March 2012– Volume X, Number 3

Compiled & edited by Deb Miller Slipek & Ann Treacy

In this Issue:

–Across the Field: A Tribute to Gary DeCramer

–Funding

–Training/Meetings

–Opportunities

–Miscellaneous

Across the Field – A tribute to our friend and rural development colleague, Gary DeCramerintroduction by the editors and tribute by Deb Miller Slipek

We lost a dear friend this month, former state senator and former USDA State Rural Development Director, Gary DeCramer, who died suddenly last week at age 67 while on a trip to Morris.

At the time of his death, Gary was a senior lecturer and director of the mid-career Master of Public Affairs program at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.  We knew him best as a rural advocate, mentor, and friend. Minnesota Rural Partners staff and board members worked with Gary and his USDA team during the heyday years of statewide collaboration in the 1990s to host community conversations about rural development issues across Minnesota and create a strategic plan to act on opportunities and challenges.

This tribute is from one of our editors, Deb Miller Slipek, who worked with Gary for many years at the USDA:

Teacher, leader, citizen, friend…to the many of us whom you touched over the years, you will be sorely missed.  From you we learned patience, to sit quietly and listen, to share a meal, to engage, to think about all of the impacts of one’s actions.  Your passion for all things rural, cooperatives, Native American and Minnesota never was doubted.  You did not shrink away from the big jobs and you tried to bring us all along with you on the road of compassion, caring and knowledge.  Thank you, Gary DeCramer, for everything.

The memorial service for Gary DeCramer has been set for Tuesday, March 20, 4 PM, at the Ted Mann Concert Hall, University of Minnesota. Memorials preferred to Unity Church Unitarian, St. Paul, or U of M Humphrey School.

Editor’s note: It was a sad week indeed, with the death as well of State Sen. Gary Kubly, of Granite Falls. Senator Kubly was a Lutheran minister who served in the Minnesota House and Senate for 16 years. He died after a battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 68. Both Kubly and DeCramer represented southwestern Minnesota in the Minnesota Legislature and both were dedicated, persistent advocates for rural Minnesota throughout their lives. They will be missed each and every day. Our hearts go out to their families in this difficult time.

FUNDING

– The Department of Education is offering grants to a consortium of schools, or a nonprofit in partnership with an LEA (Local Education Agency) for activities designed to improve student achievement, decrease dropout rates, increase high school graduation rates, and/or increase college enrollment and completion rates.  Deadline: 3/15/2012 Letter Of Intent (not mandatory); 4/9/2012 Final.  For more information, click here.

–HUD is offering funding to nonprofits to increase compliance with the Fair Housing Act and with substantially equivalent state and local housing laws by informing the general public about their rights and obligations under the Fair Housing Act.  Deadline:  3/16/2012.  For more information, click here.

–Dr. Pepper Snapple Group KaBOOM! are offering grants of up to $15,000 to municipalities, neighborhood associations, schools, day care centers and nonprofits to create playspaces.  Deadline:  3/16/2012.  To learn more about this group and to apply, click here.

–The Department of Health and Human Services is offering grants to nonprofits to enable community collaborations to implement locally designed initiatives to reduce substance abuse.  Deadline:  3/22/2012.  For more information, click here.

–The Department of Justice is offering funds to nonprofits, public agencies, states, Indian Tribes, and local governments for projects designed to address and prevent sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking in rural areas.  Deadline:  3/29/2012.  To apply, click here.

– Minnesota Filmmakers Legacy Grant Fund Available.  The Minnesota Film and TV Board is pleased to announce the Minnesota Filmmakers Legacy Grant Fund. This is a competitive grant program established with Arts and Cultural Heritage funds to support Minnesota filmmakers who create film and television projects that illuminate Minnesota’s cultural heritage.

The Film Board is currently accepting proposals from Minnesota filmmakers who have completed principal photography on a narrative or documentary feature or television project and who are seeking finishing (completion) funds. Application deadline is March 30, 2012. The summer funding cycle for the Minnesota Filmmakers Legacy Grant Fund will be open to projects in development and production and will be announced later this year. More information is available at www.mnfilmtv.org/grants.

-Hitachi Foundation is inviting entries for the Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneurs Program to identify and support inspiring young entrepreneurs whose work helps alleviate domestic poverty.  Deadline to apply:  3/30/2012.  Up to five winners will be selected to receive a $40,000 grant over two years.  For more information, click here.

–AARP Foundation has announced the Women’s Scholarship Program Call for Applicants.  The program provides funds to low-income women age 50 and older who are seeking new job skills, training and educational opportunities to support themselves and their families.  Deadline:  3/30/2012.  To learn more about this opportunity, click here.

–HUD has announced the availability of grants for nonprofits to transform neighborhoods by investing in a wide array of infrastructure and other redevelopment activities.  Both planning grants and implementation grants are available from the Choice Neighborhood Initiative.  Deadline to apply:  4/10/2012.  To learn more about these grants and apply, click here.

–US EPA Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Grants.  The US EPA is soliciting proposals from eligible entities, including non-profit organizations, to deliver environmental workforce development and job training programs that recruit, train, and place local, unemployed and under-employed residents with the skills needed to secure full-time employment in the environmental field, with a focus on solid and hazardous waste remediation, environmental health and safety, and wastewater-related training.

The total funding available under this competitive opportunity is approximately $2,800,000, subject to availability of funds, quality of proposals received, and other applicable considerations. EPA anticipates awarding approximately 14 environmental workforce development and job training cooperative agreements from this competitive opportunity.  Proposals are due by April 12, 2012.  For more details see: http://www.epa.gov/oswer/docs/grants/epa-oswer-oblr-12-03.pdf

– Applications are now being accepted for the Wells Fargo NEXT Awards for Opportunity Finance! With a theme of expanding CDFI coverage to underserved communities, the NEXT Awards celebrate our industry—its creativity, accomplishments, and enduring importance—by awarding high performing CDFIs with attractive grants and loan capital.  Aligned with the new theme, the program features new awards:

The NEXT Opportunity Award recognizes up to four CDFIs with compelling strategies for expanding product and geographic coverage that are ready to execute within six months of receiving an award. The total pool of $8.25 million includes $7.5 million in low-cost, long-term debt and $750,000 in unrestricted grant funding.

The NEXT Seed Capital Award offers a $100,000 unrestricted grant to a single CDFI with a promising idea for expanding geographic or product coverage that is still in development. The expansion strategy should be on track to implement within eighteen months of receiving an award.

In addition to continuing generous support from Wells Fargo and The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Kresge Foundation is a major new partner.  The final deadline to submit an application is 5:00 PM EST on April 17, 2012.  Application guidelines, applications, and more information can be found at the new Wells Fargo NEXT Awards Web site.

–The Department of Labor is offering grants to nonprofit and public agencies to improve the employability of young adult ex-offenders by providing skills training.  Deadline:  4/17/2012.  To learn more about this program, click here.

–The Department of Justice has grants available for Indian Tribes and tribal organizations to provide legal services for indigent defendants and respondents in tribal justice systems and other legal-related services.  Deadline to apply:  4/17/2012.  For more information, click here.

The RFP for Clinical Dental Education Innovation Grants is now posted at http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/orhpc/funding/grants/dentaled.html. Deadline for applications is April 23, 2012.

–The Department of Justice has grants available to nonprofits to develop and implement mentoring strategies that address the challenges of offender reentry and recidivism reduction.  Deadline:  4/24/2012.  For an application, and to learn more about this program, click here.

–The Retirement Research Foundation is accepting applications from nonprofits for projects in aging designed to improve quality of life for older Americans.  Deadline:  5/1/2012.  Applicants are encouraged to discuss projects in advance of submitting a full proposal by calling (773) 714-8030 or emailing info@rrf.org.  For more information, click here.

–State Farm Insurance Companies is offering funds for student-led service-learning projects that address environmental responsibility, community safety and natural disaster preparedness, financial literacy, access to higher education, or social health and wellness.  Deadline:  5/4/2012.  For eligibility and to apply, click here.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation just announced the Connect for Health Challenge. It will award twenty grants of up to $20,000, with one larger grant of up to $100,000 determined by Minnesotans in an online public vote. This new challenge to strengthen communities begins accepting proposals April 17 and closes May 15. Go to: http://blog.mcf.org/2012/02/29/connect-for-health/?utm_source=Giving+Memo+Enewsletter+List&utm_campaign=3302afc9c6-Giving_Memo_120306&utm_medium=email

–MPCA Environmental Assistance Loan Program.   The FY 2012-13 MPCA Environmental Assistance (EA) Loan Program is offering two types of loans: 1) Participatory Loans, which provide for awards up to a maximum loan of $100,000 at zero percent interest and 2) Direct Loans, which are limited to established businesses/entities and provide for awards up to a maximum loan of $50,000 at four percent interest or one half the prime rate, whichever is greater.

Preference will be given to Minnesota small to medium-sized businesses and political subdivisions of Minnesota, and to projects related to green chemistry, pollution prevention, source reduction, recycling, and source-separated composting.

Eligible loan costs are limited to the capital costs (equipment and machinery) associated with implementing waste or pollution prevention technologies in Minnesota. Approximately $250,000 is currently available for EA loans. As funds are repaid, additional loans may be awarded for proposed projects that will improve the environmental and economic quality of Minnesota.

The complete RFP, inclusive of the process by which applicants may apply for a loan, is available on the Agency’s web site at http://www.pca.state.mn.us/grants/ealoans.html

This web page also provides downloadable application forms, reference documents such as Frequently Asked Questions, and links to applicable statutes and rules.  Applications received after the June 30, 2013, deadline will not accepted for consideration under this RFP.

Mini Grant Program. Application deadline is July 15, 2012
Mini-grants to rural schools.

TRAINING/MEETINGS

--Got funding? The Minnesota Science & Technology Authority is sponsoring an interactive webinar specifically for local entrepreneurs. The series is designed to introduce funding available through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. The interactive workshop on March 15th will be focused exclusively on competing in the National Science Foundation SBIR and STTR Programs. Henry will cover specific characteristics of NSF programs and the submission process applicants should follow. Organizers say this session is best for technologies focused on biotech and chemical, as well as nanotech, advanced manufacturing, education, information and communications. READ MORE

Multicultural Forum on Workplace Diversity: A Time for Innovation
 will be held March 20-22
at the University of St. Thomas.

“Connecting Communities: Strategic Use of Data for Transforming Community Investment, ” audioconference will be Wednesday, March 21, 2:00 – 3:15 p.m. ET. This is an interactive session that will explore creative uses of data and technology to promote public and private investment in transitional communities–those communities with significant, perhaps erstwhile, strengths and assets but also declining housing values and population. This audioconference will feature presentations by redevelopment leaders from Baltimore, Cleveland and Philadelphia, where innovative and cost-effective, market-based strategies are being used to inform local decision-making, mobilize support and attract investment. For more information and to register visit: https://www.stlouisfed.org/bsr/connectingcommunities/index.cfm?proc=call&act=view&sid=6

The 7th Annual 2012 Sustainable Communities Conference will be held Friday, March 23 and Saturday, March 24, 2012 in Minneapolis.  Hosted by the Alliance for Sustainability and sponsored by dozens of organizations (including Hennepin County, Ramsey County, The McKnight Foundation, 3M, League of Minnesota Cities, Comcast, Metropolitan Council, University Bank, CURA, Barr Engineering, Dakota Electric, and many others), this conference consists of three separate events as described below (two of which are free):

 * Sustainable Business ForumFriday, March 23, 7:30 am to 1:00 pm, McNamara Center, U of MN – $75 including breakfast and lunch (add $10 after March 7, add $20 after March 16).  Network with 400 business leaders from small, medium and large businesses in the Twin Cities and learn how businesses are integrating sustainability into their operations to save money and increase their profitability. National keynote speakers. Panel of Senior Executives. Workshops on sustainable manufacturing, employee engagement, and access to capital. Includes D’Amico meals. Register at http://2012sustainablebusinessforum.eventbrite.com or call (612) 331-1099

* Local Government Workshop - Friday, March 23, 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm, McNamara Center, U of MN – Free!  350 local government staff, elected and citizen leaders will share strategies to foster sustainable economic development. Staff from metro cities will share current projects. Learn about new grant programs and funding tools and simple, cost-effective best practices included in the MN GreenStep Cities program. Workshops on financing energy projects, complete streets, innovative storm water design, transit oriented development, citizen engagement, MN GreenStep Cities, urban forestry and organized collection. Optional lunch. Free. Register at http://localgovernmentsustainability.eventbrite.com or call (612) 331-1099.

* Community ConferenceSaturday, March 24, 8:30 am to 4:00 pm – Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, 511 Groveland, Minneapolis (at Highway 94 and Hennepin) – Free!   500 Twin Cities volunteers from neighborhoods, congregations and schools will share hands-on project ideas for energy conservation, community gardening, biking and walking, water quality, rain gardens, urban forestry, localized food production, the Minneapolis carbon reduction plan and sustaining local businesses. Video welcome by Bill McKibben (350.org) Other local keynotes. Meet neighbors to help co-create greener more resilient communities for ourselves and our children. Find out about grant funding options, share ideas for volunteer recruitment for your projects. Bus & bike friendly free event – everyone is welcome including youth!  Bring or buy a lunch. Register at (612) 331-1099 or http://tinyurl.com/2012conferencereg

For more details, see http://www.afors.org/2012conference or contact the Alliance for Sustainability at (612) 331-1099.

– MnDOT to Hold Community Workshops on Bicycle Planning. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) recognizes that bicycling is important. MnDOT staff and others will facilitate community workshops throughout the state. Please help make this endeavor successful; take this opportunity and let MnDOT know your thoughts on bicycling in Minnesota.  The study will provide detailed policy recommendations, inventory existing bikeway facilities in the state, create a new statewide bikeway map, and establish bicycle-related performance measures for future MnDOT projects. All meetings are from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

District 1, Thursday, March 15, 
Duluth City Hall Council Chambers

District 3, Wednesday, March 14
, Whitney Senior Center
1527 Northway Drive, St. Cloud

District 4, Tuesday, March 13, 
Detroit Lakes Public Library
1000 Washington Avenue, Detroit Lakes

Those unable to attend in-person may join a statewide webinar discussion on Wednesday, March 22, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Webinar details will be posted at www.dot.state.mn.us/bike/study.html

National Bike Month Planning Webinars Offered.  The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) in coordination with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN), and Explore Minnesota Tourism (EMT) are hosting a series of webinars to help communities plan for National Bike Month in May.

Hear examples from other Minnesota communities. Learn about available resources to plan your events. Take steps in the right direction to plan, implement and evaluate your bike month activities.  Save the date for upcoming webinars, which are planned for the third Wednesday of every month through June. A summary of call topics includes:

Mar 21 9:30-10:30 a.m. Topic: Promotion, PR and media
Apr 18 9:30-10:30 a.m. Topic: How to measure and evaluate
May 16 9:30-10:30 a.m. Topic: Check-in and troubleshooting
Jun 20 9:30-10:30 a.m. Topic: Review and reporting

To connect to monthly calls go to http://industry.exploreminnesota.com/biking-in-minnesota and follow the instructions listed at the bottom.

–The South West/ West Central Volunteer Connections, MN Assn for Volunteer Administrators, and Bremer Bank invites you to the Volunteer Connections 2012 Season Kick-Off of our  “Communications in Volunteer Management” theme.  Tuesday, March 27, 2012 from 9:00 – 11:30 a.m. at Bremer Bank – Second Floor Training Room 500 Willmar Avenue SE; Willmar.  Webinar Topic:  “Content Spotlight: A Social Media Guide to Engagement.”  Pre-registration is not required, but if you are planning to come, please let us know so we have an idea of numbers.  Email to: sjsmace@yahoo.com or lcschmidt@bremer.com .  Bremer Bank has registered for the webinar.  There is no cost for those joining the viewing at Bremer, and no need to register separately with MCN.  (If you are unable to join us in the group viewing, you may register on your own at: www.minnesotanonprofits.org/events&trainings )

The Heartland Center for Leadership Development in collaboration with the RUPRI Center for Rural Entrepreneurship invites you to participate in a series of three webinars entitled “Strategies to Recruit Alumni and Young Families to Your Community.”

  • Tuesday March 27, 2012 from 12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m. (Central) 
  • Tuesday April 10, 2012 from 12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m. (Central)
  • Tuesday May 15, 2012 from 12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m. (Central)

In three one-hour sessions, co-hosts Milan Wall and Craig Schroeder will guide you through the process of identifying your target audience in relation to your community’s strongest assets, crafting a compelling message and brand to attract new residents and building a game plan to recruit alumni and young families to your community.  Upon completion of this series, you will have the knowledge and tools needed to move forward with implementing an action plan. For more information go to: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=opyrgedab&oeidk=a07e5kpypvb6388e9c1&oseq=a01kbg3ak64fn

Join the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and Nonprofits Assistance Fund on April 19 in Brooklyn Center, for an inaugural 2012 Nonprofit Finance and Sustainability Conference. The day-long conference will offer insights, strategies and tools for staff and board members looking at your organization’s financial sustainability from diverse perspectives – from strategy and oversight to implementation and evaluation. Register now!

MARK YOUR CALENDARS…SAVE THE DATE!!  The Symposium on Small Towns, hosted by the Center for Small Towns (CST), will be held on the University of Minnesota, Morris campus June 13-14, 2012.  More information with be forthcoming. We look forward to seeing you at the Symposium!

– The 2012 Minnesota Rural Health Conference invites you to participate in “Bringing It All Together.” The annual Conference is being held June 25-26, 2012, in Duluth, Minnesota, at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center (DECC).  For more information go to: https://secure.ruralcenter.org/conference/

OPPORTUNITIES

The Minnesota Idea Open brings everyday Minnesotans together to help solve the state’s most critical issues. It’s like a public town hall, where good ideas can gain momentum through public discussion and idea sharing, all with the chance of turning good ideas into a reality.

Minnesotans are known for their loyalty and tight-knit relationships. However, this sometimes means they are not as welcoming or open to others as they are to those within their own circles. In a changing state that has become more diverse in cultures and faiths, these tendencies become even more pronounced and it is increasingly important to find ways to get along. The Minnesota Idea Open believes that Minnesota is a better place when everyone works together in ways that go beyond usual comfort zones. This year, the Idea Open asks Minnesotans to help answer the question: What is your best idea to build bonds and work together across cultures and faiths in your community? Idea submissions are welcome now through March 23.

– Help create a detailed map of broadband coverage across Minnesota. Connect Minnesota is collecting information about schools, libraries, hospitals and emergency medical facilities and public safety facilities through the Community Anchor Institutions in Minnesota survey.

–STEM scholarships available. The Minnesota High Tech Foundation (MHTF) is once again awarding scholarships to Minnesota undergraduate students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields of study. These awards include $5,000 and $10,000 awards and can include internship opportunities at MHTA member companies.   READ MORE

– Nominations Open for the Virginia McKnight Binger Award.  Do you know people who work tirelessly in the service of their communities, and haven’t received the recognition that they deserve? Here’s your chance to do something about it. MCF member The McKnight Foundation has opened nominations for the Virginia McKnight Binger Awards in Human Service. Six nominees will be awarded $10,000 and honored during an August ceremony.  The McKnight Foundation seeks nominees who work directly to unite and empower others in their communities, especially those working to make their communities more responsive to the needs of poor or disadvantaged Minnesotans. Some of the eligibility criteria:

  • Nominees may be volunteers or service staff working directly with people in Minnesota, and do not necessarily need to be associated with an organization.
  • The process is confidential, and individuals are not to be notified that they have been nominated.
  • Nominees may be adults or young people.
  • Tenure of service will be taken into consideration.

The nomination period closes April 4. A committee of human service professionals and volunteers will then research and recommend candidates to the Board of Directors. Winners will be notified in June. Learn more and make your nominations at The McKnight Foundation’s website.

Through the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement, US EPA recognizes and supports communities that use innovative policies and strategies to strengthen their economies, provide housing and transportation choices, develop in ways that bring benefits to a wide range of residents, and protect the environment.  Smart growth development practices support national environmental goals by preserving open spaces and parkland and protecting critical habitat; improving transportation choices, including walking, bicycling, and transit, which reduces emissions from automobiles; promoting brownfield redevelopment; and reducing impervious surfaces, which improves water quality.

This competition is open to public and private-sector entities that have successfully used smart growth principles to improve communities environmentally, socially, and economically. Winners will be recognized at a ceremony in Washington, DC, in December 2012.  There is only one application form for all three categories listed below:

* Programs and Policies
* Equitable Development
* Main Street or Corridor Revitalization

In addition, the review panel will choose an Overall Excellence winner from those that apply in these three categories.

Application deadline: April 6, 2012. All entries must be submitted using the application form accessible from http://epa.gov/smartgrowth/awards.htm. The application can be submitted by either a public-sector or private-sector entity, but all applications must include a public-sector partner.

– Minnesota GreenCorps is now accepting applications from organizations interested in hosting an AmeriCorps member for the 2012-2013 program year! MPCA may place up to 27 full time members with various host sites for the 2012-2013 year. Members will serve approximately 40 hours a week for 11 months beginning in mid to late September 2012 through August 2013. Members will be placed either individually or in teams of two at selected host sites.  Eligible organizations include public entities (local, regional, state, tribal), school districts, not for profit institutions of higher education, and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. Organizations may apply for Minnesota GreenCorps members who will serve on projects in the areas of:

* Energy Conservation 
* Waste Prevention and Recycling 
* Living Green 
* Green Infrastructure

MPCA does not charge a fee to host sites for participation in the MN GreenCorps program. However, host sites are expected to provide in-kind contributions in the form of supervision, operating costs (office space, internet, telephone), and equipment costs associated with hosting a member.  Host site application packets (including an application and guidance document) are available by emailing your request to mngreencorps.pca@state.mn.us  Please direct all questions to this e-mail.  Applications from eligible organizations interested in hosting Minnesota GreenCorps members are due by 5:00 pm on April 19, 2012. (Note: Operation of the Minnesota GreenCorps program is dependent on continued funding.)  For information about current GreenCorps host sites and projects, see http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/view-document.html?gid=17152

Monsanto Fund Rural Teacher of the Year Award.  Application deadline is June 15, 2012. The grant goes to rural teachers and rural schools.

MISCELLANEOUS

– Compass has many new updates to data, including:

For more information go to: http://www.mncompass.org/

–Plan Now for Minnesota Museums Month.  Minnesota Museums Month, a new statewide celebration of museums, will premiere this upcoming May 2012. The goal of Minnesota Museums Month is to highlight the rich museum resources in our communities and attract more visitors to all of the museums across the state. Explore Minnesota Tourism (EMT) is excited to join in the effort. The Minnesota Museums Month promotion will drive additional web traffic to museums in our database, so we are encouraging museums and similar listings to update their Explore Minnesota attraction listing, submit exhibition and events listings, and to offer special online deals during May. Tourism organizations can assist by checking out your area listings on www.exploreminnesota.com, and contacting any that are missing or needing updates, to let them know about this opportunity. Let us know if we can assist you with your listings on exploreminnesota.com. Contact Kim Kinsler at 651-757-1847 or Kim.Kinsler@state.mn.us

Each year the nonprofit Land Stewardship Project (LSP) publishes a guide and listing of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms.
 CSA farms provide weekly deliveries of their locally-grown produce to their customers throughout the growing season, with the customers paying the farmers a subscription fee. In some ways the CSA customers become partners with the farmers, and the subscribers benefit by helping to build community and a more personal connection with the source of some of their food.

The 2012 edition of the CSA directory is available online and for free downloading at: http://www.landstewardshipproject.org/csa.html. The directory lists not only farms that deliver to subscribers in the Twin Cities, but also includes farms delivering to customers in Greater Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Baselines in Environmental Markets: Tradeoffs Between Cost and Additionality.  Markets for farm-based environmental services are designed to allow farmers to sell “credits” for environmental improvements in water quality, carbon sequestration, wetlands restoration, and other areas. These markets use an environmental baseline to help determine whether proposed improvements qualify for market credits, and, if so, the number that should be awarded. Selection of a baseline is often a critical and contentious element in the design of environmental service markets. Due to the complexity and costs associated with defining, measuring, and verifying environmental baseline levels across heterogeneous landscapes, program managers may face a tradeoff between the precision with which changes in environmental performance can be estimated and the cost of refining those estimates. This brief focuses on the issues involved in measuring baselines, the strengths and weaknesses of alternative types of baselines, and the tradeoffs involved when selecting a baseline to measure environmental improvement.  See: http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/eb18/

CFED has released The Self-Employment Tax Initiative: Empowering Entrepreneurs at Tax Time, a brief that looks at the value that entrepreneurs contribute to the American economy.  The brief includes research on self-employment in job creation and community wealth building, the connection between tax preparation and microenterprise development services, and other information gathered from partners and grantees.  To download the report, click here.

–The Center for Housing Policy has released Housing Landscape 2012, a report that shows that nearly one in four working households spend more than half of their income on housing costs.  To get the report, click here.

–HUD and the U.S. Treasury Department have released the January edition of the Obama Administration’s Housing Scorecard, a comprehensive report on the nation’s housing market.  To get the full report, click here.

–LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) has released a report of its Financial Opportunity Center model which provides services focused on employment placement and career improvement, financial education and coaching, and public benefits access.  There are 65 existing Centers in 25 cities.  You can download the report by clicking here.

–Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, a nonpartisan initiative to promote dialogue and action to reduce poverty and improve economic opportunity, is offering a collection of commentaries titled How Housing Matters.  The series explores the relationship between housing and three topics: health, economic opportunity, and education.  To read an introduction to the series by Michael Stegman click here.

–HUD has launched a new website for its Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) to convert public housing properties and some older forms of multifamily rental assistance to project-based Section 8.  Visit the website by clicking here.

–The Carsey Institute is offering a report called “Slower Growth and Increased Diversity in Rural America” which cites 2010 Census data that shows population growth in rural America slowed in the last ten years.  To get the report, click here.

–The Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs has issued a report titled “The Business Case for Product Philanthropy” which talks about retailers donating unwanted inventory like undamaged returns, slow-selling merchandise, discontinued models, and mislabeled items to charity as a good business practice and effective corporate social responsibility strategy.  The donations can help boost a company’s brand image while low- and middle-income people gain savings on household expenses.  To get the free report, just register some basic information by clicking here.

–”What to Do When Foundations Have Walled Themselves Off From Your Organization” is the title of an article in The Philanthropy News Digest by Tony Poderis, former Director of Development, Cleveland Symphony Orchestra.  The author talks about ways to form relationships with foundations in hopes of becoming one of their accepted few, rather than one of the permanently walled off.  To read the article, click here.

–Novogradac & Company has published an updated version of “The LIHTC Property Management Book” which includes information on income and rent limits, utility allowances and building rules and regulations.  To order, click here.

–Explore options now available for volunteers to sign up for opportunities on line through free web tools such as VolunteerSpot.com.

Government Commodity Payments Continue to Shift to Larger Farms, Higher Income Households.  As agricultural production has shifted to farms with larger sales, so, too, has the distribution of commodity-related program payments. Because the average household income of farm operators typically increases with farm sales, farm households with higher incomes are receiving a larger share of commodity program payments than in the past. Barring substantial changes in program design, this shift is likely to continue.  See: http://www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/March12/Features/CommodityPayments.htm

–Identifying Federal Farm Programs’ Potential Overlaps. ERS researchers have defined how overlap among farm safety net programs can occur and developed a revenue-based approach to identify and measure overlap among programs. The availability of various combinations of programs can alter producers’ farm management and production decisions, suggesting that program interactions are sufficiently complex that production impacts of participation in multiple farm programs are not always evident beforehand.  See: http://www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/March12/Features/FarmPrograms.htm