Managing Farmer Stress

Dec 12, 2019, 10:11 AM

A new program will help farmers deal with the dangers of stress.

Work-related stress comes with every job, no matter what you do or how much you earn. This can include physical strain, like repetitive motion, and mental or emotional stress, like being required to perform work that doesn’t fit a worker’s knowledge, abilities, or interests. Though experts suggest exercise, time management practices, and simply talking with someone as ways to reduce stress, business owners and employees may need more support than that. 

The World Health Organization identifies several stress-related work hazards, including:
  • Amount of work to do
  • Inflexible work hours
  • Lack of promotional opportunities
  • Poor communication
  • Unsafe work environment

  • But there are some unique challenges for farmers and farm workers that office staff and retail employees don’t face, such as:
  • Commodity prices
  • Livestock illness
  • Low crop yield

  • There aren’t many statistics on workplace stress in the farm industry, though a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the suicide rate for agriculture workers in 2015 was 32.2 per 100,000 people, across 17 states. That’s more than twice the rate for the general population (13.3) in the same year. 

    Research by the American Farm Bureau Federation early this year found that almost half of all rural adults are personally experiencing more mental health challenges than they were a year ago. Since 2013, there has been a 50% decline in net farm income nationwide. All of this points to a series of serious mental health challenges.

    Managing Farmer Stress

    Hastings Mutual’s agricultural partners at the National Farmers Union, Farm Credit, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and Michigan State University Extension are taking action to put farmers in touch with mental health support. This week, they’re launching a program to train loan officers and others who work with farmers to “recognize signs of stress and connect (stressed) farmers with professional help.”

    “Between stigma, a lack of mental health care in rural communities, and poor broadband access, there are so many barriers to getting help,” said National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson in a press release

    The organizations have not yet announced any specifics on training, but there already are online resources available, like the National Farmers Union’s Farm Crisis Center and the MSU Extension’s Managing Farm Stress site. Clicking there takes farmers to support after a disaster, assistance with loans and other funding, and more. 

    Hastings Mutual’s Farmowners insurance offers coverages on farm machinery, buildings, and business (like loss of income coverage and grain coverage). But a farmer’s mental health is even more important than farm vehicles and property. No matter what the situation a farmer faces, he or she should know there are people who are there to help.
  • Farm Aid’s farmer hotline: (800) 327- 6243
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 784-2433

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