As farmer suicide numbers are rebounding to their worst levels in decades, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says he hopes a vote may come as soon as today to provide help to those in need.
Grassley, a Republican, says he worked with Montana Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat, to craft bipartisan legislation. “Senator Tester and I are trying to get ahead of the curve so we don’t repeat the number of suicides we had in the 1980s farm crisis,” Grassley says. “It’s nothing like that right now, but yet we’re hearing about a number of increases in farmers committing suicide.”
The Seeding Rural Resilience Act is designed to curb the rising rate of farmer suicides through a stress management training program. “This bill that Senator Tester and I put in is meant to train people that deal with farmers regularly,” Grassley says. “Those are mostly through subagencies in the U.S. Department of Agriculture like the FSA and Conservation.”
A University of Iowa study finds suicide rates were 45-percent higher for people in rural areas, and farmers stood out as having even higher rates compared to the general population. Between 1992 and 2010, the U-I report said 230 Midwestern farmers died from suicide, which compared to the overall workforce, is three times the national average.
Grassley says the legislation would provide for more trained eyes to spot a potential problem. Grassley says, “If these folks would recognize people that have stress and see signs of that stress, maybe alert friends and neighbors and professional people to certain farmers having problems, and scary problems, and get them some help.”
For more information, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. Grassley says he and Tester are the only farmers now serving in the U.S. Senate.