August 2011

August 2011 – Volume IX, Number 7





Across the Field – A Busy Summer: Rural Wealth Creation & Minnesota Community Pride!

— The Rural Urban Connections Project Report is completed. It reflects nearly 2 years of study and action by staff and volunteers with Minnesota Rural Partners on rural urban interdependency and innovative connections for rural wealth creation. Researcher Kate Searls and former MRP president Jane Leonard most recently presented findings at the 2011 Community Development Society and Rural Sociological Society annual meeting in Boise, ID last month. Kate will be presenting it again at the Rural Wealth Creation and Livelihoods National Conference in October in Washington, D. C., organized by the USDA Economic Research Service and the Ford Foundation.

Go to to review the overview and accompanying reports on rural and urban interdependency that show how understanding and leveraging this social and economic dynamic could be a keystone of improved job readiness and job creation in Minnesota.

At the website you can also see the 1968 speech on rural urban balance and economic prosperity by Orville Freeman, former Minnesota Governor and former USDA Secretary of Agriculture under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.  This speech was the inspiration behind the Rural Urban Connections project. Many thanks to Mrs. Jane Freeman for sharing it with all of us here at MRP several years back. Secretary Freeman’s words remain fresh, relevant, and inspiring for today’s challenges and opportunities. You can read the speech at  (It takes a few more seconds than usual to load…so be patient.)

–Showcase Your Community Pride! Thirty entrants have been selected to display their work in-person at Minnesota Community Pride Day at the Minnesota State Fair on September 3rd. Minnesota Community Pride Day will feature conversations about ways fellow Minnesotans are working to improve community life, great live music performances, and opportunities to hear from and engage with state newsmakers.  For more information about the 2011 Minnesota Community Pride Showcase, go to this site.


USDA’s Rural Housing Service has announced funding for Section 533 Housing Preservation Grants to nonprofit and public agencies to assist very low and low income homeowners to repair and rehabilitate their homes.  Deadline:  8/22/2011.  To learn more and to apply, control-click here.

–HUD has issued a NOFA for the 2011 HOPE VI Main Street Grant Program for small communities to replace unused commercial space in the central business core or “Main Street” with affordable housing units.  Deadline to Apply:  8/22/2011.  For more information,

–USDA has announced funding for Sections 514, 515, and 516 Multi-Family Housing Revitalization Demonstration Programs for rural housing authorities and property owners for grants for projects that will preserve and revitalize existing rural rental housing and improve farmworker-occupied housing.  Deadline:  8/22/2011.  To apply,

–Funds Available for Value-Added Producer Grants.  Applications are being accepted for grants to provide economic assistance to independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives and agricultural producer groups through the Value-Added Producer Grant Program.  Minnesota farmers and ranchers have been awarded almost $13 million in Value-Added grants since 2003. Application deadline is August 29, 2011. For further details about eligibility rules and application procedures, see the June 28, 2011, Federal Register.

Value-Added Producer Grants may be used for feasibility studies or business plans, working capital for marketing value-added agricultural products and for farm-based renewable energy projects. Eligible applicants include independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, and agricultural producer groups. Value-added products are created when a producer increases the consumer value of an agricultural commodity in the production or processing stage.


Examples of previous Value-Added grants in Minnesota include the processing and marketing of organic beef, design and packaging of milk products, developing new markets for pork products, marketing new health food snacks, introducing new varieties of apples, wind farms, ethanol and bio-diesel plants and marketing compost products.       To learn more about Value-Added Producer Grants, contact a Rural Development specialist in your region.

HUD has announced funding for the Self-Help Ownership Opportunity (SHOP) Program for national or regional non-profits to encourage home ownership through “sweat equity” affordable housing development or rehabilitation.  Deadline:  9/6/2011.  For more information,

Rural Hospital Planning and Transition Grant applications are available and due September 19.

Indian Health Grant applications are due September 30.

–THE LAURA JANE MUSSER FUND’s Rural Initiative program wants to encourage collaborative and participatory efforts among citizens in rural communities that will help to strengthen their towns and regions in a number of civic areas including, but not limited to, economic development, business preservation, arts and humanities, public space improvements, and education. Complete proposal packets must be postmarked to the Musser Fund office by November 9, 2011. Funding decisions will be announced February 2012. Check out the program and  application details at: or contact Mary Karen Lynn-Klimenko, Grants Program Manager, 612-825-2024,

Minnesota’s Loan Forgiveness applications are due December 1.

** Please NOTE – The final Minnesota State Budget reflects changes to MN Office of Rural Health and Primary Care ORHPC GRANT and LOAN PROGRAMS
  • Minnesota’s “designated rural area” definition was amended for the Loan Forgiveness Programs from outside the seven-county metro to “an area defined as a small rural area or isolated rural area according to the four category classifications of the Rural Urban Commuting Area system developed for the United States Health Resources and Services Administration.” (MN Statute 144.1501, subd. 1 ).  Map (PDF: 535KB/1pg) More on Rural and Urban Commuting Areas (RUCA) is on the ORHPC website.
• The Donated Dental Services Program, the Health Careers Promotion Grant and the Migrant Health Grant were eliminated. The Summer Health Care Intern Program is not funded for fiscal year 2012-2013, but may be available in 2014.


— South West/West Central Volunteer Connections – A Presentation and Discussion on the Leadership Demands of Rural Communities and Implications for Small Town Organizations & Volunteers will be held Tuesday, August 16, 2011 from 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. at the Bremer Bank,  500 Willmar Avenue SE; Willmar.  Ben Winchester, Research Fellow with the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality, will be our guest to share his thoughts and research on what it takes to run and maintain the organizations that comprise our small town infrastructure; many of these organizations rely on volunteers and volunteer leaders to make things happen.  There is no charge for this event, but space is limited.  Please RSVP SW/WC Volunteer Connections Chair, Sharon Mace at

— Northern Regional Broadband Networks Forum: Driving Business Development and Innovation will be held Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at the Holiday Inn Duluth Downtown Conference Center.

Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Annual Conference Great Expectations: Our Community, Our Future, will be held October 6-7 in St. Paul. Registration is now open.

Rural Economic & Wellness Regional Symposium is a free virtual conference October 13.

  –Governor Dayton’s Job Summit 2011 will be held October 24-25 in St. Paul.  This will be the 16th Annual Development Conference.


The Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America is a mapping application that provides a spatial interpretation of county-level, economic and social conditions along four broad categories of socioeconomic factors: people (using newly released data on population size, race and ethnicity, and immigration from the 2010 Decennial Census and other demographic data from the American Community Survey, including age, race and ethnicity, migration and immigration, education, household size and family composition), jobs (using economic data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other sources, including information on employment trends, unemployment, industrial composition, and household income), agriculture (using indicators from the 2007 Census of Agriculture, including number and size of farms, operator characteristics, off-farm income, and government payments), and county classifications (using typologies such as the rural-urban continuum, economic dependence, persistent poverty, population loss, and other ERS county codes). Maps are interactive and also provided for download; raw data are provided for download. Data from the 2010 Census have been recently added. See:

The FCC has released Bringing Broadband to Rural America: Update to Report on a Rural Broadband Strategy. The report confirms the need to continue the Administration’s comprehensive investments and policy framework to ensure that rural communities and tribal nations receive the same access to the economic, educational, health care and public safety opportunities and services that broadband delivers in urban communities.

The Role of Public Safety in Community Development.  This report discusses the results of safety initiatives that organizations have incorporated into community development projects across the country.

Land Bank Authorities: A Guide for the Creation and Operation of Local Land Banks, written by Emory law professor Frank Alexander, is a guide for community leaders and public officials on how to take control of problem properties in order to meet community needs.  This free book shows how unoccupied land and buildings can be a potential resource for economic recovery through community development and strengthening real estate markets.

The New Way Forward: Collaborations and Partnerships for Greater Efficiency and Impact is a paper that examines strategies for cross-sector collaboration, the federal government’s policy agenda, and how to coordinate these resources.  The authors offer a tri-sector (government, business, and social) approach to problem solving, and include models for collaboration and case studies.

Financial Matters Initiative BestPrep, in partnership with the Foundation for Financial Planning and the Financial Planning Association of Minnesota, sponsor the Financial Matters Initiative. The goal is to educate Minnesota students on the importance of managing money wisely. Four interactive PowerPoint presentations—Money Matters, Budgeting Matters, Credit Matters, and Investing Matters—are available to financial services volunteers willing to use the slides in Minnesota classrooms. The presentations have been developed and tested with input from financial planners and teachers.

Today's soaring farmland values have boosted farm wealth and driven the U.S. farm balance sheet to its strongest level since the 1970s farm boom. If farmland values were to fall sharply, as they did in the farm crisis of the 1980s, both farm balance sheets and farm wealth could suffer, especially for farmers with high levels of non-real estate debt. The Main Street Economist explores the effects of the falling farmland values on farm balance sheets, wealth and insolvency.  Read the full report at:

–Grassland to Cropland Conversion in the Northern Plains: The Role of Crop Insurance, Commodity and Disaster Programs.  Native grasslands in the U.S. Northern Plains, particularly those located in the Prairie Pothole Region, are excellent breeding habitat for migratory birds. The conversion of grassland to crop production could damage this habitat and affect bird populations. We focus on three questions: How fast are grasslands being converted to cropland in the United States and especially in the Northern Plains? Can a temporary (5-year) ban on crop insurance purchase for converted grassland slow grassland to cropland conversion? More broadly, what has been the role of crop insurance and other farm programs in grassland to cropland conversion? We find that: (1) roughly 770,000 acres (1 percent) of 1997 rangeland acreage in the Northern Plains were converted to cultivated crops by 2007; (2) a 5-year ban on crop insurance purchase for converted grassland could slow but is unlikely to stop grassland to cropland conversion; and (3) the benefits of crop insurance, disaster assistance, and marketing loans increased cropland acreage by about 2.9 percent between 1998 and 2007. See:

–Why Have Food Commodity Prices Risen Again?  The report describes the factors that have contributed to the large and rapid increase in agricultural prices during the past year. The report focuses particularly on food commodity prices—which have risen 60 percent since June 2010. See:

–The Effect of Food and Beverage Prices on Children’s Weights. One factor that may be important in explaining rising childhood obesity is food prices. This report explores the effect of food prices on children’s Body Mass Index (BMI) using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 (ECLS-K) and the Quarterly Food-at-Home Price Database. On average, higher prices for soda, 100 percent juices, starchy vegetables, and sweet snacks are associated with lower BMIs among children. In addition, lower prices for dark green vegetables and lowfat milk are associated with reduced BMI. The effect of subsidizing healthy food may be just as large as raising prices of less healthy foods. See:

–Geographic Differences in the Relative Price of Healthy Foods.  Although healthy foods can be affordable, if less healthy foods are cheaper, individuals may have an economic incentive to consume a less healthful diet. Using the Quarterly Food-at-Home Price Database, we explore whether a select set of healthy foods (whole grains, dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, whole fruit, skim and 1% milk, fruit juice, and bottled water) are more expensive than less healthy alternatives. We find that not all healthy foods are more expensive than less healthy alternatives; skim and 1% milk are less expensive than whole and 2% milk and bottled water is generally less expensive than carbonated nonalcoholic drinks. We also find considerable geographic variation in the relative price of healthy foods. This price variation may contribute to geographic variation in diet and health outcomes. See:

The Community Development Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has released a new issue of Community Dividend that features articles on community development impact measurement, the economic slowdown’s effects in Indian Country and recent changes to the Community Reinvestment Act rules.  To read more, visit Current Issue page or click on the headlines below:

Measuring the impact of community development: A conversation with Paul Mattessich of Wilder Research Community Dividend speaks with Paul Mattessich, executive director of Wilder Research, about how to effectively and affordably measure the impact of community development work.

–Recent demographic data reveal effects of economic slowdown in Indian Country
New data from the U.S. Census Bureau confirm that economic trends on American Indian reservations in the Ninth District worsened or stagnated during the recent recession.

For the past 18 months Minnesota Rural Partners, through a USDA Rural Development agreement, has been investigating various aspects of rural urban connections in Minnesota. The intention is to create greater understanding, appreciation, and mutual support among rural and urban communities. Here are some of the products of that research: