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U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin’s Bipartisan Reform to Provide Mental Health Resources for Farmers Included in 2018 Farm Bill

The final 2018 Farm Bill includes several key priorities authored by Baldwin to support Wisconsin farmers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin’s bipartisan reforms to provide our nation’s farmers with critical support and mental health resources was included in the final 2018 Farm Bill that passed Congress last week with overwhelming bipartisan support. The legislation now heads to the President to be signed into law.

In April, Senators Baldwin and Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced the Facilitating Accessible Resources for Mental health and Encouraging Rural Solutions for Immediate Response to Stressful Times (FARMERS FIRST) Act to provide funding for local mental health resources and expand access to stress reduction strategies and suicide prevention programs for people who work in agriculture. Recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that farmers and other individuals who work in agriculture experience a high rate of suicide.

“Farmers are the backbone of our rural economy and leaders in our rural communities. Washington has been slow to recognize the challenges that farmers are facing, and the daily stressors that they experience during difficult years,” said Senator Baldwin. “I worked to include this bipartisan reform in the final Farm Bill so 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. I’m looking forward to the President signing the Farm Bill into law so we can help tackle this problem and save lives.”

Senator Baldwin’s bipartisan effort has been endorsed by the National Milk Producers Federation, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, Farm Aid, Female Farmer Project, National Rural Health Association, National Council for Behavioral Health, Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural, American Soybean Association, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Cotton Council, National Young Farmers Coalition, Rural and Agricultural Council of America, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, Wisconsin Farmers Union, The American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work, and Eating Disorders Coalition.

“The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) appreciates Senator Baldwin’s leadership in ensuring farmer stress and mental health was a priority in the Farm Bill. First and foremost, nothing is more important to American agriculture than the safety and wellness of our farmers. This provision will go a long way to put farmers and ranchers in touch with those who can help them through serious and personal struggles. State departments of agriculture are the closest connection to producers tackling these issues, so NASDA is pleased to see that all state departments of agriculture qualify as recipients and agents to implement this service,” said Dr. Barbara Glenn, Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.

“The National Rural Health Association is proud to support the rural health provisions in the recently passed 2018 Farm Bill, including policies to ensure the financial viability of rural hospitals, expand deployment of telemedicine, and improve access to mental health services. The reauthorization of the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) will help support agricultural workers and their families in rural communities by providing at-home resources for mental health services. Many farmers struggling still with the economic consequences of the Great Recession are at higher risk of substance abuse and suicide, but the majority of rural counties do not have a single psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker to meet these needs. We applaud the bipartisan work of rural health advocates who fought to ensure the future of the FRSAN program in this Farm Bill,” said Jessica Seigel, National Rural Health Association. 

"Stress is part of the job, whether you're a farmer, rancher, farmworker, young or old. We all share a responsibility to ensure mental health assistance remains part of the national safety net for farm families. As growers weather this difficult farm economy, we're grateful that Congress has stepped up to include these critical resources in the 2018 Farm Bill. When these challenges are left unspoken, swept under the rug or stigmatized, our entire community is impacted. Inclusion of the FARMERS FIRST Act in the Farm Bill is an important first step," said Andrew Bahrenburg, National Policy Director of the National Young Farmers Coalition.

Specifically, Senator Baldwin’s reform will provide funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to state departments of agriculture, state extension services, non-profits and tribes to establish helplines, provide suicide prevention training for farm advocates, create support groups and reestablish the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN). The bipartisan FARMERS FIRST Act was cosponsored by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Jerry Moran (R-KS).