they both worked at the packing plant.”

The business owners continue to attend REAP trainings, and Coffee Tables. They have been awarded three loans from REAP to grow the business and allow FRUIT to become their primary source of income.

Through REAP’s financial assistance, the couple has made improvements and upgrades, including moving the business to a location with more customer traffic, creating advertising campaigns and marketing strategies, and increasing menu options. These changes have led to success.

“Our experience with REAP has been pleasant,” said Leon. “Griselda has always been willing to collaborate with us, providing the best of her knowledge and commitment to allow us to grow as a business.”

The couple is also involved with community events, hosting a free Zumba class for children near their restaurant last year.

“People often say it is very difficult to establish a business with all of the specific rules, licenses, and regulations,” Leon said. “To all the entrepreneurs out there wondering if you can do it, we are a voice of encouragement. We can reassure you that it is possible; you can dream, then see your business grow. Even if the road to get there is difficult, it’s never impossible.”

Leon and Lopez consider becoming business owners a wonderful experience.

“It’s been a dream come true,” said Lopez. “It is completely gratifying to see that little by little, step by step, the business is progressing at the rate we hoped it would.”

At a Glance

3404 13 St., Suite 122, Conestoga Mall
Grand Island, NE 68803
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to  9 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. Read more about Business owners bring a taste of Colombia to Grand Island

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Latest seed merger is a blow to family farmers and ranchers

A major wave of consolidation that kicked off in 2016 continues to move forward with the U.S. Department of Justice allowing chemical producer Bayer to acquire the U.S. based seed company Monsanto, reported yesterday.

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.

For nearly two years, this proposal has worked its way through both domestic and international boards for approval. In March, the European Union released their consent of the $62.5 billion buy, after Bayer agreed to sell assets to rival BASF. The company will have control of more than a quarter of the world’s seed and pesticides market.

Fewer and fewer companies producing seeds and chemicals for farmers spells fewer choices and higher prices in return. The vast majority of the globe’s seed is developed by private companies, which means their profits come first – before the health of rural communities or natural resources.

With lax enforcement of existing anti-monopoly laws, it is increasingly clear that legislative action will be required to preserve competition in the marketplace.

This is the latest in a trio of mega mergers of seed companies. Other unions include Dow and Dupont, and ChemChina and Syngenta.

The sale of Monsanto to Bayer is anticipated to close during the second quarter. Read more about Latest seed merger is a blow to family farmers and ranchers

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Video: from Farm to School Cafeteria to Tray

Veggies only have to travel about five blocks from field to students' plates at East Butler Public Schools in Brainard, Nebraska.

Fox Run Farms, a family-run operation on the edge of Brainard, provides the school lunch program with fresh food. In part one of our two-part Farm to School series featuring East Butler, we join Yolanda Bailey, of Fox Run Farms, as she harvests some red, orange and green peppers.

In part two of our two-part Farm to School series, we witness members of the Food Service Team at East Butler Public Schools receive the peppers. The staff then process the fresh food for the fruit and veggie bar.

Thank you to Kirstin Bailey, Center for Rural Affairs project organizer, for creating these great videos! This was part of a project to help farmers learn more about minimal processing for fruits and vegetables in order to make it easier for schools to purchase locally, sponsored by Nebraska USDA Rural Development.

For more resources for both producers and cafeteria staff, visit our Farm to School page. Read more about Video: from Farm to School Cafeteria to Tray

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USDA ignored public support of Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule

The Center for Rural Affairs stands for rural communities, and we, too, believe that an essential foundation for vital rural communities consists of a healthy economy and diverse farming models.

Many of the policies we support – organic agriculture, Value-Added Producer Grants, rural microloans – we chose to fight for because they make space for farmers and ranchers to access new or alternative income streams.

We are concerned that some of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recent actions directly undermine this vision, by the removal of several rules.

Last month, USDA decided to roll back the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule. This rule was meant to strengthen animal welfare standards for the organic program, and had the overwhelming support of organic farmers and ranchers and other stakeholders in the organic industry. Along with 72 other organizations, we signed a letter to USDA stating our support for the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices. Although a final rule was issued in 2017, USDA has reversed its decision, ignored public support, and withdrawn the rule, effective May 13, 2018.

We see an unfortunate similarity with USDA’s decision last year to delay, and finally cancel, the Farmer Fair Practices Rules, also known as GIPSA rules. These would have brought greater fairness to contract poultry and livestock production and would have helped level the playing field for these producers nationwide.

Both of these rules would have made more space in agriculture for farmers and ranchers to pursue diverse livestock and poultry production practices. Unfortunately, USDA does not share this vision, and chose to roll back these provisions.

While such losses can be discouraging, we refuse to give up the fight for strong, rural communities. Visit to learn how you can help. Read more about USDA ignored public support of Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule

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Rural Red Alert: Nebraskans act now to stop LB 947, and support LB 1103

Earlier this week, your calls and emails helped stall LB 947, the governor's irresponsible tax bill. Thank you! But, efforts are underway to try to revive the bill and bring LB 947 back to the floor for debate. We need your help to continue to hold back this reckless legislation.

Combined with unfunded income tax credits and lost revenues from corporate income tax cuts, LB 947 would cost the state $650 million when fully implemented. This would place added strain on already tight budgets and require drastic cuts to services, especially with no new identified sources of revenue.

Please continue to call and email your senator and tell them to vote NO on LB 947.

But, legislation which will provide real property tax relief, that is paid for and protects our schools and state budget, is on the agenda for today. Sen. Tom Briese has filed Amendment (AM) 2308 to amend LB 1103 – bringing LB 1084 to the floor for debate. This amendment, drawn from LB 1084, seeks to restore state funding for education and provide property tax relief. The amendment has four primary components:

1) Raises $485 million by reinstating the alternative minimum tax, increasing sales tax by one cent and the cigarette tax by $1.50, placing a surtax on Nebraska's highest income earners and eliminating the personal property tax exemption.

2) Revenues will be used to:

  • Reinstate and restore funding for K-12 education.
  • Provide $500 per pupil funding outside of the education funding formula and inject eighty million dollars into special education reimbursement, decreasing schools' forced reliance upon property taxes.
  • Increase the earned income tax credit (EITC) from 10 to 15 percent for the benefit of low income households.
  • Funds will also be funneled to the property tax credit fund for direct property tax relief.

3) Places a soft cap on local property taxes for K-12 education while allowing for fluctuations in student populations and inflation.

4) Prompts the Nebraska Department of Education to conduct a study on funding for K-12 education to find a more long-term, sustainable funding solution.

Your senator needs to hear from you. This amendment is the only responsible legislation that will help bring immediate property tax relief to Nebraska taxpayers, while also protecting funding for schools and the broader state budget.

Please call and email your senator and tell them to vote YES on AM 2308 and LB 1103.

Your calls and emails are making a difference. Thank you! Read more about Rural Red Alert: Nebraskans act now to stop LB 947, and support LB 1103

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Marketing is top concern for Kansas small businesses, according to report

The top concern for small businesses in Kansas is marketing, according to a report released in January by the Center for Rural Affairs and Kansas Hispanic & Latino American Affairs Commission.

“The Sunflower State – Assessing Our Business Garden: 2017 Kansas Small Business Needs Assessment Results,” is authored by Adrienne Vallejo-Foster, executive director of Kansas Hispanic & Latino American Affairs Commission; and Dena R. Beck, senior project leader and loan specialist of the Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Project and Rural Investment Corporation.

The authors conducted a survey in spring 2017, gathering information from Kansas small business owners and resource providers to identify strengths and areas that need attention. They received 533 responses, representing 84 percent of counties in Kansas.

“Feedback from people who serve small businesses is an important piece of the puzzle, as they provide valuable insight,” Beck said. “Local lenders and resource providers know what businesses need to be successful, they see the businesses from a community level, and understand the importance of those businesses to the communities and local economies.”

The survey is modeled after a Nebraska Small Business Needs Assessment conducted biennially since 2008. Questions are based on financing, startup needs, current needs, business growth inhibitors, and training and technology needs.

“To ensure business owners are offered the products and services they need, it is imperative to simply ask,” Vallejo-Foster said. “As citizens, large business owners, and business lenders and providers, we need to pay attention to those needs and assist if we want our downtowns, communities, and local economies to thrive.”

For more information and to view “The Sunflower State – Assessing Our Business Garden: 2017 Kansas Small Business Needs Assessment Results,” visit

The authors are both available to present survey results. For a presentation in your community, contact Vallejo-Foster at or 785.296.2161, or Beck at or 308.528.0060.

Feature photo: Kansas small business owners and resource providers gave input on financing, marketing, and training needs in spring 2017. The results have been compiled and analyzed in “The Sunflower State – Assessing our Business Garden,” available at | Photo submitted Read more about Marketing is top concern for Kansas small businesses, according to report

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Staff spotlight: Erin’s journey brought her from the Sunshine State to small-town living

Many Nebraskans long for a break from the harsh, Plains winters, and travel to warm, sunny climates to find it. Erin Mockler, however, did the opposite.

“I grew up in a small town in Florida,” said Mockler. “My entire childhood, I had a desire to move to a climate with more seasonal changes, so when I became an adult, I moved to Nebraska.”

And, we’re glad she did.

One of the newest members of the Center for Rural Affairs team, Mockler is a staff accountant. She lives in Lyons and works from the Center’s main office, and is happy about her new, more rural, home.

“I love the small-town community,” said Mockler. “I believe it’s in rural areas where the important work is being done, quietly and without fanfare; it is up to all of us to preserve the land and lifestyle here for future generations.”

Mockler began her new role by shadowing the accounting staff to learn the ropes on payables, payroll, and bank reconciliations. She has also been tasked with projects such as researching Employee Assistance Programs and expense reporting software, updating a couple procedures, and learning more about grants. She says she plans to work on even more projects in the future.  

“I’d like to streamline the expense reporting process and help simplify some of the accounting and grants budgeting processes,” said Mockler.

Mockler is no stranger to the accounting field. Previously, she was an office manager with the City of Omaha, where she managed her division’s operating budget and assisted her manager in tracking and managing his capital improvement budget, which used bond money. While there, she learned about budgeting for a nonprofit/government entity, which she says differs vastly from budgeting in the for-profit world.

Though she’s experienced in this field, Mockler says she’s looking forward to learning more about working in a rural capacity.

“I’m excited to learn new things, have new experiences, and meet new people,” said Mockler. “In my 19 years in Nebraska, I have appreciated the agrarian lifestyle and the down-to-earth nature of the people. I take great pride in assisting the staff of the Center in their endeavors to be the change they want to see in the world.”

In her free time, Mockler enjoys gardening, hiking, and riding her motorcycle. Also, she and her fiancé, Mike Cain, work on a project house in Lyons together.

Mockler can be reached at 402.687.2100 ext. 1007 or Read more about Staff spotlight: Erin’s journey brought her from the Sunshine State to small-town living

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Nebraska Property Tax Relief: Is Rickett’s Plan the Solution?

By Mary Kuhlman, Nebraska News Service

As they work to determine the best way to bring property-tax relief to Nebraskans, state lawmakers are debating a bill this week backed by Gov. Pete Ricketts. 

Legislative Bill 947 would create a refundable tax credit for agricultural and homeowner property taxes that would grow over time and reduces the top corporate income tax rate about one percentage point over five years. While the measure outlines some property-tax relief, critics say it is nominal for residential property owners and does little to help agricultural landowners now. 

Jordan Rasmussen, a policy associate with the Center for Rural Affairs, contends it misses the mark.

"Really, what it offers up is an income-tax cut for our corporations here in the state as opposed to bringing tax relief to our everyday Nebraskans," she laments. "Moreover, it will create a significant shortfall and gap in the state's budget over the years that it goes into place."

The governor says LB 947 is a reasonable approach to tax relief. Rasmussen argues it does not address low state support for K-12 education, which has increased the need to rely on property taxes. Other opponents point out there are lingering questions over how the plan would be funded.

LB 947 would cost the state nearly $650 million when fully implemented. And Rasmussen explains it would take money out of the cash-reserve fund.

"Those are our rainy-day funds for when something truly problematic comes up, and this is not the instance to be making use of that," she says. "It's just very unsound policy that's being brought forward."

The Center for Rural Affairs is among groups supporting the principles outlined in LB 1084. Rasmussen says they would modernize the tax code by striking the balance needed between property, sales and income taxes.

"Rural Nebraskans, they are in need of property tax relief but they're not asking to sidestep the responsibility to help fund schools and services that uphold their communities," she explains. "These assets are important in rural Nebraska. They're just simply asking for balance in the ways the state meets its obligations to pay for education."

Agriculture and educational groups in the state helped draft LB 1084, which expands the sales tax base, eliminates loopholes and keeps school spending growth at a minimum.

LB 947 will be debated on April 3 at the Nebraska Capitol. Join us for Family Farm Lobby Day and tell your senator to vote NO on LB 947. Read more about Nebraska Property Tax Relief: Is Rickett’s Plan the Solution?

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Iowa's sustainable ag supporters champion conservation in 2018 farm bill

By Roz Brown, Public News Service - Iowa

Advocates of sustainable agriculture are urging Congress to pass a farm bill that backs stronger farming conservation practices. 

Anna Johnson, policy program associate with the Center for Rural Affairs, says the recently introduced GROW Act, which stands for Give our Resources the Opportunity to Work, would maintain funding and acreage levels for the farm bill's three largest conservation programs: Conservation Stewardship, Environmental Quality Incentives and Conservation Reserve. 

Johnson says any new bill should reward farmers who embrace conservation practices and those who enroll marginal agricultural lands for greater productivity. 

"We find that these programs are really valuable for farmers and ranchers because it allows them to increase the level of conservation they have on their land while still maintaining production,” says Johnson, “without impacting their bottom line, that might be through cost share or through technical assistance."

The farm bill is revised every five years, and the current debate comes at a time when farm income is at its lowest point in 12 years. The 2014 farm bill is set to expire this September.

Johnson says the new farm bill should also reward farmers practicing conservation innovation when it comes to crop insurance policies. She notes that current rules require that farmers follow "good farming practices" to qualify for crop insurance, but they do not include conservation practices. 

She says the next generation of farmers will need support to continue good stewardship practices. 

"Soil conservation, soil health, water quality, water quantity, air quality, wildlife habitat,” she says, “so practices that work toward those goals, so that could mean planting cover crops to preserve soil health, planting pollinator strips for wildlife, doing conservation tillage, doing pasture management."

The first farm bill was created in 1933 and provided subsidies to farmers during the Great Depression. Read more about Iowa's sustainable ag supporters champion conservation in 2018 farm bill

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Nebraska Unicameral: LB 947 does not solve the state’s property tax dilemma

Early next week, the Nebraska Legislature is scheduled to take up debate on LB 947, the governor’s tax cut plan. LB 947 cuts taxes for corporations and offers delayed property tax relief in the form of an unfunded tax credit. This legislation fails to address the state’s structural reliance upon property taxes to fund education or outline how the proposed tax cuts will be paid for.

We signed a letter alongside other Nebraska organizations urging senators to vote no.

March 26, 2018

Dear Senators,

As representatives of an array of agricultural organizations we ask that you vote no on LB 947 and instead urgently and substantively address the state’s property tax dilemma in the remaining days of the legislative session.

The state’s reliance upon property taxes to fund K-12 education has placed an unsustainable burden upon on our state’s residential and agricultural land property owners and undue blame upon our school systems. We need to address our state’s school funding dilemma and bring property tax relief to residents. And quite simply, LB 947 does not offer the solution.

Instead of placing emphasis upon property tax relief and identifying the revenues needed to meet the state’s obligations, LB 947 would create a nearly $650 million budget shortfall when fully implemented. By prioritizing tax cuts for corporations and drawing dollars from the rainy day fund, the bill only exacerbates the tenuous budget situation for years to come. Unfunded tax cuts of this magnitude would create a significant setback for Nebraska.

Moreover, the proposed property tax relief outlined does not bring about real tax reform for the state. Rather than providing immediate property tax relief, minimal tax cuts are phased in the form of refundable income tax credits. For rural Nebraska, LB 947 offers too little, too late and leaves the state's reliance upon property tax owners to pay for education. This only creates a greater divide between urban and rural Nebraska.

Our farmers and ranchers do not have the luxury of waiting until 2030 for property tax relief, and our state stands to suffer substantially from their loss. A vote in opposition of LB 947 leaves way for the Legislature to work through a real solution to problem at hand.

We need a real property tax reform solution that:

  • Lessens the state’s dependence upon property taxes to fund K-12 education.
  • Provides immediate and substantial property tax relief to all property tax payers.
  • Protects the state’s cash reserves and funding for vital services.
  • Requires a long-term, sustainable solution to how the state funds education.

Nebraskans are in need of property tax relief, but they are not asking to sidestep their responsibility to help fund the schools and services that uphold their communities. They are simply asking for balance in the way the state meets it obligations to pay for education and other critical services. We ask that you vote no on LB 947 and instead take up debate on a real solution to the state’s property tax dilemma.


Pam Potthoff, President
Nebraska Women Involved in Farm Economics

David Wright, President
Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska

Kevin Cooksley, President
Nebraska Grange

Jordan Rasmussen, Policy Program Associate
Center for Rural Affairs

Al Davis, Treasurer
Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska

John Hansen, President
Nebraska Farmers Union Read more about Nebraska Unicameral: LB 947 does not solve the state’s property tax dilemma

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Three farmers talk farm bill in Washington D.C.

Three Midwest farmers recently met with their legislators in Washington D.C., to discuss conservation and beginning farmer policy in the next farm bill.

On March 7, farmers Mariel Barreras, Cameron Peirce, and Adam Ledvina joined Anna Johnson, of the Center for Rural Affairs, in a “farmer fly-in” with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

“I enjoyed the responsibility of sharing with our representatives the importance of conservation,” Peirce said. “The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and other conservation programs have helped us become more environmentally responsible through the use of no-till and cover crops.”

Peirce, along with his wife and two sons, raises wheat, soybeans, corn, and sunflowers in Reno County, Kansas. He talked about using cover crops with staff in the offices of Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and Roger Marshall (R-KS).

Ledvina, who raises goats near Toledo, Iowa, explained that conservation and working lands programs have played an important role in the growth and development of his farm. He visited with staff in the offices of Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Rep. David Young (R-IA).

Barreras visited with staff in the offices of Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Don Bacon (R-NE) about training and educational resources for veteran farmers.

She and her husband, Lt. Col. Anthony Barreras, currently on mission with the U.S. Army, raise livestock for direct retail and wholesale customers in the Omaha, Nebraska, area. Barreras said veteran farmer resources have been invaluable for them as they further develop their operation.

“The opportunity to farm and grow our family farm has come with many of the same traits needed to excel in the military service: initiative, creativity, organization, and a dedication to quality in every task completed,” she said. “Our growth and knowledge comes directly through the assistance of programs and initiatives like USDA programs and other programs built around fostering veteran and farmer networking.”

Congress has started work on the next farm bill as several representatives have introduced bills with proposals that they would like to see in the final bill. The current farm bill expires on Sept. 30, 2018.

If you are interested in talking with lawmakers or if you would like more information, contact Johnson at

Pictured, left to right: Cameron Peirce, Mariel Barreras, Anna Johnson, and Adam Ledvina. Read more about Three farmers talk farm bill in Washington D.C.

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Congress funds rural programs in 2018 spending bill

Last week, Congress passed its spending bill for this year, which funds the federal government through Sept. 30, 2018. We were very glad to see that it provides support for rural America.

First, Congress provided healthy funding for conservation. Not only did Congress refrain from cutting farm bill conservation programs for the first time in several years, they also increased funding for Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) technical assistance, to $874 million from last year’s levels. This funding will support the local NRCS offices where farmers and ranchers access technical assistance for their conservation practices.

In addition, Congress rejected proposed cuts to Rural Development programs.

The Value-Added Producer Grant Program, which allows farmers and ranchers to diversify their income by processing their farm and ranch products, was funded at the same level as 2017, at $15 million.

The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP), which provides loan funds and technical assistance to rural entrepreneurs, remains at the funding level provided in the previous farm bill, at $2.8 million, without additional support. You can read more about how RMAP supported a rural Nebraska restaurateur here.

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program received from Congress its highest funding level in 30 years, $35 million. We are very encouraged that Congress has shown this support for publicly funded research in sustainable agriculture.

Finally, the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, also known as the 2501 Program, received $3 million in funding for 2018, which is in addition to the $10 million in funding provided by the farm bill. This program has allowed many farmers and ranchers from around the country, who are new to farm programs, to access U.S. Department of Agriculture support.

All in all, these funding levels show heartening support for rural America. A big thanks to everyone who has taken the time to share with your legislators the importance of these programs to rural communities, and thanks to the legislators who listened. Onward!

Feature photo: The Value-Added Producer Grant Program was funded at $15 million in the 2018 federal spending bill passed last week. Value-Added Producer Grants can be used for working capital, feasibility studies, business plans, and marketing efforts used to establish value-added businesses, such beauty products including hand salve, pictured. | Photo by Kylie Kai Read more about Congress funds rural programs in 2018 spending bill

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