American Farmers In Crisis


Author Bio.

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “dirt poor” before? That is evidently how farmers in the U.S. and many other countries regard themselves – and this truth is killing them. More precisely, years of low income combined with higher prices are driving those who till the soil to the desperate act of taking their own lives.

A report published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that, For the first time in history, farmers now surpass veterans in deaths by suicide. The suicide rate for farmers is higher than any other demographic group. CBS News gives the real numbers:

“The suicide rate in the field of farming, fishing, and forestry is 84.5 per 100,000 people — more than five times that of the population as a whole.”

Newsweek gave the average rate of suicide among American adults as 15.2 per 100,000 in 2014. But France, China, India, and the United Kingdom (UK) are also reporting suicide rates for farmers that are higher than the general population.

Purdue Professor of Agriculture Chris Hurt said that farmers’ income for the past three years has returned to levels seen in the early 2000s – 15 years ago and more. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that income from the average farm will be 35 percent below what it was in 2013.

Bad weather and fickle commodity prices have also taken their toll on many farmers. Now, farmers are also facing the consequences of trade tariffs being proposed and imposed by certain foreign countries.

Reduced income has forced many farmers to take a second job for an additional income stream – and employer group health benefits. Anyone who works more than one job understands the extreme stress that results from less time with family and friends, less sleep, and more responsibilities – not to mention the additional labor itself.

An interesting facet of this story is the proposed solution: develop federal-level mental health and counseling programs accessible to farmers. The model is based on similar services provided to American veterans.

Unfortunately, even the Military Times acknowledges that “many recently separated servicemembers aren’t getting the mental health care they need.”

The federal (VA) programs are failing to prepare veterans to “move ahead to successful civilian lives.”

So does a federal mental health program for farmers really sound all that good? Because it’s looking like just another pork barrel boondoggle scam to be funded – as usual – by the U.S. taxpayers. Furthermore, it just isn’t reasonable to let the bureaucracy that created the problem (federal government) solve it.

As for mental health counseling for everyone considering suicide, of course, that is a great idea. But doesn’t the real solution to farmers’ poverty lie in economics rather than psychology? Check out this “no duh” list of reasons why professional mental health experts think farmers are taking their own lives at a much higher rate than Americans in other lines of work, from the Newsweek article:

  • Many are reluctant to seek help
  • Farmers tend to own guns
  • Farms are often far from mental health care centers and professionals
  • The cost of land, equipment and livestock feed has gone up
  • Pesticide exposure can cause depression

Pesticide exposure causes depression – really?? So does being three months late in your mortgage and car payments. Honestly, have you ever read such a lame and self-evident list that undoubtedly came from a costly “professional” investigation?

What about all the other people working multiple jobs, neglecting their children and their spiritual selves, and feeling dirt poor? Will all of them get a federal program, too?

Instead of letting pop psychology run national policy, what if we tried some common sense and applied economic remedies to help farmers where it counts – in their wallets?

There are already some existing resources available for American farmers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) lists federal grants and loans available today for farmers and ranchers.

FoodTank mentions ten ways we can all support our local farmers:

  1. Shop at a farmers market
  2. Donate
  3. Get informed
  4. Tell policymakers
  5. Volunteer
  6. Be hands-on
  7. Share with friends
  8. Join a Co-op
  9. Buy your favorite foods locally
  10. Spread the word

The National Farmers Union (NFU) currently operates a Farm Crisis Center which has compiled “resources to help farmers through stressful times.”

Among these resources are the Farmer Resource Network, mediation resources, disaster resources, and a drought monitor.

But what if the burdens of life seem overpowering, and alternatives seem few and far between? You do not need to suffer in silence because many people sincerely want to help out.

If you are a farmer who needs to talk, the Farm Aid Hotline is open for assistance Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern Time:

800-FARM-AID (800-327-6243)

If you are not a farmer and need to talk, the National Suicide Hotline is open for assistance 24/7:

800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)

Remember the wise words of Native American Shawnee warrior and chief Tecumseh:

“A single twig breaks, but the bundle of twigs is strong.”

  1. Post Author

    Let us not forget that our Dairy Farmers are being hit big also. The new laws governing methane gas are putting a lot of them out of business. The cost to trap the belches and contain the cow pies (POOP) for those of you born after 1944, is too much for family owned Dairies to bear. Get prepared for harder than hard times to come.

  2. Post Author

    You at this Website will not for Fear of political Reprisals

  3. Post Author

    Industrial Hemp, Cannabis modified to be Hemp and Cannabis, all of these, will refresh farmers. $100,000 an acre net profit will restore their bank accounts and give them the money they need, to survive without ending their lives themselves.

  4. Post Author

    I would venture to say that most of the farmers that commit suicide are small farmers. They are pushed into this situation by very large producers that operate at a low markup and work on volume to make millions, often supported by Federal and or state governments that subsidize large producers to keep food cost low. But they don’t subsidize small farmers who can not match the low price of large producers, therefore pushing them into bankruptcy and even worst, suicide. Once all the small farmers are gone, watch out then as food prices will soar.

  5. Post Author

    If Trump is dumb enough to escalate with an additional $200 billion in tariffs against China, soybean and corn farmers will be depressed for many years. China’s likely response would be to greatly expand soybean and corn production world-wide by providing subsidized credit and capital to areas in South America and Africa that could be used for expanding soybean and corn production, if China was willing to advance funds for the development of large farms in those areas, and not a totally risk/reward profit maximizer, but was pursuing an agenda of retaliation against tariffs, China could devastate American agriculture for years.
    In what were the soybean and corn production areas in the USA, the world “Trump” would be an epithet.

    As with the Iran sanctions, it is becoming clear that Trump’s assertions that “trade wars are easy to win” were fallacious. No one ever wins a trade war, just some lose more than others. The retaliating nations have a tremendous advantage of those instigating protectionism. This can be seen with tariffs on steel and aluminum that increases the costs of every product made in the USA that uses those metals. Thus, American consumers and producers are already net losers from these ill-advised protectionist tariffs, even before any retaliation. These tariffs increase consumer prices and make products produced in the USA less competitive relative to those made outside the USA using steel and aluminum priced at the world market rather than the artificially propped-up, protected US steel market.

    As Trump discovered when a retaliatory tariff was put on US motorcycles (Harley-Davidson(HOG)) that will not raise any costs on any EU producers or raise prices for anyone in the EU, except for buyers of motorcycles, the cost to the retaliating nations is miniscule. HOG has announced it will have to shift production outside of the USA as a result of the tariffs. Thus, on top of the costs to American consumers, producers and exporters of the steel and aluminum tariffs, before any retaliation, American workers at HOG lose jobs and shareholders of HOG suffer as well.
    Larry Kudlow and other (formerly?) free trade advocates have been struggling to assert that Trump is not engaging in a trade war. Their task was made much more difficult, when Trump referred to the action by HOG as raising the white flag of surrender, a term generally used only in the context of warfare.

    As might be expected, the equity markets have responded negatively to the prospects a deteriorating trade situation. Another distressing aspect of Trump’s protectionism is the reaction by those on the left who epitomize the fact that “protectionism is the progressivism of fools”. Bernie Sanders and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) are prime examples of the “progressivism of fools” branch of protectionists. The only objective of tariffs supported by those on the left is to transfer wealth to the employees and owners of favored domestic producers. That the costs and losses to the rest of Americans far exceeded the gains to the employees and owners of favored domestic producers is never a concern of the “progressivism of fools” branch…”

  6. Post Author

    What farmers need is for the government to get out of the way and stop subsidising farmers which they have done over these many years. The subsidising sends incorrect economic messages to the farmer. The Federal Reserve acting as the reserve bank for the world has also hurt the USA farmer more than the subsidies by causing farmers overseas to send cheaper imports into the USA, see the Triffin Dilemma. As it does with everything it touches governments in the USA and around the world distort markets and cause harm.

  7. Post Author

    For me, the solution is less government “help”. Let the free market dictate prices and surplus years will have low prices but more grain to sell and bad years will have less to sell but at higher prices. This is an oversimplification of the problem but anything with less government will be better. The weaker farmers will be bankrupt but the ones who are good businessmen will prosper.

  8. Post Author

    It seems the American situation is similar to the situation of the Indian farmers. The suicide rate is rather similar as I know.
    For the US the reasons ly in the policy of the billion Dollar food companies on one side and the import of cheap food from countries in which the price of a working hour is just 10% of the American one. There is no balance any more!
    Dieter from Germany

  9. Post Author

    There is two glaring discrepancies. First, it is true the farmer is caught between a rock and hard place at times. Equipment that cost in the 50,000.00 or over price range, the availability of Government loans that become hard to meet in lean years,. But the real discrepancy that was not mentioned was, the age of our farmers. The average age of our farmers are 58.9 years. Time when most workers are eyeing retiring. But if you are a farmer and up in years, and become ill or start to have physical problems, it becomes a burden to continue. Age, that is a biggie and as people age the suicide rate goes up anyway.

    The other discrepancy is that all farmers don’t sell to large grain mills for export. Most sell to small grain elevators that deal with local ranchers and raisers. The price at these small mills are lower than those who export. When a market overseas drops out, then we should be able to find a local market or another overseas market. Also, the problem with the idea we need to keep our big markets that are paying us less than retail, is do we really want to have all the eggs so to speak in one basket. I would prefer a measured approach with diverse markets and protection from a failure of one market plunging the USA into chaos

    Side note to the poster that thinks this is all Trumps fault. You used HOG Harley Davidson as an example ” HOG has announced it will have to shift production outside of the USA as a result of the tariffs. ” This is a false statement, yes last year 2017 Harley Davidson closed a Kansas City Plant, but not because of tariffs, but because of slow / reduced sale of those bikes produced at that plant. Harley also announced, and this is where the above quote came from, that they were going to open a new plant in Thailand using American parts to assemble and sell bikes in the Asian market and not have to pay the export tariff placed by Asian markets. Harley Davidson bikes, HOG, are not closing all plants in North
    America and will continue to build and sell bikes built in the United States.

    These kind of stories, used to bash Trump on trade and tariffs is a major problem, after announcing trade sanctions on Chinese phones, China is now opening a plant here in the United States, approaching 1 billion dollars, so that they can continue to sell their phones in the United States. The Chancellor of Germany has already backed off of the tariffs put on American cars when Trump proposed a stiff or equal tariff on German automobiles. I would say the trade war’s are having the right effect.

    The poster that said to get out of the subsidy game and let markets go where they want to go and those that can survive, survive, isn’t that far off the mark. I feel that if a country puts a 15% tariff on one of our products, we do the same on one of theirs. Tit for Tat. But when the European Union has a 150 billion trade difference with the USA and they have 10 to 25 % tariffs to our 5 to 8% tariffs, something is out of balance and why should the Americans pay for that imbalance.

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