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Opportunities for involvement

Thursday, May 10, 2007

In the coming week, Barry County residents will have the opportunity to have their voice heard on two important issues. One involves important improvements on the Highway 37/60 Corridor and the second involves the possible closing of Barry County's Farm Service Agency (FSA).

The latter was just brought to our attention. A member of the local FSA county committee contacted the newspaper office on Tuesday to tell us the Barry County office was on the list of offices in Missouri to be closed under the USDA's consolidation plan. If the office is closed, area farmers would be forced to travel to the Lawrence County FSA office in Mt. Vernon to receive assistance.

We strongly oppose the closing of the Barry County FSA office and hope our readers agree. We urge all local farmers and concerned citizens to contact Congressman Roy Blunt and Senators Kit Bond and Claire McCaskill to ask for their support on this issue. It also wouldn't hurt to let Rep. David Sater and Senator Jack Goodman know your views as well. The state FSA director and board will be meeting on May 23 to discuss the proposed closings, so it's imperative we all get involved now. As usual, the federal government has given the public very little opportunity to comment on this change, which would have a great impact on our agricultural community. Don't hesitate; write, e-mail or call your federal representatives today and ask them to get involved and stop the consolidation.

On Thursday, May 17 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Aurora High School gymnasium, area citizens will have the opportunity to weigh in on the need for improvements along the 37/60 Corridor. The meeting is being hosted by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), and the Corridor Study, which will be the topic of discussion, marks the first step toward getting an improvement project started.

Again, it's incredibly important that Barry County residents show up in force to let MoDOT officials know how important this project is to the continued growth of this area. This project is still in the very early planning stages and it's crucial MoDOT understands the huge transportation needs that exist along this Corridor. In particular, area residents must be concerned with making sure the Highway 37 portion of the project is not given second billing.

Highway 37 serves as an important link between northwest Arkansas and southwest Missouri, two of the nation's fastest growing areas. To maximize this potential, Highway 37 must eventually become a four-lane roadway. This would be an expensive undertaking but one we believe is of utmost importance for the economic development of this region and the entire state. MoDOT and the Missouri Highway Commission needs to fully understand the needs of southwest Missouri, and it's up to us to verbalize those needs at public meetings like the one that will be held next week in Aurora.

We hope to see a huge Barry County contingent at that meeting. It is an open house meeting where citizens will come and go and have the opportunity to speak with various MoDOT officials and consultants involved in the Corridor Study process. These individuals will be collecting information on the need for these improvements and it will be up to the citizens of Barry County to voice that need.