News from Representative Tom Emmer

Dear Friend,

Happy first day of spring!

Today is also National Agriculture Day –  day to recognize our nation’s farmers and ranchers and all that they do for the great state of Minnesota and this country.

Last Tuesday I introduced the STRESS Act to help these folks. Our farmers and ranchers are suffering from disproportionately high rates of suicide because of economic stress and lack of mental health treatment available.

Five Facts You Need to Know About Farmer Suicide:

1. Compared to the general population, farmers are 5x more likely to commit suicide.

2. Of the farmers who commit suicide, one of every 4 is over the age of 65 and male.

3. There’s an incredible lack of treatment available in the U.S. Half the counties in America have no psychologist, no psychiatrist, and no clinical social worker.

4. Farmers tend to be incredibly tough and self-reliant and avoid seeking behavioral health treatment even when they need it.

5. Farm sector income has seen the steepest drop in 3 years since the Great Depression (- 45%). Studies have shown a strong correlation between depressed income and depression rates among farmers.


What is the STRESS Act?

The Stemming the Tide of Rural Economic Stress and Suicide (STRESS) Act is a bill to reauthorize a program called the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN).

FRSAN was first authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, but since it never received funding, the program never got off the ground. FRSAN would grant out funds to various state efforts (such as extension services, 501(c)3s, and commodity groups) to roll out local mental health assistance efforts specific to farmers and ranchers.

The STRESS Act reauthorizes FRSAN, which then allows it to be funded by the dollars it needs during the appropriations process.

(In the city of endless acronyms and inside baseball terms, the Washington, D.C. “Inside the Beltway” language can get confusing. There is an important difference between “authorization” and “appropriation.” It’s easiest to think about the difference using the analogy of filling a bucket of water. Authorization determines the size and shape of the bucket. Appropriation determines how full the bucket is going to be – full, halfway full, less or somewhere in between. Except of course, rather than talking about buckets and water, we are actually talking about programs and dollars.)

What They’re Saying:

National Rural Health Association: "For those in rural areas seeking mental health services, they face two giant obstacles: availability and accessibility. In 55% of all American counties, most of which are rural, there is not a single psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker. The Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) could help support agricultural workers and their families in rural communities by providing easily obtainable resources for mental health services.” 

Minnesota Farmers Union: "Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) thanks Rep. Emmer for introducing the Stress Act aimed at assisting farmers dealing with mental health issues that have been highlighted in recent months with a continued sluggish farm economy, especially for dairy farmers. MFU will continue to work with Rep. Emmer to see that this important and needed legislation is passed by Congress in a timely manner.”

National Farmers Union: “Farming and ranching is a highly stressful occupation. As the downturn in the farm economy worsens, many producers are finding themselves in a state of financial crisis. Unfortunately, many family farmers and ranchers lack access to the support they need in times of extreme duress. FRSAN would fund partnerships to train farm advocates, establish helplines, and provide outreach and support services. NFU has long advocated for these resources, and we applaud the efforts of Representative Emmer… to ensure family farmers get the support they need to stay healthy and afloat through these tough times. We urge Congress to strengthen FRSAN and provide it with robust funding in the next Farm Bill.”

What Happens Next?

The 2018 Farm Bill is up for introduction in the coming weeks. I am confident that the STRESS Act will be included, as it has support from both sides of the aisle. Original co-sponsors include: Reps. Tom O'Halleran (D-AZ), Rick Nolan (D-MN), David Young (R-IA), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), John Katko (R-NY), John Faso (R-NY) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME).

I’ve received support and encouragement from the House Agricultural Committee as well. Stay up to date on introduction of the Farm Bill and the STRESS Act by following me on Twitter and Facebook.

You can also share your thoughts by writing to me here.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, know that help is available. Please call: Farm Aide at 1-800-327-6243 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available 24 hours every day, at 1-800-273-8255 or chat with them online by clicking here.


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