Groups Launch Program to Battle Farmers’ Stress

The American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, and Farm Credit have introduced a program to train people who work with farmers and ranchers to recognize signs of stress and connect those farmers with professional help.

Representatives from the group introduced the program last week in the offices of the U.S. House of Representatives. It is based on a service designed by Michigan State University Extension.

“We really wanted to prepare our extension agents who sit down at the kitchen tables with farmers in Michigan, and really all over the country, to be able to read signs of stress and effectively use research-based tools and education to help farmers walk through challenging times,” said MSU’s Mark Skidmore.

Skidmore said participants will be able to identify symptoms of stress and employ effective techniques for managing it.

“The training provides guidance for communicating with stressed farmers, the use of effective verbal and nonverbal communication, active and empathetic listening skills, preparing for difficult conversations, and communicating through conflict,” he said. “It provides clear guidance on signs of suicidal thoughts and what to do.”

Select employees at the Farm Service Agency have received training through a pilot program. In 2020, that training will expand to all 10,000 FSA employees.

Dale Moore, executive vice president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said that in his experience, farmers and ranchers have no problem seeking help for physical issues, but when it comes to mental health, that’s not the case, and it’s time for that to change.

“We are excited to bring in the experts to help train our trainers,” he said. State representatives will be trained in an all-day seminar next month, then they will take that knowledge back to their states and conduct training there. “We very much appreciate the opportunity to be part of this process,” Moore said.

Source: Successful Farming