The Newton County Farm Service Agency, which serves McDonald and Newton counties, will be open only one day a week starting Aug. 1.
Local cattleman Ron Rogers has concerns about this development and has started a petition in hopes of changing things.
The Farm Service Agency is a department of the USDA that administers farm programs to farmers and ranchers. Rogers said there was a McDonald County office in Anderson 30 years ago or so, but then it was consolidated and McDonald County farmers and ranchers had to start driving to Neosho. Rogers is concerned this latest consolidation could be even more of a hardship.
"They are wanting to move it to Carthage to save money because the budget is being cut," he said.
The Missouri Farm Service Agency shared the following statement regarding consolidation:
"Effective Aug. 1, 2021, the Newton County Farm Service Agency (FSA) office, located in Neosho, Mo., will institute new office hours. The office will only be open for business on Wednesdays, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It is important that our customers continue to receive service from FSA. Producers can elect to maintain their records in the Newton County office or request records be administered in a contiguous county office. We appreciate the cooperation as we make difficult decisions to provide more efficient and effective service for Missouri FSA customers. Customers may contact the Newton County FSA office at (417) 451-1007 Ext 2 or the Jasper County office at (417) 358-8198 Ext 2 for more information."
Rogers said he and others started a petition asking that the Newton County office be fully open and fully staffed. They gathered 500 signatures in two weeks, he said. The petition was sent to U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley and U.S. Rep. Billy Long, he said, along with the Missouri Farm Service Agency.
"Farm Bureau is in favor of keeping it local; Missouri Cattlemen's Association wrote a letter about keeping it in Neosho. This is not just a Newton and McDonald County issue. They're consolidating them nationwide, so that's our real effort here is for all the farm people to get on board and try to stop the consolidating nationwide," he said.
Terry Neff of Neff Family Farms in Neosho, who drafted the petition, said he had not personally verified whether the consolidation was taking place nationwide.
"We know that it's happening to a few select counties in Missouri, and it's obvious that it's something that will probably contniue and affect even more producers in the state of Missouri," he said.
Rogers said anyone wanting to sign the petition may reach him at 417-592-0901.
He also said individuals may also want to contact their representatives. The phone numbers in Washington, D.C., follow.
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt: 202-224-5721. U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley: 202-224-6154. U.S. Rep. Billy Long: 202-225-6236.