STANTON — The government shutdown came at an inconvenient time for Montcalm County natural resource services.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) building at 77 S. State St. (M-66) in Stanton, which houses the Farm Services Agency office and the Montcalm Conservation District office, was shut down one week ago today as part of a national government shutdown.
The timing couldn’t have been worse for Judy Cloer, the executive director of the Montcalm Conservation District, who has been preparing for the 65th annual conservation district meeting. Cloer knew there was a possibility of a government shutdown, but she was hoping for the best. However, she was informed in the early morning hours one week ago today that she and her employees had about two hours to close the office. This included stopping all mail, changing answering machine and email messages and posting a notice on the building.
“I tried to think of what I needed to grab,” Cloer said. “By 10 a.m., we were all gone from the office.”
Because she is technically a state employee, Cloer is allowed to work from home, which she has been trying to do in preparation for the annual conservation district meeting, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Montcalm Community College Doser Building in Sidney. The annual meeting is required to take place by law.
Cloer had purchased special stationary on which to send out official invitations, but she forgot the stationary in her rush to close the Stanton office. She’s been emailing and mailing out invitations from her home, but she’s only received five responses so far, which concerns her as the annual meeting typically attracts more than 100 people.
“It’s been a really stressful week,” Cloer said. “We thought about postponing the meeting, but I already paid for the Doser Building reservation.”
Anyone wishing to attend the annual meeting should make reservations by Monday by calling Cloer at (616) 894-3570. The meeting will feature elections for two directors, along with a presentation from featured speaker Ben Wickerham, a regional field representative for Peasants Forever. Cost to attend the meeting is $15 and includes a catered dinner, plus door prizes.
The Montcalm Conservation District offers services directed toward erosion control, efficient land use, soil productivity, water management and land stewardship. The office also has an annual tree sale and serves as a go-between for local people and government agencies.
Jeremy Sova, a district conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service with the Farm Services Agency, also works in the USDA building in Stanton. His office provides assistance to farmers regarding crop rotation, seeding, watering and proper use of nutrients and pesticides. The office also helps people who have questions about plants or weeds or bugs; houses old maps, which are a helpful resource for farmers; and acts as a go-between for local people and government agencies.
“Our bread and butter is the programs we have through the farm bill, including the environmental quality incentives program, which provides cost share to land owners, people who are involved in forestry or agriculture,” Sova said.
He said this is a busy time of year for his office, as farmers are harvesting their crops and preparing for cold weather. Being a federal employee, Sova is not allowed to work at all during the government shutdown, not even as a volunteer.
“It’s not affecting everybody, but certainly it is having an impact,” he said. “If it gets drug out much longer, bills might start piling up.
“In the short term, I’ve been catching up on chores around the house,” he added.