The report, called “Rural America at a Glance,” highlights deteriorating rural counties throughout the United States, including many in Missouri and Arkansas.
Tom Vilsack, the US Secretary of Agriculture, said the report highlighted the need for a new farm bill and economic policies designed to boost small, agricultural towns.
“Too many people still have trouble finding a good job. The populations of too many small towns and rural communities are shrinking,” said a statement from Vilsack’s office. “This is just one more reminder that we need a national commitment to create new opportunities in rural America that keeps folks in our small towns and reignites economic growth across the nation.”
Ozark Co., is listed on multiple USDA maps highlighting areas with a declining population and increasing unemployment.
Antler Pizza, a mainstay restaurant in the county seat of Gainsville, serves up a unique homemade pie in a homey atmosphere. The owner, Pamela Cramm says owning a restaurant in a small town is a rewarding challenge.
“We just try to do do what we can do,” she said. “It's a great place to live and I wouldn't live anyplace else.”
Down the street at the Old Ford Market, Charlene Schlotzhauer agreed that Gainsville's economy had slowed in recent years.
"When I was a kid coming up here with my grandparents you couldn't find a place to park," she recalled. "“The farm town part of it just kind of dried up and new businesses didn’t come back in.”
But Scholtzhauer and Cramm agreed that rural communities have an element larger cities often lack.
"This is a town of people helping people," Cramm said. "And if they ever need anything they know they're a phone call away."
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