Farmers fight rural suicide with financial resources

Local (Utah/State News)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture is sounding an alarm: suicide among farmers is a growing problem here in Utah. To combat the issue, USDA and the Utah Dept. of Agriculture are addressing one of the major stress points–finances. 

Stress, isolation, and opioids are an increasingly deadly combination for our rural communities, especially our farmers. Kerry W. Gibson is a rancher and the current Commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

He said, “Over 75% of the producers in our state report lower net farm income this year than they did last year. They find themselves in a very precarious situation and sometimes that leads to feelings of difficulty and hopelessness where they don’t know where to turn.”

USDA and the Utah Dept. of Ag. and Food are working with rural communities to relieve some of that financial burden, thanks to nearly $400,000 from the Trump administration and Congress last year.

They are beefing up programs like the Value Added Program and grants, a broadband program to connect farmers with information, and loans like ARDL and Rural Rehabilitation, plus rural opioid specific ambulances. 

Randy Parker is the State Director of USDA Rural Development office; he said, “That’s what we’re trying to do here is tell them there is assistance out there at the state and the federal level.”

Commissioner Gibson said, “It’s truly one of the most difficult industries in the world but it’s also the most important from the standpoint that we have to have good quality food and fiber to survive the day.”

Beyond the logistical and financial realities of farming, there is also the deep pride. Pride that keeps farmers on the land, but that also may keep them from seeking the help they need. 

Gibson said, “Just pat them on the back. Tell them ‘thank you’, tell them that you care about them and that you are grateful for the tremendous work they do for our society. That goes a long way, my friends; I promise you. They will feel it and it will give them the strength to carry on.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. Visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness Utah website for other ways to find support namiut.org.

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