Mental health

A new hospital, financed by a USDA loan, is under construction on the edge of Syracuse, Nebraska, a town of just under 2,000 people.
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media file photo

Farming involves a degree of inherent risk, such as environmental and biological factors like drought and disease, which can come and go practically without warning. Depressed commodity and dairy prices and a burgeoning trade war are adding to that usual stress and taking a toll on farmers.

As the Senate prepares to unveil its farm bill draft, a bill backed by a bipartisan group of senators from Midwest and Plains states is looking to provide better access to mental health services and financial help for those needing it. The rate of suicides has been higher in rural areas than urban areas for years, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As the nation's dairy farmers struggle through their fourth year of depressed milk prices, concerns are rising that many are becoming depressed themselves. The outlook for the next year is so bleak, it's heightening worries — especially in the Northeast — about farmer suicides.

Agri-Mark Inc., a dairy cooperative with about 1,000 members, saw three farmers take their own lives in the past three years. The most recent was last month. It's a very small sample, but very sharp and disturbing increase.