U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, a member of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, knows many farmers and ranchers are interested in knowing the final numbers of a 2023 farm bill, but it will be a while because of the political process.
However, he recently took a few minutes to discuss a topic that often is not discussed—September is National Suicide Awareness Month and the Kansas senator said he is concerned about agricultural producers’ mental health and the agribusinesses that serve them.
When it comes to farmers and ranchers, he said the rate of suicide is 3.5 times the national average and that is a sobering statistic. In rural areas it can be the No. 1 killer of young farmers because they often have more money borrowed.
The average producer, he says, has a $1 million operating loan and three years ago the interest rate was in the 2% range while today it is likely to be 9 to 9.5% and that comes on top of higher inputs costs, drought conditions and other uncertainties.
Marshall, a doctor, reminds all producers and families that they are important and appreciated. Everyone has faced struggles that might seem impossible in his or her life. He said today there is awareness and less stigma about mental health needs.
“There is no community that does not have a farmer or rancher who has his life,” Marshall said, which is one reason he has started off recent news conferences by talking about it.
He says neighbors can help. “You are looking for a big change in personality. Maybe they aren’t sleeping well or don’t have energy.” Those who are facing mental stress may also become more withdrawn socially which in a rural community might mean they quit going to the informal coffee club activities, skipping church or no longer attending school activities.
There are also comments to pay attention to if you hear from someone who is troubled. They include “Gosh, my family is better without me,” make off-handed remarks about looking at their will, start giving away possessions, or other things that may be out of character.
At a recent conference, ag lenders and cooperative experts also suggested officials reach out to customers who are behind on payments and offer encouragement. Marshall added that rural life requires a community approach. “Be a good neighbor and tell people they are not alone or a bad person because they are facing tough times. This might be one of the worst financial decades in agriculture.”
Marshall said it is OK to ask someone if they are OK and what they are thinking about. He also encouraged people to familiarize themselves with the toll-free 9-8-8 help hotline.
The awareness campaign has unanimous support from the Senate and Congress and that is bipartisan recognition Marshall appreciates and so do we.
All Aboard Fall Harvest campaign starts
In this edition we will begin the third year of our All Aboard Fall Harvest campaign and inside this issue you will find introductions to our harvest correspondents.
This year’s correspondents include Kimberly Neumiller, Christy Paplow, Janel Schemper, and Sherry Zimmerman.
Besides providing weekly reports they will also be blogging and providing reports on Facebook lives.
Through the All Aboard Wheat Harvest we’ve learned that readers and followers enjoy hearing about “in the field” experiences. Stories spark many memories not only for farmers and ranchers but also for those who retired or moved off the farm years ago. The reports rekindle memories about past harvests and the challenges of getting spring planted crops into bins and storage.
We hope you enjoy the correspondent’s reports as they shed a different perspective on fall crops.
Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].
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