LOUISVILLE — More than 70 individuals who suffered losses from the April 28 tornadoes visited the state’s first Agriculture Disaster Center May 15 at the Mississippi State University Extension Service office in Louisville.
Representatives from the Mississippi Board of Animal Health, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency were on hand to answer farmers’ questions about recovery resources.
Information about the recovery process was also provided by personnel from the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, MSU Extension Service, Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, Mississippi Forestry Commission and the Mississippi Poultry Association.
The four-hour event was offered to address specific recovery needs related to poultry, cattle and timber.
The MSU Extension Service organized the event at the request of Winston County Emergency Management Director Buddy King, who said he hopes it will be a pattern for the future.
“While we can’t change what the tornado did, we can change how we respond in the future,” King said. “Partnering with the Extension Service to organize the center was natural because of their knowledge of agriculture and the role Extension plays in facilitating training of emergency management personnel throughout the state.”
Winston County poultry growers Brenda Goodin and her mother, Marie Myers, lost two poultry houses, several thousand birds, their homes, barn and other farm buildings. They met with Natural Resource Conservation Service representatives at the center.
“Trying to find the help that’s available for farms like ours has been an ordeal, so something like this today is needed,” Goodin said. “We are starting the recovery process, but one of the things we still need is to find is a bank that makes farm loans. None are available locally.”
What Goodin and Myers are experiencing is typical of what is happening to many farm families in Winston and surrounding counties hit by the late April tornadoes, said Extension Poultry Specialist Tom Tabler.
“As much as we would like quick fixes, it will take time in most cases,” Tabler said. “Other Extension personnel and I will continue to visit farms and focus on the recovery process as long as needed.”
While the Agriculture Disaster Center in Winston County may be a first, Extension Service partnerships at the local level are nothing new, said MSU Extension Director Gary Jackson.
“Extension is university based, but our mission is to provide educational programs and other resources through our offices in every county in Mississippi,” Jackson said. “Those resources include the role our Center for Government and Community Development personnel play in emergency management training and service at Emergency Operations Centers during emergencies.”