Fried Speaks About Farmer Stress Awareness Initiative

Jim Rogers General

By Clint Thompson

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Nikki Fried formally launched the FDACS Farmer Stress Awareness Initiative on Thursday in Plant City, Florida. Fried hopes to create awareness about a concern not easily talked about in the agricultural sector – stress and its impact on mental health.

Farmer Stress
Photo courtesy of FDACS shows Commissioner Nikki Fried speaking at Thursday’s event in Plant City, Florida.

“We know the suicide rate for farmers is double what it is for the everyday person in our society. That’s got to change,” Fried said. “Unfortunately, we also know that this is a sector of our community that is least likely to ask for help. We want people to know they are not alone, that there is help out here. We should all be talking to each other, leaning on one another and not be afraid to ask for that assistance.”

Farmers have never been immune to challenges. Whether it is overcoming production issues, weather obstacles, increased imports or low market prices, farming is an inherently stressful occupation. Farmer stress only worsened, however, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has really exacerbated the situation and all the increasing costs,” Fried said. “We felt like we had to be part of the solution and give people the resources to get through these times and to come up with a program, not just through these times but for the future.

“Doing my own research, I saw how much mental health really impacted our agriculture industry. Knowing the additional stress, from the hard labor to the financial restraints to what is happening with diseases and pests and unfair trade practices and now dealing where we are with the pandemic and the supply chains, that is just compounding and making it very difficult for farmers and ranchers to stay afloat.”

FDACS was awarded a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to implement a new Farm Stress Awareness and Reduction Initiative. FDACS is partnering with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) to train public school agriculture teachers, 2-1-1, 4-H and Future Farmers of America members, and others to recognize the signs of farm stress. This allows producers to connect with mental health services in their communities and to expand the reach of new telehealth sites in rural counties. The FDACS Division of Marketing and Development also produced multiple videos to raise awareness and promote existing resources that are airing digitally in all Florida’s media markets for four months.

“First off, it is about awareness; awareness of programs and resources that are available. It’s bringing awareness to mental health and for people to know that they are not alone. There are people out here who are struggling, too. In fact, I would probably say the vast majority of people in society go through mental health in some capacity or another at some point in their life. Making sure people know they are not alone, and at the end of the day, if I can save one life, all of that would have been worth it,” Fried said.

Source: FDACS