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An editorial column from the Missouri Farm Bureau Federation,
Commentary may be used as an op-ed piece or letter to the editor.


The Silent Crisis for America’s Farmers

BY ERIC BOHL

The Silent Crisis for America’s Farmers

In our minds, farmers are strong and resilient, the personification of the can-do American spirit, working long, hard, solitary days, ready to overcome any obstacle and persevere the most trying of times. There is great truth in this image, yet it also directly identifies the roots of a silent crisis. The struggle and solitude are factors contributing to farming having the highest suicide rate of any occupation in America.

The suicide rate for farmers is more than double that of veterans and over ten times higher than office workers, according to the CDC. Victims are also almost exclusively male. The causes are numerous and poorly understood, but experts believe the unpredictability of farming, potential for major financial losses, unwillingness to seek help and social isolation are major factors. Making the problem even more critical, 74% of farmers and farmworkers say they have been directly impacted by the current opioid epidemic, which has been directly linked to increased risk of depression and suicide.

We can’t make farming more predictable, and crop and livestock prices have been in the basement for going on five years with few signs of a turnaround on the horizon. Net farm income is predicted to hit a 12-year low this year. For those struggling with addiction, only two in five farmers are confident that they could seek care for opioid addictions that is effective, covered by insurance, convenient or affordable. These realities make it that much more important to take action where we can. If struggling farmers are unwilling to seek help and are socially isolated, we can all do something to help.

In rural Missouri we pride ourselves on our sense of community. Each of us can decide to make a friend. Find a farmer who may not be well-connected to others and invite them over for dinner. Ask them what they grow or raise. Find out what the hardest parts of their job are. Simply having an ear to bend can make a huge difference in the life of someone who is struggling.

My uncle raised hogs and row crops for 60-plus years in east-central Missouri. About 20 years ago he and my aunt joined a group of three other couples who would rotate homes for a monthly dinner. Their “Dinner for Eight” club only required each couple to cook three meals a year, but it gave them a sense of belonging. It doesn’t solve everything, but simple friendly interactions like this can help a farmer no longer feel alone in the world. All it takes is about five minutes of brainstorming for names and a couple of phone calls to neighbors.

If you know of someone struggling, reach out and talk to them. Make a friend. Invite them over. If they need more immediate help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255. Unfortunately, this is not a battle that will ever be completely won, but we have to fight it every day. Don’t miss your chance to help your neighbors. You could be exactly what they need.


Eric Bohl, of Columbia, Mo., is director of public affairs for Missouri Farm Bureau, the state's largest farm organization.

An editorial column from the Missouri Farm Bureau Federation, Commentary may be used as an op-ed piece or letter to the editor.

 
COMMENTARY ARCHIVES


07-20-2017 - Dad's Farm Jacket

06-29-2017 - Come and Get It!

06-14-2017 - Meet Someone

04-13-2017 - A Story to Remember

03-15-2017 - Paying it Forward

03-01-2017 - The Rural-Urban Divide

12-29-2016 - Ringing in Reform

12-08-2016 - A System That Works

11-03-2016 - Farmers' Almanac Finds

10-27-2016 - I Will Vote

09-29-2016 - How Bout Them Apples

09-22-2016 - Asterisks

09-08-2016 - Practicing Patience

07-21-2016 - Meet me at the Fair

07-07-2016 - GROW

05-26-2016 - Taps

05-20-2016 - A Seat at the Table

05-12-2016 - Nothing Beats a Burger

03-17-2016 - Busy People

02-25-2016 - A Dog in the Manger

02-18-2016 - Me and My Kayak

01-28-2016 - More or Less Winter

01-21-2016 - The Time for Thanks

12-30-2015 - Resolutions of Reform

12-23-2015 - Beyond Blessed

12-17-2015 - The Farmer's Tale

12-03-2015 - 'Tis the Season

12-01-2015 - What matters most

11-05-2015 - Food is simple

10-15-2015 - What's with the Weeds?

10-01-2015 - Fall Flavor Favorite

09-24-2015 - Why Tour Farms?

09-10-2015 - Bring the Kids

08-13-2015 - Farm Kids and the Fair

08-06-2015 - Rock Stars

07-30-2015 - Gone, but not for good

07-16-2015 - Time Well Spent

07-09-2015 - Behind the Wheel

06-25-2015 - A State of Discovery

06-10-2015 - Pickup Trucks

05-29-2015 - Real Deal Dairy

05-14-2015 - Decoration Day

04-30-2015 - Who's Driving

04-29-2015 - Proper Road Etiquette

04-10-2015 - Differing Definitions

04-02-2015 - Boots on the Ground

03-19-2015 - Who Will Speak Up?

02-12-2015 - The HITs Keep Coming

02-05-2015 - No Skin in the Game

01-07-2015 - Food Fandom

12-18-2014 - The Farmer's Tale

11-13-2014 - If It Ain't Broke

11-06-2014 - Scars on their Souls

10-30-2014 - A Wish for Winter

10-16-2014 - Timing is Everything

10-02-2014 - Food Prices Fluctuate

07-24-2014 - Lessons from the Past

07-03-2014 - Fire up the Grill!

06-26-2014 - Watching Tomatoes Grow

06-12-2014 - Say Yes

05-29-2014 - Join the Chorus

03-20-2014 - Small Steps on Ag Day

03-06-2014 - The First Green Pop

02-20-2014 - Good Storytellers

01-23-2014 - Costly Miscalculations

01-16-2014 - Resilience and Resolve

01-09-2014 - Cheerios and GMOs

12-26-2013 - New Year Focus

11-26-2013 - Right Words

11-14-2013 - Mama's Sofa

11-08-2013 - Paying Our Own Way

10-25-2013 - No Easy Fix

10-10-2013 - A Farmer's Sacrifice

10-03-2013 - Must-See TV

09-26-2013 - Chipotle, at It Again

09-13-2013 - Naked is Still Naked

07-25-2013 - Let's Play Ball

06-13-2013 - Rural is Relative

06-06-2013 - Playing by the Rules

05-30-2013 - Uncertainty is Certain

05-02-2013 - Watch and Wait

04-18-2013 - City Cousins

04-11-2013 - What You Don't Know

02-28-2013 - Barefoot in the Dirt

02-14-2013 - Rural Relevance

02-07-2013 - How It's Made

01-17-2013 - A Green Mindset

01-03-2013 - Knowing Your Neighbors

12-20-2012 - The Spare Parachute

12-06-2012 - Last Minute Shoppers

11-15-2012 - Attitude of Gratitude

11-08-2012 - Thanksgiving Time

11-01-2012 - Bacon is Big

10-25-2012 - Rural Votes Matter

10-11-2012 - The Farm Bill Big Deal

09-07-2012 - Farm Progress

08-23-2012 - A Real Dilemma

08-16-2012 - The Next Season

08-09-2012 - Land of Legacy

07-19-2012 - All Things Considered

07-06-2012 - One of Those Years

06-28-2012 - The Real Uncle Sam

06-07-2012 - Something Certain

05-11-2012 - Not Asparagus

04-05-2012 - Something to See

03-22-2012 - Doing Our Part

03-15-2012 - Farmers Get Trendy

02-23-2012 - We Reap What We Sow

02-02-2012 - Fanfare for Farmers

01-27-2012 - Recovery from Ruin

01-19-2012 - A New Coffee Shop

12-15-2011 - The Farmer's Tale

12-08-2011 - Made in USA

11-22-2011 - Tired from Retiring

11-03-2011 - Scars on Their Souls

10-20-2011 - Hooked on Halloween

09-15-2011 - Told You So!

08-17-2011 - They're BACK!

08-11-2011 - A New Type of Vacation

08-04-2011 - Perfection, Summer

07-28-2011 - It's a Show-Me Thing

07-07-2011 - Country Girl

05-12-2011 - Land Grab Underway

04-14-2011 - Earth Day Controversy

01-20-2011 - EPA, TMDL and AFBF

01-14-2011 - A Word of Caution

12-29-2010 - Mincemeat Madness

12-15-2010 - The Farmer's Tale

12-01-2010 - A Tale of Two Farmers

11-04-2010 - Scars on Their Souls

09-16-2010 - Ratify to Help Rectify

09-01-2010 - Cut to the Crash

08-18-2010 - It's Not about Puppies

07-28-2010 - What a Great Ride!

07-15-2010 - Just a Smidgen More!

06-24-2010 - Oh, Oh - SpaghettiOs

05-20-2010 - Weiner Patties?

05-13-2010 - Farmland Restoration

04-15-2010 - God Bless You 14 Times

03-12-2010 - Don't CAP Our Future!

02-05-2010 - Thank A Farmer

01-15-2010 - Food Prices Leveling!

12-17-2009 - The Farmer's Tale

12-11-2009 - Who is in Charge?

12-04-2009 - Deal or No Deal?

11-24-2009 - Connect the Dots