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Sen. Baldwin Bill Would Provide Help for Farmers in Crisis
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 04/20/2018

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin is co-sponsoring legislation that would come to the aid of struggling farmers who are facing difficult economic times. The measure is being called 'FARMERS FIRST,' which stands for Facilitating Accessible Resources for Mental health and Encouraging Rural Solutions For Immediate Response to Stressful Times. It would provide USDA funding to state departments of agriculture, Extension services and non-profit groups to establish helplines, provide suicide prevention training for farm advocates, create support groups and reestablish the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network.

"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. "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."

Additionally, the initiative 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.

Citing a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Baldwin says agricultural workers have a higher suicide rate than any other occupation.

Other lawmakers backing the policy include Joni Ernst of Iowa, Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner of Colorado, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Jerry Moran of Kansas.

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