BY JACLYN ROSE –
Farm Credit of Western Arkansas is a cooperative that serves the financing needs for the agriculture industry, as well as, the financing needs of rural Arkansas. Owned by its customers, Farm Credit gives their profits back to their customers by providing them with patronage checks. Since 1997, Farm Credit has paid back at least $79,000,000.00 to Western Arkansas.
Though Farm Credit itself is nation wide, they divide themselves into regions with Farm Credit of Western Arkansas covering a line from Central Arkansas down to the southern border and encompassing all of the western part of the state. There are around 20 individual branches in Western Arkansas with the Mena branch serving not only Polk County, but also Scott and Montgomery Counties.
Farm Credit System was started by Congress in 1916 in a day when farmers sometimes struggled to obtain the financing they needed to start their businesses. Though they focus solely on financing, they cover more than just agriculture; they also finance rural home and acreage loans, loans on timberland, equipment, poultry, cattle, and areas that support the rural lifestyle. All their loans are kept in house and are never sold to a third party.
The Mena Branch is managed by Rex Dollar, a local man who was raised on a poultry and cattle farm in Pine Ridge. After graduating from Oden High School in neighboring Montgomery County, he completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Ag Business from Southern Arkansas University and began working for the Cooperative Extension Service. After working around the state for nine years, during which time he completed his Master’s Degree in General Agriculture and met and married his wife, Amy, he moved back home in 2006 and continued to work with the Extension Office for one year before beginning his career with Farm Credit in 2007. The Dollar’s have two children: Addi, their nine year old daughter and David, their five year old son.
Farm Credit of Western Arkansas has had a presence in Polk County for many years. The Financial Service Specialist for the Mena Branch, Donne Johnson, has served the area for at least 28 years. “Donne, as well as, Robin Saylor, who works at our Waldron office and Sarah O’Neal who works in our Glenwood office, does so many things. They are the first people someone sees when they walk into the office and they handle the day to day taking care of our customers. They are our faces to the public when they come in. They are invaluable,” said Dollar.
The vast majority of people who are employed by Farm Credit have an agriculture background, which is worth so much to their customers. “We stay familiar with the industry and we understand how cash flow works on farms. The loan structure is always dependent on the cash flow for each operation. We tailor payment plans for their needs and what works for them,” Dollar explained.
“I enjoy having the chance to serve the agriculture industry and rural Polk County. I’ve always thought people in agriculture are one of the best groups of people to work with; they are exceptional to work with and work for. I have worked all over the state and it is consistent, rural Arkansas is made up of good people who care about others and are enjoyable to work with. I enjoy being able to help people do things and see the results and watch them be successful and think we had a small part in that. My family has used Farm Credit for generations, I remember coming in as a child with my grandfather. I’m proud to be a part of their work in Western Arkansas,” Dollar said.