Responding to Farmers in Need
Agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries
- On farms, injuries are common. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers had a fatal work injury rate of 24 out of 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, which compares to a rate of just 3.5 out of 100,000 for all workers in civilian occupations.
- Laborers and farm owners have the highest rates of deaths due to stress-related conditions such as heart and artery disease, hypertension, ulcers, and nervous disorders of 130 examined occupations.
Opioids are an issue in rural areas
- With many farm-related injuries requiring prescription drugs, opioid misuse in rural communities can become problematic.
- One in four farmers have reported taking an opioid without a prescription, abusing prescribed opioids, or being addicted to opioids.
Net farm income is decreasing
- Low milk prices and price drops in other major commodities due to oversupply and lack of demand from consumers have caused financial distress, causing prolonged stress that results in mental and physical health issues.
- Net farm income and net cash farm income has declined by half since 2013 and is expected to plateau at or near this lower level.
Natural disasters have hit farm country
- Floods and fires that destroy farmland and farm animals often translate into far more than immediate, one-time economic losses. In 2017, an estimated total of more than $300 billion in economic losses were incurred from 16 different weather-related disasters that totaled a billion dollars in damage.
- Natural disasters negatively impact farm yield, causing more economic stress.
MSU Extension responds
To meet the needs of farmers, Michigan State University Extension developed two farm stress management workshops, Communicating with Farmers Under Stress and Weathering the Storm in Agriculture: How to Cultivate a Productive Mindset, and hosted a Farm Stress Management Summit to train other Extension staff in how to offer these workshops in their communities.
Communicating with Farmers Under Stress
This curriculum provides materials for a 90-minute to full-day workshop designed for agribusiness professionals, loan officers, family members, and others who directly interact with farmers on a regular basis. The workshop provides an overview of current stressors for farmers and shares best practices for connecting farm families with resources. It looks at the current financial situation for farmers today. It also unpacks the detrimental impact of stress on the body and state of mind, providing information on how to recognize some of the signs of stress and suicide in the farming community, and how to connect people with resources they need.
From October 2016 to October 2018, MSU Extension provided 25 Communicating with Farmers Under Stress workshops, reaching a total of 1,024 participants in 55 of Michigan’s 83 counties, plus regional audiences in Indiana and Pennsylvania. Short-term and long-term program evaluations collected (n=421) showed:
- 91% learned how to recognize signs of depression, suicide, and mental illness.
- 94% reported that because of the workshop, they were more comfortable talking to others about chronic stress.
- 96% agreed that because of the workshop, their understanding of rural stress issues and warning signs of stress challenges had increased.
Weathering the Storm in Agriculture: How to Cultivate a Productive Mindset
This curriculum is designed for farmers and can be taught one-on-one or in group settings. It focuses on providing tools, resources, and information for farmers and their families to help them through difficult situations.
Post-program evaluations (n=142) were received from Weathering the Storm in Agriculture workshop participants in 2019. Results showed:
- 94% improved understanding of the current agricultural financial situation.
- 94% improved understanding of the warning signs of suicide.
- 98% gained information on where to send people for help.
Farm Stress Management Summit
MSU Extension hosted a professional development and training Summit to provide the two workshops and corresponding materials for Extension professionals from throughout the country so they can help farmers and those who work with them learn techniques to manage stress and help those in need access resources. Summit participants earned a certificate allowing them to teach the Communicating with Farmers Under Stress and Weathering the Storm in Agriculture: How to Cultivate a Productive Mindset workshops.
MSU Extension hosted the Farm Stress Management Summit, January 24-25, 2019, with 99 participants from 23 states across the country. Most participants were educators who were a part of the Cooperative Extension System. Program evaluations were collected for each day of the Summit and indicated:
- 95% improved their knowledge of how to help farmers in distress with farm business tools (n=74).
- 95% are likely to implement the Communicating with Farmers Under Stress program in their state (n=68).