Tester, Grassley Bill to Curb the Rising Rate of Rural Suicides Headed to the President’s Desk

Senators’ Seeding Rural Resilience Act will provide farmers and ranchers with critical mental health care resources, break down stigmas about getting help

As the only farmers currently serving in the U.S. Senate, U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have successfully included their Seeding Rural Resilience Act—a bill aimed at curbing the rising rate of suicide in rural areas—as part of this year’s must-pass defense spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is now headed to the President’s desk.

“Rising rates of suicide among farmers and ranchers is a crisis that’s all too familiar to Montanans who have seen it devastate communities across our state,” said Tester. “Between stagnant commodity prices, market consolidation, natural disasters caused by climate change, and a lack of mental health care resources, the rate at which farmers and ranchers are taking their own lives is continuing to grow. This bill isn’t a silver bullet, but it’s a critical step towards breaking down the stigmas surrounding mental health care and providing rural communities with the resources they need to thrive so they can keep doing what they do best—feeding the world.”

“I’m glad to see this bill so widely supported by my colleagues. This is a clear message to farmers across the country that we stand with you and support you during these trying times,” Grassley said. “This is a commonsense bill that continues important efforts to raise awareness about mental health and will provide additional resources for farmers and their families facing difficult situations.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate is 45 percent higher in rural America than in urban areas. Americans in rural communities face isolation, distance from basic health care services, lack of broadband access, stigmas against receiving counseling, and financial burdens due to stagnant crop prices. These factors cause higher rates of stress for American farmers and ranchers, making it even harder for people in rural communities to get by.

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; and
  • 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.

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.