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Feenstra Leads Legislation to Expand Behavioral Health Resources for Iowa Farmers and Producers

Today, U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull) introduced the Farmers First Act, which would expand and improve behavioral health services in rural communities and connect those in times of crisis with trained medical professionals to receive the personalized care that they need.

This legislation would reauthorize the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN), increase funding to a total of $15,000,000 annually over the next five years, and allow FRSAN regional centers to establish referral connections with certified community behavioral health clinics, critical access hospitals, and rural health centers.

“Agriculture is the economic engine of Iowa and the livelihood of farmers, their families, and rural communities across my district. Farming can be a lonely endeavor, and it can also be a stressful industry when the economy takes a turn for the worse, tornadoes and derechos devastate farmland, and animal diseases infect flocks and livestock – all of which impact the wellbeing of our producers,” said Rep. Feenstra. “As a strong voice for our farmers in Congress, I am proud to lead legislation to expand behavioral health resources in our rural communities and connect our farmers with medical professionals who can provide the care that our producers deserve. I thank my colleagues – Reps. Mike Bost, Zach Nunn, Jim Costa, and Angie Craig – for joining me on this worthy mission to ensure that our hardworking farmers have access to the resources that they need to continue their selfless work feeding and fueling our country and the world.”

“Our farmers and producers are the backbone of our nation’s economy; and their job isn’t easy. It’s a stressful business where livelihoods can be impacted by outside – and sometimes uncontrollable – factors, like market conditions, financial pressures, and the weather,” said Rep. Mike Bost. “It’s important that they have somewhere to turn in times of need. I’m proud to help lead this legislation to expand access to mental health services for our hardworking Americans in rural communities. They need to know they are not alone, and that help is available.”

“Farmers and farm workers are some of the toughest, hardest working people I know, but farming is a uniquely stressful job and we’ve got to get them the support they need,” said Rep. Angie Craig. “I’m working across the aisle to ensure that farmers and rural Americans know that there are resources available to them to help deal with stress and mental health challenges.”

“More than 1 in 5 U.S. adults live with a mental illness. Congress cannot continue to ignore the mental health crisis in America. Rural farming communities have limited or no access to mental health services – making it difficult for farmers, farmworkers, and their families to get the support they need,” said Rep. Jim Costa. “I’m proud to co-lead this bipartisan bill to expand vital, life-saving mental health services here at home and across rural America.”

“Iowa’s farmers are critical to the American economy, providing the essential service of feeding and fueling our country. Sadly, farmers are also three and a half times more likely to commit suicide than the general population, which is exactly why the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network is so important,” said Rep. Zach Nunn. “We’re introducing the bipartisan Farmers First Act to ensure farmers have the help, care, and services they need to thrive.”

“Farming and ranching are stressful jobs, with so many factors impacting how we run our businesses. From natural disasters to labor shortages, uncertainty is almost always present for farmers and ranchers which is why resources like the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network are so critical in rural communities. AFBF appreciates Rep. Fenestra for his leadership on this important legislation, as well as Senators Baldwin and Ernst for their longstanding commitment to supporting access to mental health resources for farmers and ranchers across the country,” said Zippy Duvall, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) applauds Representatives Feenstra, Costa, Bost, Craig, and Nunn 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.

“A challenging environment this year has created both economic and emotional stress for dairy producers. The Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network provides important resources that can support farmers and their families during times of crisis. We commend Reps. Feenstra, Costa, Bost, Craig, and Nunn for authoring the bipartisan Farmers First Act to continue and enhance FRSAN for the betterment of all farmers and rural communities,” said Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation.

“Access to mental health services continues to pose a serious challenge to many rural communities,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, CEO of the American Psychological Association. “The stressors and barriers facing each community are unique, and the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network program gives rural and frontier communities the flexibility they need to meet their mental health needs. We send our thanks to Congressman Feenstra for his leadership in introducing this bill in the House, and we urge Congress to pass the Farmers First Act soon.”

“Farmers and people living in rural areas face unique challenges to their mental health, made worse by a lack of convenient access to comprehensive care and services. The Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) helps expand access to high-quality care through partnerships with Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, which offer free 24/7 access to mental health and crisis services, reduced wait times, and innovative programs designed to be available when and where people need them. Increased funding for FRSAN will connect more people to care, reduce stigma, and help save lives,” said Reyna Taylor, Senior Vice President, Public Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Mental Wellbeing.

“Farming is a physical taxing and, at times, exceptionally stressful line of work,” said Harold Wolle, President of the National Corn Growers Association. “Ensuring that farmers have access to good mental health care is essential and at times lifesaving. That is why we are deeply appreciative of these policymakers for sponsoring legislation that will help farmers access the mental health care resources they need.”


“Farming and the financial insecurity associated with farming can be very stressful. Farmers dealing with stress-related mental health challenges often feel stigmatized if they seek help, which only compounds the problem,” said Steve Etka, Policy Director for Midwest Dairy Coalition. “We applaud Representatives Feenstra (R-IA), Costa (D-CA), Bost (R-IL), Craig (D-MN), and Nunn (R-IA) for their bipartisan leadership in introducing the Farmers First Act to increase resources available to farmers and rural communities to address mental health challenges.”

“The Farmers First Act of 2023, championed by Representatives Feenstra, Costa, Craig, Bost, and Nunn, continues the important work of bolstering mental health resources for farmers through the reauthorization of the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network and increased resource allocation. U.S. soy farmers have faced multiple challenges in recent years, including a trade war with China, the COVID-19 pandemic, and increased international pressures leading to higher operational costs. The American Soybean Association launched the #SoyHelp campaign in 2020 to address the often-overlooked issue of farmers’ mental health. While ongoing support programs like ASA’s are valuable to increase awareness of mental health issues, additional federal support is crucial. We appreciate this strong bipartisan, bicameral effort to increase mental health support for U.S. farmers,” said Daryl Cates, President of the American Soybean Association and soy farmer from Columbia, Illinois.

“The up-and-down nature of agricultural markets, combined with factors out of our control like extreme weather events, can severely impact the mental health and well-being of producers. The Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network provides access to helplines and hotlines, stress management techniques, support groups, and more for producers experiencing a tough season in life. USCA supports these resources, but also encourages Rep. Feenstra’s colleagues to join him in addressing the underlying market conditions that cause and create stress in the U.S. cattle industry in the first place,” said Justin Tupper, President of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association.

“Since it was funded in the 2018 Farm Bill, the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) has been an essential lifeline for farmers, ranchers and farmworkers, who face increased levels of stress and often lack access to mental health support services. Farm Aid enthusiastically supports the Farmers First Act of 2023, which continues the crucial work of the FRSAN to support and strengthen the agricultural workers we all depend upon. We are especially pleased that this bill increases funding to deepen support networks and increase outreach, as well as expand services to underserved farmers and agricultural workers,” said Hannah Tremblay, Policy & Advocacy Manager at Farm Aid.

“Farming is a highly stressful line of work and rural communities suffer from significant mental health professional shortages,” said Rob Larew, President of the National Farmers Union. “The Farmers First Act will help connect our communities with essential support and services to address farm stress and improve wellbeing. We thank Representative Feenstra and cosponsors for their dedication to this issue and we urge Congress to reauthorize a strengthened FRSAN in the next farm bill.”

“Farm Credit commends Representatives Feenstra, Costa, Bost, Craig and Nunn for their leadership on this important issue,” said Todd Van Hoose, President and CEO of the Farm Credit Council. “The Farmers First Act brings valuable stress assistance services and expertise to the farm and ranch communities most in need of resources. Farming is a stressful job, even in good times, and rural residents often face unique barriers to seeking mental health care.”

The Farmers First Act is supported by National Farmers Union, National Rural Health Association, National Milk Producers Federation, Agricultural Retailers Association, National Council for Mental Wellbeing, FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative, National Young Farmers Coalition, 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 Association, National Pork Producers Council, American Soybean Association, Midwest Dairy Coalition, Farm Aid, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Sustainable Food Policy Alliance (SFPA), National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, National Organic Coalition, Farmer Veteran Coalition, and American Farm Bureau Federation.

Full legislative text can be found HERE.


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