Two farm state Senators are promoting legislation that seeks to curb farmer suicides. Announced last month, the Seeding Rural Resilience Act would offer ways to help farmers and rural America deal with stress. The bill was formally introduced this week by Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana, and Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. The two say the legislation is receiving praise from farm and mental health organizations.
Tester added the legislation “puts us on track towards giving farmers the resources they need” to cope with stress in a tough economy. Federal data shows the suicide rate is 45% higher in rural America than in urban areas.
The bill would provide Department of Agriculture employees voluntary stress management training, and for a partnership with the Department of Health to create a $3 million public awareness campaign, and create a path to identify the best practices for responding to farm and ranch stress.
The Seeding Rural Resilience Act creates three initiatives aimed at promoting mental health awareness in rural America:
- Implementing a farmer-facing employee training program that requires the Agriculture Department to provide voluntary stress management training to Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service employees;
- Forming a partnership between the Department of Health and Human Services and USDA to create a $3 million PSA to increase public awareness of farm and ranch stress and destigmatize mental health care in rural communities; and
- Directing the Secretary of Agriculture to work with state, local and nongovernmental stakeholders to collaborate and determine best practices for responding to farm and ranch mental stress.
The full text of the Seeding Rural Resilience Act is available here.
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