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NFU, Broad Coalition Urge Full Funding for Farm, Ranch Stress Assistance Network

27 March 2019

US - In an effort to improve mental health support for farmers, ranchers and farmworkers, National Farmers Union (NFU) and a broad coalition of leading farm and rural advocacy groups are urging Congress to fully fund the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) in fiscal year 2020.

FRSAN provides grants for extension services, state departments of agriculture, non-profit organisations and other entities to provide stress assistance programmes to farmers, ranchers, farmworkers, and other agriculture-related occupations.

Eligible programmes include farm helplines and websites, training programmes and workshops, outreach services, and home delivery of assistance.

"As you know, farming is a high-stress occupation," said the groups in a letter to leadership of the Senate and House agriculture appropriations subcommittees.

"Financial risk, volatile markets, unpredictable weather, and heavy workloads can all place a significant strain on farmers’, ranchers’ and farmworkers’ mental and emotional well-being.

"This is exacerbated by the fact that 60 percent of rural residents live in areas that suffer from mental health professional shortages."

The groups noted the current prolonged farm economy downturn is causing even greater stress for farmers and ranchers.

"Net farm income in 2018 was nearly 50 percent less than it was in 2013," they said. "While current projections suggest slight improvements in 2019, a significant rebound could be years away."

Congress provided $2 million in the fiscal year 2019 appropriations bill for a pilot of the programme. The groups hope the pilot programme will create an on-ramp to full programme implementation.

"As the Subcommittee develops the FY 2020 agriculture appropriations bill, we urge you to fully fund the FRSAN at $10 million," said the groups.

"This funding will be critically important in meeting the needs of farmers and ranchers as they endure increasing financial and mental stress."

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