Jan 29, 2020
Farmers in distress helped by programs, USDA says

Have you ever felt like you reached your breaking point? Known someone who has? Didn’t know where to turn when you needed help?

Financial pressure. Job loss. Relationship challenges. Social isolation. Compound Stress. Any and all can lead one to question, “What’s the point?” Even the most resilient among us can be brought to our knees.

That’s a key reason the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) is forming. America’s farmers and ranchers are a notoriously resilient bunch. They wake early no matter the weather and toil long hours to ensure crops and livestock are nurtured and healthy. They take on high levels of risk to fund their operations. They operate with a mindset that they can overcome adversity – be it from the weather, pests, or markets.

But when all those forces align to create a perfect storm, it can become that much harder to wait for the rainbow that may follow. Sadly, suicide rates among agricultural producers and workers have charted higher than national averages. This is due, in part, to not knowing where and when to turn for help.

Created by the 2018 Farm Bill and funded by the FY 2019 Consolidated Appropriations Act, FRSAN is designed to provide stress assistance programs to individuals who are engaged in farming, ranching, and other agriculture-related occupations. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) recently funded four regional entities, totaling $1.92 million, to help launch the network:

  1. Farm and Ranch Wellness in the North Central led by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, in conjunction with University of Minnesota Extension;
  2. Western Regional Agricultural Stress Assistance Program led by Washington State University and Oregon State University Extension;
  3. Southern Region Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network led by Agrisafe Network; and
  4. Building and Inclusive and Comprehensive Network for Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance in the Northeast led by National Young Farmers Coalition Inc.

The expectation is that agriculture producers and their families will now have greater opportunities to find help in their communities and states. A list of NIFA’s funding investments for this program is available on the NIFA website. The recently signed into law FY2020 Further Consolidated Appropriations Act provides an additional funding to FRSAN. NIFA expects to release the FY2020 Request for Applications by March 2020.

A young, worried farmer feels the weight of managing a farm. The Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network can help this farmer deal with farming pressures. Image: Courtesy of Getty Images.

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