Center for Rural Affairs May and June 2020 Newsletter

Farm and Food
Small Business
Small Towns
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Special note

Staying safe and engaged as we tackle the coronavirus together

By Brian Depew, executive director

The Center for Rural Affairs is committed to continuing our work for opportunity and justice for everyone in rural America during the rapidly evolving response to the coronavirus.

COVID-19 and the ripple effects will create new challenges for rural people and rural places. Our work may look different in the days ahead, but we will continue to serve our mission in all ways possible.

During this time, the Center will act to prioritize staff, community, and public health. We recognize staff, clients, and community members have varying risk levels from COVID-19. We’re all concerned about spreading it to someone who is at risk. We will do our part to reduce transmission.

What you can expect from us:

• Our offices closed on March 16, and will remain closed until further notice. Staff are working remotely.

• In-person Center events are canceled, postponed, or held virtually until further notice.

• Stay tuned. We’ll look for innovative ways to engage communities and policymakers in the coming weeks. We also urge all to follow public health guidance, check in on your neighbors, and support local businesses when you can.

We encourage you to stay safe and take steps to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Being engaged and staying healthy are two of the most important things we can do to help our communities. We’ll get through this together.

Check out for ongoing updates, disaster information; and resources for small business, agriculture, and wellness, health, and mental health.

Inside this issue

Sortum practices stewardship in the Sandhills —Sarah Sortum always hoped to raise her kids on the family ranch in Nebraska’s eastern Sandhills. She shares this goal with her brother, as the two want to ensure the ranch’s vitality for generations to come.

Center offers loan relief, emergency credit — The Center for Rural Affairs is committed to helping our local business partners cope with the economic impact of COVID-19. It’s part of our mission to build prosperous, healthy, and inclusive communities. And, it’s the right thing to do.

From the desk of the executive director: coronavirus upheaval threatens small businesses — The economic crisis brought on by COVID-19 threatens the long-term prosperity of small businesses in our communities. The initial government action falls short of what our communities need.

What happens to my farm data? — Climbing into the combine, I am met with a dashboard of dusty screens and controls. The beeps and notifications remind me data is being recorded as I collect crops. As the combine moves along, I keep an eye on the yields and variations in quadrants. Small farmers who work the land themselves see everything with their own eyes.

Rural resiliency: ensuring our children are fed — As the situation rapidly develops and changes due to COVID-19, we’re learning what educating our children at home looks like. Many schools are planning to deliver classroom education online for the remainder of the year. One need that hit the radar in rural communities right away is whether or not students would still be able to get nutritious meals with cafeterias closed.

Producers adapt to ripple effect of COVID-19 — Agriculturists are no strangers to challenging times. Be it floods or droughts, labor or labeling, farmers and ranchers face fresh battles daily, and they become masters of adapting as they ride out the rapids. As the coronavirus continues to spread and disrupt many societal functions, life on area farms and ranches does not skip a beat. 

More transmission is needed to link consumers — The electric grid in the U.S. was created to provide reliable electricity to consumers. Typically, this meant that most U.S. consumers relied on the grid to carry power from centrally-located fossil fuel plants to provide for their electricity needs.

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