FSA has resources to support stressed farmers, ranchers

File photo by Cali O'Hare.

Our current ag reality certainly demands this much needed tool, the existence of the USDA’s Farmer and Rancher Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN), a federal policy.

I’ve had the good fortune to visit countless farms and ranches across the country in my career advocating for producers and talking about whatever is on their mind. In all those visits, one thing rings true – my job must be to help put the Farmer and Rancher Stress Assistance Networks out of business.

Our producers are constantly expected to do more with less, innovate and improve, raise a family, preserve a legacy – and let’s not forget feeding and clothing the world. They are being asked to do all of this amid wars, trade policy, price gouging and many things beyond their control. Producers do this knowing there is no guarantee their sales will cover their expenses.

Somehow our society took something rewarding and commoditized it to such a level that the external pressures often outweigh the fulfillment that drove folks to agriculture in the first place.

It’s an uphill battle, managing stress on the farm. I know from my own experience that there is a significant measure of stoicism in all our farmers. Growing up during the Farm Financial Crisis of the 1980s, I didn’t know that we were in trouble and certainly didn’t feel the weight that must have been on my parents’ shoulders, loading our cows as we “went broke.”

The stigma surrounding mental health services was even more pervasive then. Showing any signs of weakness or trauma just wasn’t accepted. One of Dad’s coping mechanism was to go up on Scatter Butte, the country he grew up in. USDA’s FRSAN Program was launched to help “be Scatter Butte” for other producers. FSA regions are establishing tools that producers and providers can access. I encourage you to learn more about their services.

Still, FRSAN alone cannot solve the rural mental health crisis. We at FSA must improve our programs to provide producers with a real financial safety net and opportunities for more and better markets. Whatever the unique challenges faced by our producers, you all deserve our support as you do the essential work of feeding our communities and taking care of our land for generations to come.

It’s ok to need someone to talk to, it’s ok to need to vent, it’s ok to seek advice and FRSAN is only one resource. As your FSA administrator, I’ll do my best to ensure they have less to do.

Here are some resources:

  • Disaster and financial crises guides: https://farmerresourcenetwork.force.com/FRN/s/.
  • Farm Aid’s Farmer Hotline: 1-800-FARM-AID (1-800-327-6243) Talk to someone directly. Farm Aid staff answers the hotline Monday-Friday, 9a.m. to 10 p.m. ET, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT.
  • AgriStress HelpLine: 833-897-AGRI (2474) Free 24-7 hotline for farmers and ranchers seeking mental health support in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas and Wyoming.
  • AgWell: Creating support systems throughout the most rural regions of Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. Training for rural community members interested in expanding support.
  • AgWellness: Podcast explores mental health in farming and ranching communities, sharing stories about impacts of mental health concerns, resources and information. Partner on the new Western Regional Agricultural Stress Assistance Program.
  • Cultivating Resilience: FRSAN-NE podcast. Farm care starts with self-care. Real, independent farmers talk about overcoming daily struggles. Resources to strengthen mental health and survive uncertain times.