Farm Bill Provides $50 Million for Mental Health Resources for Farmers
The new farm bill appropriates $50 million in Federal funds for mental health resources specifically targeted toward farmers, ranchers and other ag-related occupations.
“Washington has been slow to recognize the challenge that farmers are facing, and the daily stressors that they experience during difficult years,” says Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D., Wis.),one of the authors of the bill. “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.”
Known as the FARMERS FIRST Act (Facilitating Accessible Resources for Mental Health and Encouraging Rural Solutions for Immediate Response to Stressful Times), the Act provides up to $10 million per year for each of the fiscal years of 2019 through 2023. The bill was introduced to Congress last April by Baldwin and Sen. Joni Ernst (R., Iowa). Cosponsors of the bill include Senators Michael Bennet (D., Colo.), Cory Gardner (R., Colo.) Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.) and Jerry Moran (R., Kan.).
Lack of mental health resources in rural communities is a huge challenge. Under the bill, resources can be directed to provide competitive grants to State departments of agriculture, State cooperative Extension services and non-profit organizations. The grant money can be used to develop farm telephone helplines and websites, training for advocates to assist affected individuals in crisis, support groups, outreach services and activities, and home delivery of assistance.
The FARMERS FIRST Act also directs the Secretary of Agriculture, in coordination with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, to establish a National Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network “to coordinate stress assistance programs on a national scale for affected individuals.” It also requires the Secretary of Agriculture, within one year of enactment, to submit a report to Congress on the behavioral and mental health of farmers and ranchers.
For a copy of the bill, click here.