U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-Arkansas) and a bipartisan group of colleagues have introduced the Farmers First Act of 2023, which aims to provide mental health support for farmers. The legislation will reauthorize stress support networks on farms and ranches to expand access to mental health services. Senator Boozman expressed his appreciation for farmers, who help feed and clothe the world, and highlighted the importance of addressing the mental health concerns of these hardworking individuals.
According to the National Rural Health Association, the suicide rates of farmers are three and a half times higher than the general population. Recent studies show an increase in stress and mental health concerns among farmers, while the stigma associated with seeking mental health help has disappeared. The Farmers First Act of 2023 will increase funding available to the network up to $15 million per fiscal year through 2028.
The 2018 Farm Bill, which aimed to improve rural mental health resources and expand rural suicide prevention programs, will be expanded upon by the proposed Farmers First Act. State Departments of Agriculture, state extension services, and nonprofits will receive funding to start helplines and provide suicide prevention.
Senator Boozman, a senior member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, added provisions to the reauthorization action to strengthen links between FRSAN grant recipients and behavioral health providers. This will encourage farmers and producers to connect with behavioral health providers and break down the barriers associated with seeking such support.
The bill was led by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) and Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), co-sponsored by the U.S. Commissioner. Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stavenau and a bipartisan group of senators. The American Psychological Association Service and many agricultural organizations, such as the American Farm Federation and the American Animal Husbandry Council, support the bill.
The Commission is currently drafting the next Farm Bill, which will be re-approved by Congress every five years. The proposed Farmers First Act of 2023 is a step towards improving the quality of life for farmers and their families.