Job Stress Considered as Possible Cause of Farm Loan Official's Murder-Suicide

Article excerpt

CHICAGO -- Job stress because of farm problems may have been related to a murder-suicide committed by a Farmers Home Administration official who killed his family and himself last week in South Dakota.

Bruce Litchfield, 39, county supervisor for the Armers Home Administration, Elk Point, S.D., killed his wife and two childred at home last Wednesday and then shot himself in his office, according to the local sheriff's department. The bodies of the wife and children were discovered by a local clergyman who had been sent to tell them about the suicide.

Mr. Litchfield left behind a short note. Its contents were not released. "It basically said, 'I can't take the pressure anymore,'" said Bud rasmussen, Sheriff of Union County, S.D.

According to wire service reports, Mr. Litchfield was troubled by new regulations that the Farmers Home Administration has been enforcing. Mr. Rasmussen said "it is entirely possible," that job-related stress was behind the shootings.

Last week, the administration announced that it was going to begin sending notices to farmers who are delinquent on federal loans, stating that they must bring the loans up to date or face foreclosure. The notices would end what was in effect a two-year, court-ordered moratorium on farm foreclosures by the agency.

An estimated 90,000 farmers, or about a third of those with loans from the farmers administration, are said to be behind in payments. The agency, considered the lender of last resort for farmers, has promised to show forbearance to farmers.

Local Farmers Home Administaration officials said they do not believe that job stress was behind Mr. Litchfield's actions. Andy Brendon, administrative officer in the state office of the farm lending agency in Huron, S.D., said that he personally had talked to Mr. Litchfield the day before the shootings and that Mr. Litchfield had seemed to be in good spirits.

In addition, he said, the Elk Point office of the Farmers Home Administration is not dealing with a large number of farmers in danger of foreclosure. …