Farm Aid is glad to endorse a new bipartisan bill in the Senate, introduced this week by Senators Jon Tester (D-Montana) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). The Seeding Rural Resilience Act aims to curb the rising rate of farmer suicides in America. The bill will:
- implement a voluntary stress management training program for Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency, and National Resources Conservation Service employee;
- provide the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture with $3 million to create a PSA campaign bringing awareness to the issue; and
- direct the Secretary of Agriculture to work with state, local, and nongovernmental stakeholders to determine best practices for responding to farm and ranch mental stress.
We think that last initiative is crucially important. Farmer service organizations across the country have responded to these kinds of challenges for decades and are experienced to work with farmers in crisis. Their challenge lies in accessing resources to do this critical work, especially when the need is so great. Efforts like this one and the Farmer and Rancher Stress Assistance Network, which was re-authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, are important to both call attention to the need for increased mental health resources in rural America—especially for farmers and other who work in agriculture—and to bring those resources to where they are most needed.
It must be mentioned, however, that increasing the resources to respond to farmers suffering as result of the current farm crisis does not wholly address the problem. We must also work to ensure that policies are in place to guarantee family farmers a fair price in a fair marketplace.
Read the full text of the Seeding Rural Resilience Act below: