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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Frustration, a sad note and a bright spot

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Since most of the farmers in our area work on a smaller scale, and have outside jobs, it does not appear the emergency loans that the USDA approved for Arkansas farmers because of the drought will be of much help.

But the Fulton and Izard County Farm Service Agency offices pride themselves in persuading a large number of farmers of the importance of signing up for crop insurance, to help cover losses when hay fields burn up. Many farmers, who have bailed 50 percent or less of their usual hay harvest, have already filed claims with the FSA, and it is likely they will eventually receive assistance through the insurance program.

That is yet another reason why the closing of the Fulton and Izard County FSA offices around Sept. 30 is so senseless. It is not like the two offices were just burning up money, doing nothing.

Many predict a lot of farmers in the two counties will drop out of valuable FSA programs, once Fulton County farmers are transferred to the Sharp County FSA office, and Izard County clients are served by Stone County. It is going to be inconvenient for many to find the time to drive to the other offices and take care of their business.

Bryan Guffey, whose family is the Fulton County Farm Family of the Year, put a sales pitch in for staying active in the FSA when he met with the news media last month.

When I asked him what he thought about the FSA office closings, he said, like most, he is disappointed that two offices that are well used and self sufficient are closing. He added, however, "It is going to be inconvenient, but the programs save you money, so I can't believe people won't still use them."

This year's drought is a good reminder to find the time to stay in touch with the agency. FSA offices are run by real people who live here -- not a bunch of bureaucrats in three piece suits.

Fulton County Sheriff Buck Foley told me last week he "is tickled to death," that, after less than two months of work, $15,000 has been raised to fund a Search and Rescue boat for his department.

Skip Layne, the Area Operations Director for CenturyLink, drove all the way from Monette to present the $500 check that put the campaign "over the top" of its fundraising goal. Layne said his company gets many requests to help with community projects, and it can't assist everyone. But, after hearing of last spring's drowning tragedy and the county's need for a rescue boat, "It was something we (CenturyLink) needed to be involved with."

Layne said "It speaks well for the people in this part of the country" that so many got involved to quickly meet the community need.

Sheriff Foley agrees. He said people, like North Arkansas Electric's Jerry Estes, told him they were going to raise money for a boat, but he didn't expect them to work so hard, and for the money to come about so fast.

Foley has been shopping for a jet boat, but the ones he has found so far are a bit too long. He needs a smaller boat, since it will be used primarily on rivers. He will keep looking but expects the $15,000 to pay for the boat, motor, search lights and other accessories.

I was really saddened to learn of the death of Kenneth Ballman of Horseshoe Bend.

Ken and his wife, Mitzi, who are very involved in community organizations, are two of the first people I met when I started reporting for Areawide Media. They were great sources of story ideas and information as I got to know the community.

As I remember it, Ken retired from The Hartford Insurance Group years ago, and he and Mitzi bought a motor home and hit the road. They were footloose and fancy free with no fixed address for several years, until they visited a friend in Horseshoe Bend and decided to locate there.

Ken helped start the Regional Economic Development Board for our area, and worked hard for years to help develop a system to try to recruit business to the area. It was a tough job with mixed results, but he never gave up. Ken also served five terms on the Izard County Quorum Court, and, when it appeared that Horseshoe Bend was going to lose its ambulance base, the former volunteer firefighter and first responder led the fight to reverse that decision.

He also flipped pancakes at the Kiwanis Club's annual pancake breakfast, belonged to a long, long list of other clubs, sang with the Blenders Choral group and helped Mitzi as she ran the community theater.

People willing to get so involved in community activities are hard to come by. He will be missed. I hope people let him know how much he was appreciated, while he was still with us.

My condolences to Mitzi and her family.