USDA Service Upgraded

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Thursday opened a new service center in Meridian.

The new location is 1030 Highway 19 South, near the Lauderdale County Agricenter.

It will serve Lauderdale and Clarke Counties and houses the Farm Service Agency, USDA Rural Development Office and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

"We have a lot more farmers, we'll say, in the delta than we do up here, but we still want to service the farmers equally all over the state," says Mickey Black, director of the Farm Service Agency.

"People will be able to come to find out about their farm loans and the junior farming programs to how problems with erosion that they have in their areas, as well as a place to find a home and to find access to financing to own your own home," said Nick Walters, state director of USDA Rural Development.

Earlier, Walters met with officials at Rush Hospital in Meridian and Laird Hospital in Union to discuss expanding rural health care in Mississippi through access to USDA rural development funds.

"One of my goals as state director has been to increase the amount of our money that goes to rural health care," said Walters. "In this regard, we have had some success in putting more funds into rural health care projects, such as a new hospital in Newton and expansions of a hospital in Jefferson Davis County and of health clinics all over the state."

Walters said the first step is making sure health care administrators know about the availability of the USDA funds.