Grassley signs onto bipartisan Ernst Legislation to provide mental health support to agricultural communities

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a family farmer, signed onto bipartisan legislation introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, the Facilitating Accessible Resources for Mental Health and Encouraging Rural Solutions For Immediate Response to Stressful Times Act, which provides the nation’s agricultural community with critical mental health support and resources.

A 2016 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found agricultural workers have a higher suicide rate than any other occupation. To assist these farmers in crisis, the bipartisan legislation would provide seed funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to state departments of agriculture, state extension services and non-profits to establish helplines, provide suicide prevention training for farm advocates, create support groups and re-establish the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network. In addition to these resources, the bill would establish a Farm and Ranch Stress Assessment Committee to better understand how agricultural workers’ mental health impacts rural development and provide recommendations for addressing mental health care needs within the agriculture community.

“There are few events more tragic in life than suicide. That our farmers and agricultural workers experience disproportionately high levels of suicide add urgency to the issue for agricultural states like Iowa,” Grassley said. “Americans rely on farmers to sustain their daily lives. It’s only fair that Congress does its part to help farmers whose lives are at risk. I’m proud to join Sen. Ernst in this bipartisan effort to give our rural communities the help they need and deserve.”

“The incredibly high rate of suicide within the agricultural community underscores the urgent need to act to address this crisis,” Ernst said following the introduction of the legislation. “We must do more to ensure those who work tirelessly from sunrise to sundown to feed and fuel our world have access to the mental health resources and supports they need. With more than 88,000 farms and over 150,000 farmers in Iowa, our agricultural community is the backbone of our state, I am glad to partner with Senator Baldwin to improve the quality and timeliness of mental health care for the hardworking folks in our agricultural communities.”

“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,” Baldwin said following the introduction of the legislation. “The FARMERS FIRST Act 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. This bipartisan reform will provide funding for local resources and expand access to stress reduction strategies and suicide prevention programs that will help tackle this problem and save lives.”

Additional co-sponsors include Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-ND, Jerry Moran, R-KS, Michael Bennet, D-CO, and Cory Gardner, R-CO.