Citing high rates of suicide in farm country, Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, are introducing a bill to provide mental health support and more resources in rural areas.
The bipartisan Facilitating Accessible Resources for Mental Health and Encouraging Rural Solutions for Immediate Response to Stressful Times (FARMERS FIRST), is co-sponsored by Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and has support from more than 10 farm and rural organizations.
The measure, which the senators hope to include in a new farm bill, would authorize USDA to provide $50 million over 5 years in seed funding through state departments of agriculture, state extension services, and non-profits to establish helplines, provide suicide prevention training, create support groups, and reestablish the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network.
The measure would also establish a Farm and Ranch Stress Assessment Committee to make recommendations for addressing mental health care needs within the agriculture community.
The bill "will make sure that when there is a crisis on the farm, farmers know they are not alone and there are resources available to help them find a path through tough times," Baldwin said.
(Story updated at 12:40 p.m. to include additional cosponsors)