DECEMBER 2009 – Volume VII, Number 12

Compiled by Deb Miller Slipek, Ann Treacy, and Jane Leonard 

It’s a big pre-holiday issue, so pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee, and dig in to a good read.

–Across the Field

Across the Field – The season of preparation

 – by Jane Leonard

What are you doing to prepare for the holiday season and the New Year? I pulled out my mother’s flute and had it reconditioned several months ago so I could start to practice again for the first time in two years. The motivation was playing Christmas music with my niece at our family gathering. It’s been hard to practice between all the other things going on, but I have found it to be a great way to clear the cobwebs, take deep breaths, and just hear the music.

My wish for you this holiday season is that you find your music, too, and enjoy and share it with others.

Rural Urban Connections project has public launch in January, 2010.

The week of January 10, the team here at Minnesota Rural Partners, Inc. will be starting in earnest on the first phase of the Rural Urban Connections project – collecting your stories, examples, and reflections on the rural urban connections, collaborations and partnerships in your lives and work. 

Why Rural Urban Connections?  Minnesota has always been a place where our economy depends on rural urban interdependency – the interconnections of urban and rural people, ideas, places, resources, and enterprises. We don’t always view it that way because we’ve become so accustomed to the perception of rural –urban differences and separation. Rural urban interdependency is what has fueled our economy and community building from before statehood to the present day, from the ox-cart days of trading between Hudson Bay and St. Paul, to the rural wheat that anchored the world-class urban milling industry in Minneapolis, to the rural iron ore that powered our country through two world wars and 20th century industrial and urban development, and more.

Rural Urban Connections are critical for our future, with opportunities for innovation and wealth creation in locally available and renewable energy and food systems that create new and emerging enterprises and jobs, alongside a steady, sustainable and reliable framework of other key natural resources (water and wind, for example), lifelong education, health care, transportation and telecommunications and more.

We are setting up a series of weekly videoconferences and webinars across the state, from January through May, to gather your stories and interest, culminating in a statewide gathering in early June, to form a Rural Urban Partnering Council. The Council would provide a way for people and organizations to more intentionally share ideas and support for existing and emerging connections and partnering that could ultimately lead to increased innovation and wealth creation in Minnesota. 

Check out our project website at after January 1 to see the videoconference schedule and locations. If you can’t attend the videoconferences, add your two cents via the webinars, project blog, Twitter ( and other social media platforms to record your ideas, comments, suggestions on this evolving project.

Statehood license plates still available; funds go to restore the Capitol Building

Finally, on a personal note, it’s been nearly a year since I completed my stint as Executive Director of the Minnesota Statehood Sesquicentennial Commission. The work we began continues through several channels, including the statehood commemoration license plate program. You can still buy special Sesquicentennial License Plates to commemorate Minnesota’s 150 years of statehood, with a portion of the plate fee going to help restore the Capitol Building.

Visit to learn more about the need for and the work on the Capitol restoration.

The license plates are available at all deputy registrar offices until 2011. Cost is $35 plus an $8.50 filing fee.

Even though I have been in our State Capitol Building many times, I am still moved by its beauty and solemnity each time I enter. After 100 years of duty, it is falling apart. You can help fix it and show your Minnesota pride every day, like I do, by purchasing a commemorative license plate.


–The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology announced the creation of the Beacon Community Program, which will provide $235 million in grants for HIT incentive payments to eligible providers.   Letters of intent are due on or before January 8 and applications are due February 1, 2010. Award decisions are anticipated in March and programs will last for a 36-month period.

Cooperative agreements will be awarded to 15 qualified nonprofit organizations or government entities representing diverse geographic areas, including rural and underserved communities. Eligible entities must be a U.S.-based, nonprofit organization or a government entity falling into one of the following five categories:

  • State, local, tribal or territorial government entity with a public health focus
  • Integrated delivery network or health system with broad community partnerships
  • Independent physician association or consortium of medical groups
  • Public/private partnership aimed at health system improvement and/or community health improvement
  • ONC-funded regional extension center with the capacity to expand its services.

For purposes of this cooperative agreement, stakeholders include, but are not limited to, primary care providers (PCPs), practicing clinicians, hospitals, public and private payers, consumers, local and state public health departments, safety net providers, employers, academic institutions, charitable foundations, industry, laboratories, pharmacies, employers, quality improvement organizations, hospital associations, government entities, and medical societies. Proof of nonprofit status is required for all nonprofit applicants.  Complete information is online at

NEW PROGRAM ANNOUNCEMENT for the Native American New Enterprise Program, which will be able to bring opportunities for independent business success to the Midwest region.  This program provides a path for developing a business and an opportunity for funds to develop the business, whether the business is just beginning or it has been operating for a few years.  The best part of the program is, it is completely free to all Tribal Members in Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming. This program is a  partnership with the Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation (MMCDC) and the Bold Thinking Institute

Until May 2010, this program will be openly available and participants can sign up at anytime between now and May 2010.  In addition to the educational resources, as the participants set and reach their goals, they may also have access to up to $10,000 in funds to help them grow their business.  The goal is to support entrepreneurship on and off reservations through online, one-on-one mentoring along with formalized online learning modules and milestone achievements.  Participants will also have the opportunity to speak and work directly with business coaches. Any questions about this program should be directed to  Below are three links to a general program description, an announcement flyer, and a link an information page. 

–2010 Environmental Justice Small Grants (EJSG) program of the EPA.  Deadline for applications is:  January 8, 2010.  40 awards are available in the amount of $25,000 each, with 1-4 grants awarded in each EPA Region.  The EJSG program supports communities working on solutions to local environmental and public health issues.  The program assists recipients in building collaborative partnerships to help them understand and address environmental and public health issues in their communities.  To see the projects funded in the last cycle, go to:   The Request for Applications can be downloaded at:  

Pre-application conference calls will be held on December 17 (see p. 21 of the Request for Applications for times and how to RSVP).

–AmeriCorps Indian Tribes Planning Grants application deadline is January 26, 2010.  These grants go directly to Tribes and Tribal organizations to assist with developing an AmeriCorps program that will be eligible to compete for a grant in the next AmeriCorps program grant cycle.  The NOFA is available at:  

USDA Rural Development’s Section 502 Guaranteed Loan Program is making $400 million available under the Recovery Act for refinancing Section 502 Direct and Guaranteed Loan Program borrowers.  For more information, see Federal Register, 11/2/09, at  

–Community Development Transportation Lending Services (CTAA) applications accepted on an ongoing basis.  This funding provides loans of $2,000 to $2,000,000 to support transit services in rural areas.  For an application, visit:   

–Rural Development Leadership Network accepts applications accepted on an ongoing basis.  The Rural Development Leadership Network assists community leaders to strengthen their practical skills, knowledge and credentials while remaining involved in their community development work.  For more information, visit:   


— The Nonprofit Fundraising and Economic Outlook will be held next Friday, December 18 from 9-11 a.m. at North Central States Regional Council in St. Paul.  This free briefing will take a look at the factors affecting your organization, and what nonprofit are experiencing and can expect for the year ahead.   The Nonprofit Fundraising and Economic Outlook speakers will illuminate information from two reports to be release that day – the 2009 Minnesota Nonprofit Economy Report, a new 4th Quarter Current Conditions survey report of nonprofit fundraising, as well as from the state’s November Economic Forecast to provide a comprehensive look at what boards and managers can expect from the coming year.  As part of the presentation, participants will take part in a town hall meeting-style conversation about budget and personnel actions organizations are taking now, and alternative strategies.


  • Kate Barr, Executive Director, Nonprofits Assistance Fund;
  • Ruth Deffley, Membership and Chapter Coordinator, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits;
  • Renae Oswald-Anderson, Project ReDesign Director, MAP for Nonprofits;
  • Mark A. Peterson, President and CEO, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota;
  • Jon Pratt, Executive Director, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits;
  •  Ron Reed, Project ReDesign Consultant, MAP for Nonprofits; and
  • Christina Wessel, Minnesota Budget Project Deputy Director, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.

For additional information contact Christine Durand at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits at 651-757-3082 or  

–Registration for the 2010 Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference – is open! Conference dates are January 26–27, 2010 at Cragun’s Resort in Brainerd.   The theme this year is “Achieving Success in the ‘New Normal’“- speakers and topics provide tools for responding to current market trends. Watch your mail for the conference brochure or click here for a complete schedule.  Registration rates reflect the shorter schedule that you requested: “Early registration” is $169, and second (and all subsequent) attendee rate is only $149. Online registration is preferred – a link to registration and hotel information is here.

–The Home Grown Economy 2010 – Equipping You to Build Community Based Food Systems, will be held at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, on February 15th and 16thInteractive Video Sessions will be held on Tuesday, February 16th at the following campuses:  University of Minnesota, Crookston – University of Minnesota, Morris – Bemidji State University and Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Fergus Falls.  Watch for further details at:

–Northeast Entrepreneur Fund will host a two-day Northland Flavor Marketplace in Duluth at the Holiday Inn Conference Center: Sunday, March 7, noon – 4:00 p.m. and Monday, March 8, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

The Northland Flavor Marketplace will allow regional artists to display their products to potential retail buyers such as gift shops, bookstores, floral shops, restaurants, jewelers, and similar outlets.  To apply for the Northland Flavor Marketplace event, or to register for one or more of the preparatory sessions, go to . For more information on Northland Flavor, contact Suzanne Semborski, NEF Special Projects Manager,  or call 218-623-5729.

–Save the Date! –The 2010 Nonprofit Technology and Communications Conference will be taking place on Wednesday, March 24 in Minneapolis.

Save the Date! 2010 Minnesota Campus Compact’s Summit and Awards Luncheon will be Thursday, June 17, 2010 at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Brooklyn Center featured speaker will be Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page. 
Minnesota Campus Compact’s 2010 Summit will convene higher education leaders from across Minnesota to celebrate powerful  campus-community partnerships that produce positive results for students and for communities throughout the state – and to explore opportunities for developing even deeper partnerships, more engaged institutions and citizens, and a more just, democratic, and sustainable world.

 —Save the Date for the Minnesota Rural Health Conference June 28-29, 2010.  Help to plan the conference.  Contact Karen Welle at or (651) 201-3865.


–The State Policy Fellowship Program seeks highly-qualified candidates to serve two years as entry-level analysts. Fellows will work in a state policy organization belonging to the SFAI network, such as the Minnesota Budget Project, or at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C.  Fellows will gain hands-on education and experience while working alongside experts in state policy to analyze the impact of state budget and tax policy choices on low-income residents and promote positive reforms. The program offers a competitive salary with health benefits and features professional development opportunities.

To expand the diversity of voices that speak with authority in state policy debates, the program seeks highly qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds who recently received a graduate degree in public policy, public affairs, economics, social work, public health, law, or a related field, and have an interest in state fiscal policies affecting low- and moderate-income households.  Completed applications must be submitted online by January 15, 2010Find more information or apply.


–AMBER WAVES, December 2009, Vol. 7, Issue 4.  Amber Waves presents the broad scope of ERS’s research and analysis. The magazine covers the economics of agriculture, food and nutrition, the food industry, trade, rural America, and farm-related environmental topics. Available on the internet and in print, Amber Waves is issued in print four times a year (March, June, September, and December). The internet edition, or “eZine,” includes links to web- only resources, such as podcasts and additional articles. See:

–Food Insecurity up in Recessionary Times. The recent economic downturn has brought a sharp increase in the number of Americans who report having difficulty meeting their food needs. In fact, in 2008, the number and percentage of U.S. households classified as “food insecure” reached the highest level recorded since Federal monitoring of food insecurity began in 1995. USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs provide additional resources in times of rising food insecurity. In fiscal 2008, combined expenditures for all USDA food and nutrition assistance programs totaled $60.6 billion, an increase of 10 percent over expenditures in 2007. See:

–Science, Technology, and Prospects for Growth.  Recent increases in inflation-adjusted crop prices have sparked renewed interest in the potential for continued increases in crop yields, particularly since increases in crop yields could affect food security, bioenergy production, and the Nation’s response to global climate change. Although market forces and biological factors influence corn yields, research investments have been the driving force behind increasing corn yields in the past. Continued scientific advances could accelerate the rate of growth in corn yields, but achieving a nationwide yield of 300 bushels per acre by 2030 would require a tripling of the projected growth rate, and would be historically unprecedented. See:

–Global Economic Crisis Threatens Food Security in Lover Income Countries.  Import capacity is expected to decline in many lower income countries due to the global economic downturn, with potential food security implications. Based on an ERS study, the number of food-insecure people in 70 developing countries was estimated to increase 2 percent in 2009. The highest growth in food insecurity is likely to be in Sub-Saharan Africa because domestic agricultural production is assumed to revert to average levels following above-average production in 2008 and remain the most vulnerable region through the next decade. See:

–Removal of Government Controls Opens Peanut and Tobacco Sectors to Market Forces.  Farm legislation in the early 2000s eliminated longstanding supply controls and geographic restrictions on the production of peanuts and tobacco. Adjustments to the new environment occurred rapidly as many producers decided to quit growing peanuts and tobacco, and a substantial number of producers quit farming entirely. While farm numbers declined at a different rate for peanuts and tobacco, the ensuing consolidation produced fewer, but larger, farms for each crop that are more efficient and responsive to market developments. See:

–Debt Landscape for U.S. Farms has Shifted.  Farm business debt levels have risen noticeably over the past decade, reaching a record $240 billion in 2008. But the value of farm assets has grown even faster, increasing the wealth of farm operators. Nonetheless, recent declines in farm income and falling land prices have raised concerns about the financial position of U.S. farms that rely heavily of debt. In 1986, nearly 60 percent of farms used debt financing. By the end of 2007, farm debt was more concentrated in fewer, larger farm businesses, with only 31 percent of farms owing debt. And while the unused debt repayment capacity of farm operators is much lower than it was during the 1980’s farm financial crisis, larger farms are more likely to use a high share of their debt capacity. As a result, while the farm sector as a whole is in sound financial shape, some segments of the sector could be over-extended if incomes and land prices continue to fall. See:

–Income Volatility is Rising, with Mixed Effects on Nutrition Assistance Participation.  Income volatility has increased over the last four decades, with the greatest increase among those with the lowest incomes. The interaction of income volatility and program design has important implications for eligibility and participation in food and nutrition assistance programs, with some families not applying when eligible and others leaving while still eligible. In recent years, the effects of income volatility were eased when major nutrition assistance programs extended the periods for which households receive benefits. See:

Ethanol and a Changing Agricultural Landscape. The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 established specific targets for the production of biofuel in the United States. Until advanced technologies become commercially viable, meeting these targets will increase demand for traditional agricultural commodities used to produce ethanol, resulting in land-use, production, and price changes throughout the farm sector. This report summarizes the estimated effects of meeting the EISA targets for 2015 on regional agricultural production and the environment. Meeting EISA targets for ethanol production is estimated to expand U.S. cropped acreage by nearly 5 million acres by 2015, an increase of 1.6 percent over what would otherwise be expected. Much of the growth comes from corn acreage, which increases by 3.5 percent over baseline projections. Water quality and soil carbon will also be affected, in some cases by greater percentages than suggested by changes in the amount of cropped land. The economic and environmental implications of displacing a portion of cornethanol production with ethanol produced from crop residues are also estimated. See:

The Debt Finance Landscape for U.S. Farming and Farm Businesses.  Income and wealth for farm businesses have changed noticeably this decade. Debt levels have been rising, asset levels have outpaced debt despite a recent fall in land prices, and equity has more than doubled for farm businesses. However, recent declines in farm income and falling land prices have raised concerns about the financial position of U.S. farms. Total farm sector debt reached a record $240 billion in 2008, a $26-billion increase over 2007. Debt is expected to decline to $234 billion in 2009. The distribution of debt among farm operators has also been changing. In 1986, nearly 60 percent of farms used debt financing. By 2007, the number had dropped to 31 percent. In essence, farm debt has become more concentrated in fewer, larger farm businesses. Lenders and farm operators indicate that real estate accounts for the largest use of farm debt. Debt repayment capacity utilization (DRCU) of farm operators has dropped since the 1980s. DRCU dropped from 27 percent in 2000 to 22 percent in 2007. Larger farms are more likely to use more of their debt capacity. See:

The Consumer Data and Information Program: Sowing the seeds of Research.  Changes in the American public’s food consumption and purchases in recent decades, together with advances in medical knowledge of dietary effects on health, have heightened awareness of the importance of understanding what people eat and where and why they eat it. Most U.S. consumers have diets that do not meet dietary guidelines’ recommendations, and rates of obesity and overweight are rising for all consumers. American food markets are dynamic in offering new products and retail outlets to consumers, changing the food choices available. At the same time, food firms have been challenged by food safety recalls, adverse consumer reactions to new technologies, and increasing mandates for nutritional quality and information. See:

–The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) released the fall 2009 edition of Community Developments focusing on bank strategies to mitigate the impacts of foreclosed properties on communities across the country.  This issue of Community Developments highlights the emerging work of innovative community partnerships and the tools and resources available to help them return foreclosed properties to the productive housing stock.  It describes multiple strategies for managing and renewing real estate owned properties held by national banks and other lenders, including donations, discounted sales, and property rehabilitation.  It also describes how federal funds are being used to stabilize neighborhoods nationwide.  In some cases, the community stabilization efforts of national banks can also receive positive CRA consideration. Community Developments can be accessed on the OCC’s Web site at:

Over the course of the recent recession, rural economies have held up better than their metro peers, thanks to strong rural economic gains early in the downturn. The long-term health of rural American in the twenty-first century will rest on developing policies that focus on amenity-based development, entrepreneurship, and innovation in the article "Prospects for a Rural Recovery" at:

--The Enduring Challenge of Concentrated Poverty in America: Case Studies from Communities Across the U.S. is a report resulting from a joint project of the Federal Reserve System and the Brookings Institution.  The document contributes to an understanding of the dynamics of poor people living in poor communities, and the policies that will be needed to bring both into the economic mainstream.  For the report, visit:  

–Community Development Resource Guide.  The Center for Rural Affairs has published a resource document for accessing funding for community projects.  To get the guide go to:   

–Rural Poverty Rate Increasing Faster Than in Metropolitan Areas In the past five years the level of poverty in rural America has increased at a rate five times that of the poverty increase in metropolitan areas.  Since 2003 the rural poverty rate jumped by 17 percent, while the metropolitan poverty rate climbed by about 3 percent. The increase in rural poverty since 2003 reverses a trend from the 1990s when the gap between rural and metropolitan poverty rates decreased.  To read the story, go to:  

–Rural Amenities.  The rural outdoors has become a major asset for rural communities—and a key advantage that some rural areas have over urban areas. The rural outdoors can be enhanced through the construction of recreation facilities, but undeveloped rural landscapes have their own special appeal, both for recreation and as attractive places to live. This briefing room looks at the appeal of rural landscapes, the importance of forest landscape preferences, and the role of scenic amenities across the rural-urban continuum.   To read this article, visit:  

–Identifying Avenues to Build Community Strength is in the November issue of the Center for Rural Affairs’ newsletter.  The article offers seven activities to help community leaders create a better future for rural communities that create opportunities for rural people.  To see the article go to:   

–The DatelinERS newsletter offers concise summaries of USDA ERS reports and events at

–Rural and Urban Children Lack Health Insurance More Often than Suburban Children.  Analysis of new Census Bureau data underscores the need to consider health reform’s impact on children. A new brief from Marybeth J. Mattingly and Michelle L. Stransky at the Carsey Institute takes a closer look at the geographic distribution of health insurance for children. Based on recent data from the 2008 American Community Survey, the analysis shows that one in ten children are still uninsured and that insurance rates vary considerably by geographic area. In fourteen states, rural children are least likely to be insured. In another eight states, rural and urban children are insured at about the same rate, significantly lower than suburban children. Further, the data also shows rural children are least likely to be covered by private insurance and most likely to depend on public plans for their health care. Go to: