U.S. Sen. John Bozeman, R-Ark., and bipartisan colleagues have introduced the Farmers First Act of 2023 to expand access to mental health services for agricultural producers.
The Farmers First Act of 2023 reauthorizes the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN), which connects farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers with mental health assistance programs and resources.
“Arkansas agricultural producers help feed and clothe the world,” Bozeman said in a news release Friday.
“This responsibility creates unique concerns when managing operations and facing challenges beyond their control. This legislation will continue efforts to improve access to mental health services in rural communities and create more opportunities to connect agricultural workers and producers with behavioral health providers. Quality of life for families and individuals in farm country.”
The suicide rate of farmers is 3½ times higher than the general population, according to the National Rural Health Association; Sixty-one percent of farmers and farmworkers and 52% of rural adults also reported experiencing more stress and mental health concerns in 2021 than last year, according to a Morning Advisor poll.
The study found that although stigma associated with mental health care is decreasing, it is still a factor in agricultural communities.
The bill would increase funding for the network to $15 million in fiscal year 2028.
[DOCUMENT: Read the proposed Farmers First Act » arkansasonline.com/520farmers1st/]
The 2018 farm bill includes initiatives to improve rural mental health resources and expand suicide prevention programs in rural communities, but this bill builds on such programs.
State departments of agriculture, state extension services, and nonprofit organizations will receive funding to start helplines, provide suicide prevention training for farm advocates, and establish support groups for agricultural workers.
Bozeman, a member of the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, added a provision in the reauthorization measure to strengthen relationships between FRSAN grantees and health centers, rural health clinics, critical hospitals and certified behavioral health providers. Community behavioral health clinics.
The legislation is sponsored by U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, the committee chair, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and a bipartisan group of senators.
Continued and additional funding for the network is provided by the services of the American Psychological Association and other organizations such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, the American Soybean Association, the National Wheat Producers Association, the National Corn Producers Association, the National Dairy Federation , Pork Producers Council, National Young Farmers Coalition and others.
The committee held several hearings this year and is currently in the process of writing the next Farm Bill, which is approved by Congress every five years.