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Farmers Filing Into Unemployment Offices For New Or Second Jobs With AM-Farm Crisis

January 28, 1985

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Tough times on the land are propelling a growing number of Iowa farmers into state and private employment agencies, where many are finding only more frustration.

″I would say we are seeing at least three to four times as many farmers as we normally do,″ said Bonnie Jergenson, manager of the Humboldt Job Service office. She said she noticed the increase about two months ago.

Farmers used to come to the state’s Job Service to hire extra field hands, she said. Now they come seeking work for themselves.

Although farmers are hard workers and have a variety of skills, Ms. Jergenson said she’s having a hard time placing them in new jobs.

″They don’t like what’s happened to them. They are used to being respected members of the community. Now the economy has gotten them. Definitely there is some bitterness,″ she said.

Larry Moneysmith, Job Service office manager in Red Oak, said he can find jobs for about 20 percent of the unemployed farmers in his area and that his office also provides farmers with food from a relief pantry.

Larry Paul, Job Service district manager in Mason City, said most of the farmers he sees tend to be age 40 and under. Some bought land at high prices in the late 1970s and early ’80s and now can’t afford to pay for it. They also can’t sell it because of falling land values.

The state Office of Planning and Programming has 80 men training for new jobs in its Dislocated Farmer Program, which began last July, said Nicky Schissel, an executive assistant with the agency.

″Considering what we are seeing with the devaluation of farm land, I’m sure we will see a steady flow of farmers who will have to change occupations,″ Ms. Schissel said.

Peter Brent is one farmer who made the change. In September 1983, after nine years of farming in the Stuart-Menlo area, Brent sold his farm.

A succession of odd jobs followed, including driving trucks and delivering papers. Now, he’s taking calls from farmers on the Farm Crisis Hotline for Rural America, a rural advocacy group, in Des Moines.

″I’m giving them someone to talk to,″ Brent said. ″I’m trying to make sure they’re not panic-stricken ... You want to make sure they sit down with a calm and cool head ... They call and say ‘I’m looking for a job so I can stay on the farm,’ and all I can say is that I understand.″

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