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Farmer suicide reduction bill tabled

Farmer suicide reduction bill tabled

Senators Chuck Grassley and Jon Tester introduced the Seeding Rural Resilience Act

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

Two producers serving in the U.S. Senate introduced a bill designed to reduce farmer suicides.

Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and John Tester (D-Mont.) brought forward the Seeding Rural Resilience Act which, if passed, would dedicate resources from federal departments to minimize the number of farmer suicides.

The suicide rate in rural America is about 45 percent higher than in urban areas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

“Farmers are increasingly feeling the pain of sinking commodity prices, devastating natural disasters and ongoing trade disruptions,” Sen. Grassley, who co-owns a 750-acre grain farm with his sons, said in an Oct. 16 statement. “That, coupled with the largely solitary nature of farming, has led more and more family farmers to desperation and feelings of hopelessness. This should not be the case.

“This bill continues important efforts to raise awareness about this issue and provides the assistance necessary to encourage farmers and their families during difficult times.”

The legislation has three main components:

  • The bill mandates the creation of a voluntary stress management training program for Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency and National Resources Conservation Service employees.
  • It provides the ag and health and human services departments with US$3 million to create a public service announcement campaign about the issue of farmer suicide.
  • The bill directs the Secretary of Agriculture to work with stakeholders to determine best practices for responding to farm and ranch mental stress.

U.S. producers are pleased with a piece of legislation focused on farmer mental health.

The fact that the bill is a bipartisan effort reflects the significance of this issue, said Nathan Engelhard, a cash cropper from Unionville, Mich.

“I think it shows how important this topic is,” he told Farms.com. “For these two senators to work together to present this bill is pretty cool. Farmer suicide is something that affects all farmers, no matter the sector we’re in, so I’m happy to see senators taking some action.”

Engelhard is participating in a social media campaign called #NoShaveHarvest to raise awareness about farmer suicide. He won’t shave until harvest is finished and he’s hoping other producers will follow suit.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can provide support or resources for those individuals affected by suicide. Each state also has local suicide hotlines.

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More urgent is raising the prices farmers receive. We need parity: supply management with price supports and conservation, Green New Deal Parity for the 21st century. Then farmers will be able to keep our farms and will be too busy working to get so depressed we want to kill ourselves. Higher prices are better for rural communities too and will reduce overproduction, the Butz-Purdue model of chasing our tails growing more to try to keep up.
Elizabeth Henderson |Oct 20 2019 8:03AM