The Farmers First Act is an important component of the farm bill that slid under most farmers’ radar. Through this program, State Departments of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension and nonprofits will receive funding to help develop programs to boost mental health in rural America.
“In Wisconsin I can tell you ... the stress level is just incredible, as it is throughout agriculture, but I see it very pronounced in dairy, where we lost over 600 dairy farms, mostly small- and medium-sized, last year,” Senator Tammi Baldwin, D-Wis., who co-authored the bill, told Chip Flory on “AgriTalk.”
Farmers on the radio broadcast are grateful for the program and said they see neighbors and friends struggling with mental health.
“I think we’re getting used to talking about this more in the farming world,” said Dennis Bogaards, an Iowa farmer. “My dad would have never talked about it. I know a couple of guys around me who have financial problems. One of them really struggled with some depression. He had a real tough time going through what he did. So, I think it’s a very important topic and anything we can do to help out, including what the senator is doing, is great.”
Indiana farmer Don Lamb said nearly every farmer he knows is struggling with financial stress right now.
“When you talk about the question ‘what keeps you up at night,’ my first thought is almost always how I feel about what I’m doing. Do I really feel good about what I’m doing? Am I being responsible? I’ve got employees to take care of, so stress is a big thing and in agriculture, it always has been. But I think it’s getting much bigger as we get bigger farms.”