GOVERNMENT

Grassley, Montana senator address farmer suicide

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As the only farmers currently serving in the U.S. Senate, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Jon Tester, D-Montana, introduced legislation aimed at reducing suicides on the nation’s farms.

The Seeding Rural Resilience Act aims to curb the rising rate of such suicides.

“Farmers are increasingly feeling the pain of sinking commodity prices, devastating natural disasters and ongoing trade disruptions,” Grassley said. “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 provide the assistance necessary to encourage farmers and their families during difficult times.”

Rural America has a crisis on its hands, Tester said.

“I see it in my community, and I see it in the small communities across Montana,” he said. “Lack of resources, stalled crop prices, isolation and the stigma against receiving mental-health care have caused more and more farmers to take their own lives. This bill is no silver bullet, but it puts us on track towards giving our farmers the resources they need so they can keep doing what they do best — feeding the world.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate is 45 percent higher in rural America than in urban areas. Americans in rural communities face isolation, distance from basic health-care services, lack of broadband access, stigmas against receiving counseling and financial burdens due to stagnant crop prices. These factors cause higher rates of stress for American farmers and ranchers, making it even harder for people in rural communities to get by.

The senators’ Seeding Rural Resilience Act implements a voluntary stress-management training program to Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency and National Resources Conservation Service Employees, providing 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 directing the secretary of agriculture to work with state, local and nongovernmental stakeholders to determine best practices for responding to farm and ranch mental stress.

The legislation is supported by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Farm Aid, the Female Farmer Project, the National Association of Mental Illness, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Family Farm Coalition and the National Young Farmers Coalition.

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