Ernst, Baldwin Continue Work to Support Mental Health Needs of Agriculture Communities
The senators are teaming up again to deliver for farmers through the FARMERS FIRST Act.
During Mental Health Awareness Month, U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, are building off of their bipartisan efforts to provide our nation’s agricultural community with critical mental health support and resources.
After their legislation was included in the 2018 Farm Bill, the senators are teaming up again to deliver for farmers through the Facilitating Accessible Resources for Mental Health and Encouraging Rural Solutions For Immediate Response to Stressful Times (FARMERS FIRST) Act.
“Iowa farmers are the backbone of our agriculture economy, but first and foremost they’re part of a family. We cannot overlook the mental health struggles our men and women in farming face. After seeing the success of the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, it’s evident we must continue supporting these important mental health resources for Iowa farm families and the agriculture community,” said Senator Ernst.
“Farmers, ranchers, and growers are the heart of our rural communities, and we can and must do more to support their mental health and well-being. I’m proud to once again partner with Senator Ernst to introduce this bill to increase funding for the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network and connect more Wisconsinites with the resources they need to take care of themselves and their loved ones,” said Senator Baldwin.
“Anyone dealing with stress or mental health challenges should know that they are not alone, and help is available. It is critical that Iowa’s farmers and rural communities have access to high quality health care, including mental health services,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has previously received a grant from the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, and we have developed an impactful partnership with Iowa State University Extension to implement mental health assistance programs for Iowans. I want to thank Senator Ernst and the bi-partisan coalition of Senators for introducing the Farmers First Act of 2023, which would re-authorize this network for several more years and allow us to continue to offer these vital, life-saving mental health services.”
“These additional resources are very sorely needed in our rural communities, especially for the most vulnerable farmers. We know that agricultural stressors from financial, climate, and farm transition challenges will only continue. Ongoing FRSAN funding will help ensure that farmers have the support they need,” said Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health Director Brandi Janssen.
“The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) applauds Senators Baldwin and Ernst for their leadership on ensuring access to mental health care for rural agricultural communities. The Farmers First Act of 2023 supports the continuation of the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, expanding the network of rural providers to deliver critical services to farming and ranching populations,” said Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Health Association.
“Farming is a stressful job, even in good times, and rural residents often face unique barriers to seeking mental health care,” said Farm Credit Council president and CEO Todd Van Hoose. “FRSAN brings valuable stress assistance services and expertise to the farm and ranch communities most in need of resources. Farm Credit commends Senators Baldwin and Ernst for their leadership on the Farmers First Act.”
The FARMERS FIRST Act would help state departments of agriculture, state extension services, and non-profits to establish helplines, provide suicide prevention training for farm advocates, create support groups, and reestablish the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN).
Four regional centers established through FRSAN are currently increasing access to farm stress services across the U.S. by coordinating efforts to serve the unique needs of the populations in each region. Funding for this critical program has supported the expansion of telephone helplines and hotlines; training programs to increase mental health literacy and stress management among agricultural producers and individuals engaged in other agricultural occupations; and support groups for farmworkers.
The FARMERS FIRST Act is endorsed by National Farmers Union, National Rural Health Association, National Milk Producers Federation, Agricultural Retailers Association, The National Council, FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative, Young Farmers, Organic Trade Association, American Psychological Association Services, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, Rural & Agriculture Council of America, NCBA CLUSA, Farm Credit Council, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, Organic Farmers Assocation, National Pork Producers Council, American Soybean Association, Midwest Dairy Coalition, FarmAid, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Sustainable Food Policy Alliance, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, National Organic Coalition, Farmer Veteran Coalition, and American Farm Bureau Federation.