December 2011 – Volume IX, Number 11

Compiled and edited by Deb Miller Slipek & Ann Treacy







Across the Field – Celebrating the Compendium – by guest writer Jane Leonard

The MRP Round-Up is about to reach its 10th year of compiling, digesting and disseminating (hopefully) useful information. Although Minnesota Rural Partners is no longer an active organization, volunteers continue to publish the MRP Rural Round-Up. It’s pretty easy to do and it seems to help so many folks out there. Please thank Deb Miller Slipek and Ann Treacy for their monthly dedication to this task over the past nine years.

As the 10th year of the Round-Up comes into view, I thought I should share some of the inspiration for this monthly compendium (a concise summary or abridgement). I learned about words like “compendium” when I was writing my master’s thesis in journalism way back in the 1980s. My thesis covered the importance of agricultural journals of the 1800s. Well before the creation of electronic information technologies, Americans used agricultural fairs, experiment farms, and agricultural journals to share rural know-how. These information dissemination methods offered incredibly rich ways to connect personally and remotely. They also inspired the official start and eventual cabinet-level creation of the United States Department of Agriculture (which celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2012).

If you want to see an example of 19th century information sharing technology here in Minnesota, go to the Oliver Kelley Farm in Elk River. According to the Minnesota Historical Society, “although he knew little about farming in 1850, Oliver H. Kelley staked a claim at the new town of Itasca on the Mississippi River near present-day Elk River. He became a “book farmer,” learning the latest farming techniques from agricultural journals and by corresponding with other “scientific-oriented” farmers. In a short time, he became an expert on farming in Minnesota…. He went on to start the National Grange, a fraternal organization of farm families.”

One of the premier agricultural journals of Oliver Kelley’s day was the national American Agriculturist (“Designed to improve the farmer, the planter, and the gardener.”). A sentiment I read in the March 1856 issue has guided me in my career over the years and inspired me to help start the online Rural Round-Up a decade ago.

Here it is, shared in the spirit and generosity of knowledge dissemination 150 years ago; the words remain helpful and relevant today: “Gentility is neither in birth, wealth, manner nor fashion—but in the mind. A high sense of honor, a determination never to take a mean advantage of another, an adherence to truth, delicacy, and politeness towards those with whom we have dealings, are its essential characteristics.”

— American Agriculturist, March 1856.


The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has begun accepting applications from investors and businesses that want to participate in the Minnesota Angel Tax Credit Program in 2012.  The agency will have $12 million in angel tax credits available to qualified investors next year. DEED had $16 million in angel tax credits available in 2011, but those credits ran out this week because of the strong response to the program.

Under the program, qualified investors can receive a tax credit of 25 percent on investments of at least $10,000 in emerging companies that specialize in high technology or new proprietary technology.  Businesses that receive angel funding must be headquartered in Minnesota and have fewer than 25 employees, with at least 51 percent of the workers and total payroll based in the state. Businesses must have been operating for no more than 10 years and cannot have received previous equity investments exceeding $2 million.

Investors and businesses can begin the application process for 2012 participation at: Other details about the program are available from Jeff Nelson at 651-259-7523 or

 MPCA begins accepting applications for $350,000 in clean diesel grant funding.   The MPCA will be seeking applicants to use its federal Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) grant funding to improve a wide range of fleets. Applications must be received by Dec. 22, 2011, and projects must be completed by Aug. 31, 2012.

The MPCA’s new target will be public and private on-road and off-road diesel fleets older than 2007 that operate in Minnesota, with preference given to those operating in the seven-county Twin Cities metro area. Focus remains on the Twin Cities because air quality there is close to exceeding the national air quality health standards for fine particles and ozone.

The current Request for Proposal (RFP) will fund EPA-approved technologies, including idle reduction, emission controls, hybrid replacement and engine re-powers. Vehicle and equipment examples include on-road class 5 (16,000 lb. gross vehicle weight) or larger delivery trucks, off-road construction equipment, generators of 100-300 horsepower, and refrigeration units for delivery trucks.

The minimum award is $10,000 and the maximum award is $150,000. Vehicles and equipment must be in working order to be eligible for grant funding and no work can begin until a contract agreement is approved by the MPCA. For a copy of the Request for Proposal (RFP), contact Martina Cameron at or at 651-757-2259. Applicants will need to give an email address to receive the RFP application and supporting materials electronically. The email subject line should read: “CR5220, Clean Diesel RFP.” More information can be found online on the MPCA’s Grants/Financial Assistance for Clean Diesel Projects page.

— Calling your attention to an opportunity for $5,000 planning grants that can lead to possible three-year implementation grants from Women’s Foundation of Minnesota.  Deadline for planning grant application is January 19, 2012 with grant period from April 1 – August 30, 2012.

The Foundation’s Social Change Fund awards grants to Minnesota nonprofits seeking to remove barriers to equality for women and girls in their communities through “social change” – shifting attitudes and behaviors, or institutions and policies that limit equality.  For more information on how to apply click here. Also note that a webinar is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. on December 15 to learn more about the social change fund, grant application and opportunity for questions.  This funder awards grants throughout Minnesota, including organizations and projects in Greater Minnesota.

Upcoming East Central Regional Arts Council (ECRAC) deadlines:

Art Project Grants for Organizations- January 15, 2012 information is online at: 

Small Grants for Organizations – February 1 & April 1, 2012 information is online at: 

Art and Cultural Heritage Fund Grants for organizations and individuals -February 1 & April 1, 2012.  Grant application materials for this program are online at: (organizations) and (individuals)

Art in Our Schools – February 1 & April 1, 2012 information is online at: 

Individual Artist Grants – February 1 & April 1, 2012.  Grant application materials for this program are online at:


— Plan on the 2012 Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference.  Registration and lodging information is now available for the 2012 Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference at the Kahler Grand Hotel in Rochester, January 24-25. Cost for the conference remains the same as last year. Early rate registration is $179 (registration and payment must be postmarked by January 10, 2012) and the second/subsequent attendees from the same organization will remain at $159.  Go to: for a more complete description of the sessions. Online registration is preferred. Contact Gayle Junnila at 651-757-1852 or for more information.

–Save the Date! Grassroots & Groundwork 2012 Conference will be held June 6-8, 2012 at the Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake, MN.


A new initiative called Lend for America ( was launched by a collective of student-powered microenterprise organizations called the Campus Microfinance Alliance.  Summer internships for university students committed to bringing microenterprise to their local campus communities are being offered. You can read about the interesting work being done around the country by these organizations by visiting the Lend for America website.  If you know of university students interested in this internship opportunity, they can apply online or attend a virtual information session on December 16th:

The East Central Regional Arts Council (ECRAC) is accepting applications from individuals wishing to serve on the Board of Directors. There are currently openings for Chisago, Isanti, and Pine County representatives.  ECRAC is looking for individuals with knowledge of various art forms and perspectives. Those encouraged to apply are:  arts advocates; past grantees; active artists working in all disciplines; artists from communities of color; arts supporters/collectors; or individuals with knowledge of their local arts community.

The deadline for submitting a nomination is December 31, 2011. Interested individuals may contact the ECRAC office at or 320-396-2337 for more information about responsibilities, the council and its grant programs, and to receive a self-nomination form.


At the recent Jump$tart National Educators Conference, the Financial Services Roundtable provided a list of 36 free, comprehensive financial education curricula; most are for high school. It was compiled with Operation HOPE. It is very helpful to see them all in one place.

–Can Brazil Meet the World’s Growing Need for Ethanol?  Brazil is a major supplier of ethanol due to its natural advantage in sugarcane production, productivity gains in both sugarcane production and ethanol processing, and supportive government policies. While Brazil has the potential to fill the growing world demand for ethanol, the country’s ability to supply the world ethanol market also depends on domestic ethanol demand, relative prices of ethanol, sugar, and crude oil, the Real’s exchange value, and improvements to infrastructure.  See:

The NAFTA Countries Build on Free Trade. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is an integral part of the North American agricultural economy. Efforts to strengthen agricultural trade under NAFTA are focusing on regulatory cooperation, long-haul trucking, dispute resolution in produce trade, and refining NAFTA’s rules of origin. Recognizing market opportunities outside North America, each NAFTA country is seeking more open trading relationships with non-NAFTA countries.  See:

Local Foods Marketing Channels Encompass a Wide Range of Producers. The size of the U.S. local food market was $4.8 billion in 2008. Local food marketing channels varied with farm size, region of the country, and proximity to population centers. Operators of small and medium-sized farms with local food sales spent more hours farming and are more likely to list farming as their primary occupation than similarly sized farms without local food sales.  See:

U.S. Food Safety Policy Enters a New Era.  In late 2010, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the most comprehensive reforms to Federal food safety laws since 1938. The preventive approach embodied in the Act reflects an established scientific/managerial consensus on how to improve food safety systems. Economic research on similar food safety initiatives by industry and government can help guide implementation of the FSMA.  See:

Changing Farming Practices Accompany Major Shifts in Farm Structure. While the number of farms and land in farms has remained relatively stable over the past 3 decades, agricultural productivity has grown significantly. Changes in the way farmers produce and market agricultural commodities have allowed many farmers to increase the size of their operations, facilitating technological and organizational changes that, in turn, have helped increase productivity. On net, these changes in farm structure and practices have resulted in a smaller environmental footprint for the average unit of output produced.  See:

AMBER WAVES, DECEMBER 2011, VOL. 9, NO. 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:

Recognizing Risk in Global Agriculture: A Summary of the 2011 Agricultural Symposium can be viewed at:

Winona NANOprep GrantSoutheast Technical has received a large NSF grant to develop nanotechnology programs aimed at rural students.

–Harnessing the Power of Biomass Energy in the Midwest. The Midwest’s abundant agricultural and forestry biomass residuals have the potential to provide new opportunities for economic development, energy security, and environmental conservation. “Harnessing the Power of Biomass Residuals: Opportunities and Challenges for Midwestern Renewable Energy,” The Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ newest Heartland Paper, examines these opportunities and identifies key challenges limiting current biomass energy technologies. The report concludes with a framework for making better use of these residuals in the region.

FEDERAL FUNDS.  This product contains information from the Census Bureau’s Consolidated Federal Funds Reports on Federal expenditures and obligations for grants, salaries and wages, procurements, direct payments, direct loans, guaranteed loans, and insurance obtained from Federal Government agencies. ERS screens the data for each Federal program for accuracy at the county level and then presents the data by function and type of program for each county and State. Data for fiscal 2010 are now available.  See:

–THE CHANGING ORGANIZATION OF U.S. FARMING.  Innovations in farm organization, business arrangements, and production practices have allowed farmers to produce more with less. Fewer labor hours and less land are used today than 30 years ago, and practices such as the use of genetically engineered seeds and no-till have dampened increases in machinery, fuel, and pesticide use. Likely aided by the increased use of risk management tools such as contracts and crop insurance, U.S. agricultural productivity has increased by nearly 50 percent since 1982. Future innovations will be necessary to maintain, or boost, current productivity gains in order to meet the growing global demands that will be placed upon U.S. agriculture.  See

— A front-line perspective on the economic health of low- to moderate-income communities.  The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has released the results of a new survey designed to provide a read on the economic health of the Ninth Federal Reserve District’s low- to moderate-income (LMI) communities.  A total of 335 community organizations serving more than 180 cities and townships took part in the Ninth District Community Insight Survey that was piloted in second quarter 2011.  For an in-depth analysis of the information provided by respondents, including state-level comparisons and an LMI Economic Index,

Report Examines Census Changes.
 Data from the 2010 Census show that rural areas in the Great Plains and Midwest continue to lose population, while smaller cities and metropolitan areas continue to expand.

— Workshop materials from Utilizing Data to Manage Neighborhood Change, a daylong exploration of using data to stabilize neighborhoods and serve them better, are now available at: