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Seeding Rural Resilience Act Would Help Farmers and Ranchers Address Mental Health Concerns In Rural Areas

Representatives Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), John Katko (NY-24), and Angie Craig (MN-02) are fighting to increase mental health care options for producers and rural communities across the country. Brindisi led a group of Democrats and Republicans to introduce the Seeding Rural Resilience Act,  a bipartisan bill to help address the growing rate of suicide in rural parts of the country.

“A career in agriculture is a difficult but rewarding life,” Brindisi said. “Our Upstate farmers help feed the world, but unfortunately, many bear incredible burdens. Whether it’s low prices, a trade war, or Mother Nature, much of a farmer’s bottom line is out of their control, and that uncertainty can add to daily stresses. Our bill will help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health in our rural communities and ensure all farmers have better access to mental health care.”

“Central New York’s economy is largely driven by the local farms that have been passed down from generation to generation. But, the current rate of suicide in rural communities is 45% higher than it is in urban areas,” said Rep Katko (NY-24). “Facing isolation and stigma associated with seeking mental healthcare, farmers often fail to seek out care.  We must ensure these families in our region have access to the mental health resources that they need. As co-chair of the bipartisan Mental Health Caucus, I have prioritized improving access to mental healthcare for all Americans – and I am proud now to join Representatives Brindisi and Craig in introducing The Seeding Rural Resilience Act, bipartisan legislation that aims to improve mental healthcare for farming families by  implementing suicide prevention training programs and promoting awareness of mental illness in rural areas.  I am confident this legislation will make meaningful progress to improve mental healthcare for our region’s rural communities.”

“I’ve talked with farmers whose families have farmed on the same land for generations describe the stress inflicted by the current farm crisis. Earlier this year I held a roundtable focused on rural mental health in Wabasha, I’ve also walked with farmers on their land as they describe the sense of isolation that can set in with uncertain markets and low commodity prices,” said Rep. Angie Craig (MN-02). “I understand that right now we must expand mental health resources to support Minnesota farmers, and I’m proud to expand resources that meet farmers where they live.”

From 1999 to 2016, suicide rates grew in nearly all 50 states. New York’s 22nd Congressional district has a higher rate of suicide than the state average. And according to the Center for Disease Control, the suicide rate is 45 percent higher in rural areas than in urban areas.

Brindisi’s bill was praised by Upstate New York farmers and advocates.

“We appreciate Congressman Brindisi recognizing the struggle that some NY farmers are currently experiencing,” said Upstate New York farmer Bret Bossard. “Mental health awareness is a positive step in the right direction towards bringing awareness to this growing problem.”

“New York Farm Bureau supports efforts to increase both mental health awareness in the farming community and resources available to assist farmers facing high levels of stress,” said New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher. “Times remain tough for many farmers, and it is imperative that agency staff, who are regularly meeting with farmers, know how to identify people who may be struggling and direct them to appropriate help. In addition, efforts to educate rural communities on mental health issues can provide an opportunity to open up a dialogue and reduce the stigma often surrounding it. This support could not only save a farm, it could save a life.”

“I want to thank Anthony Brindisi for his continuous efforts to bring services to rural America,” said Remsen farmer Ben Simons. “As a longtime farmer and active member of the agricultural community, I can tell you that a lot of farmers struggle with their mental health whether it is from the stress of running a business that deals with a lot of uncertainties or because of factors like low milk prices and a tough economy.  The Congressman’s Seeding Rural Resilience Act will increase access to programs to help farmers identify and manage their stress and to know that there is help when you need it is crucial to the health of our agricultural and rural communities.  Farmers are very resilient, but everyone needs support from time to time!”

The bipartisan legislation would:

  • Implement a Farmer-Facing Employee Training Program that requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide voluntary stress management training to Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency, and National Resources Conservation Service Employees.
  • Form a partnership between the Department of Health and Human Services and USDA to create a $3 million PSA to increase public awareness of farm and ranch stress and destigmatize mental health care in rural communities.
  • Direct the Secretary of Agriculture to work with state, local, and nongovernmental stakeholders to collaborate and determine best practices for responding to farm and ranch mental stress.

The companion bill in the Senate is sponsored by Senators Jon Tester (MT) and Chuck Grassley (IA).

The bill is also supported by the American Dairy Coalition, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychological Association, Farm Aid, Female Farmer Project, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Corn Growers’ Association, National Family Farm Coalition, National Farmers’ Union, National Sunflower Association, National Young Farmers Coalition, Rural & Agricultural Council of America, U.S. Canola Association, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, and the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Association.

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