Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


The Center for Rural Affairs, established in 1973 in Walthill, Nebraska, was created through the vision of two vista volunteers, Don Ralston and Marty Strange. The center established its reputation early as an agricultural advocate with a conscience and a strong, independent voice on agricultural matters throughout the Great Plains and beyond.

The center immediately confronted several agricultural issues with serious economic, social, and environmental overtones. Taking issue with irrigation in the fragile Nebraska Sandhills, large-scale hog confinements, and the decline of independent banking in rural Nebraska, it earned a reputation for sound research and honest, practical, and fair solutions. Subsequently, research expanded into global warming, rural economic development policy, unfair livestock markets, and federal farm policy. Most recently the center has examined the structure of agriculture and new marketing opportunities for family farmers.

Advocacy is equally important to the center's history and character. Major policy thrusts include tax reform and school finance in Nebraska as well as conservation and fairness in federal farm policy. The center has worked alone and with others to invigorate and broaden the meaning of sustainable agriculture and to hasten its acceptance in the agricultural community.

Engaging people to find their own solutions has been another major thrust of its work. When the energy crisis of the 1970s created an opportunity for small farms to demonstrate appropriate technology, the center created the nation's first on-farm research program with the Small Farm Energy Project. The Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) builds on the entrepreneurial assets of rural people and helps communities to support them. And the Land Link program connects retiring farmers with beginning farmers, placing farmland in the next generation's hands. The center sponsors a total of eight such projects to help build rural communities and family farms. Truly one of a kind, the Center for Rural Affairs is a leader in advocating social and environmental justice in rural America.

Center for Rural Affairs website.

Marie Powell Center for Rural Affairs

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