To Curb Rise of Rural Suicides, Tester Announces Bill to Provide Resources, Awareness to Farmers
Senator: “There is no silver bullet, but this bill will provide better tools and resources for folks in rural communities to manage and reduce the stress that comes with this line of work.”
(U.S. Senate) - As cases of suicide continue to increase across rural America, U.S. Senator Jon Tester-the only working farmer in the Senate-today announced his Seeding Rural Resilience Act to bring mental health resources and awareness to rural communities.
"As a farmer, I know firsthand the importance of family farm agriculture in rural America. But I also know that farming and ranching has never been easy," Tester said. "That difficulty can take a toll on producers. Because farming or ranching isn't just about making a buck-working the land that's been in your family for generations is a way of life in rural America."
Tester continued: "The fact is, folks who live in Glasgow or Havre face higher barriers to access mental health resources than folks living in New York or Los Angeles-they face isolation, they have to travel further to receive basic health services, they are less likely to be insured, and they may not know there are mental health resources available to them."
According to the Center for Disease Control, the suicide rate is 45 percent higher in rural America than in urban areas, and Montana already has the highest suicide rate in the country. Americans in rural communities deal with substantial isolation, significant travel times for basic health services, lack of broadband access that would enable telehealth services, and stigmas against receiving counseling.
In addition, financial burdens caused by the Trump Administration's trade war have caused even more stress for American farmers and ranchers, making life tougher for those trying to make a living in rural communities.
"This legislation is a strong step towards addressing this crisis," continued Tester. "There is no silver bullet, but my bill provide better tools and resources for folks in rural communities to manage and reduce the stress that comes with this line of work."
The Seeding Rural Resilience Act creates three initiatives aimed at curbing the growing rate of suicides in rural America:
- Implements a Farmer-Facing Employee Training Program that requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide voluntary stress management training to Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency, and National Resources Conservation Service Employees.
- Forms a partnership between the Department of Health and Human Services and USDA to create a $3 million PSA to increase public awareness of farm and ranch stress and destigmatize mental health care in rural communities.
- Directs the Secretary of Agriculture to work with state, local, and nongovernmental stakeholders to collaborate and determine best practices for responding to farm and ranch mental stress.
Tester has been a champion for increasing rural access to health care. The Trump Administration recently adopted his Restoring Rural Residencies Act into a rule change to bring more medical professionals into rural hospitals, and he introduced two bipartisan bills that would strengthen relationships between rural hospitals and medical schools earlier this year. He also recently backed the Broadband DATA Act to make broadband mapping more accurate so providers can fill gaps in coverage, expanding access and allowing more folks to receive telehealth services.