Skip to Content
Resize Text:      A A
For information on Coronavirus (COVID-19), please visit the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services by clicking here, or the CDC website by clicking here.
Oct 15, 2020

Tester Pushes for his Seeding Rural Resilience Act to Become Law as Part of Must-Pass Annual Defense Bill

Senator urges House and Senate Armed Services Committees to ensure his legislation to support mental health tools in rural America remains in the final National Defense Authorization Act

As the crisis of farmer suicide continues to rise in rural America amid poor economic conditions, ongoing trade wars, severe weather, and now the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today demanded that the House and Senate Armed Services Committees ensure that his bipartisan Seeding Rural Resilience Act—which would provide tools to rural communities to prevent suicide—is included as part of the final must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Earlier this year, Tester’s bill was included in both the House and Senate versions of NDAA and both chambers must now work to reconcile differences between the two before it can be signed into law. In a bipartisan, bicameral letter to Committee leadership, Tester stressed the need for his bill, demanding that it remain part of the final NDAA that moves forward to the President’s desk.

“It is essential that Congress support folks in production agriculture, especially as they face uncertainty due to weather, trade, and COVID-19,” wrote Tester. “…While this bill is not a silver bullet in solving the mental health crisis in rural America, it provides important investments for the well-being of folks in farm country. We need to ensure that producers have the resources they need to weather this storm so that they can continue to do what they do best—feeding the world.”

Tester continued: “By retaining these critical measures in a conference agreement, Congress can support farm and ranch mental health during a trying time, and broadly continue to support global food security.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate is 45 percent higher in rural America than in urban areas, and Montana already has one of the highest suicide rates 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 resulted in even more stress for American farmers and ranchers, making life tougher for those trying to make a living in rural communities.

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 public service announcement campaign 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.

Read Tester’s letter to the Armed Services Committees HERE.

Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK, or 1-800-273-8255.

Office Contact Information

Senator Tester's Montana staff serves the state from offices in Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, and Missoula. Please bring your concerns with federal agencies, academy nominations, and other situations to one of these Montana offices.

Billings

Judge Jameson Federal Building
2900 4th Ave N, Suite 201
Billings, MT 59101
Phone: (406) 252-0550
Fax: (406) 252-7768

Bozeman

Avant Courier Building
1 E Main Street, Suite 202
Bozeman, MT 59715
Phone: (406) 586-4450
Fax: (406) 586-7647

Butte

Silver Bow Center
125 W Granite, Suite 200
Butte, MT 59701
Phone: (406) 723-3277
Fax: (406) 782-4717

Great Falls

119 1st Avenue N, Suite 102
Great Falls, MT 59401
Phone: (406) 452-9585
Fax: (406) 452-9586

Helena

208 North Montana Avenue
Suite 104
Helena, MT 59601
Phone: (406) 449-5401
Fax: (406) 449-5462

Kalispell

8 Third Street E
Kalispell, MT 59901
Phone: (406) 257-3360
Fax: (406) 257-3974

Missoula

130 W Front St.
Missoula, MT 59802
Phone: (406) 728-3003
Fax: (406) 728-2193

Home   |   Meet Jon   |   Services   |   Newsroom   |   Legislation   |   Contact   |   Privacy