Congress Approves Rural Mental Health Bill as Part of Defense Authorization Legislation

News / FBNews July 27, 2020

The House and Senate recently passed a Farm Bureau-supported measure designed to help farmers respond to stress and decrease the stigma associated with mental health care in rural communities. The Seeding Rural Resilience Act was included in each chamber’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act.

“The recent pandemic, challenging weather, destructive pests, trade disputes, labor shortages and market volatility over the past few years have brought an unprecedented level of pressure on America’s farmers. A 2019 Farm Bureau survey shows that an overwhelming majority of farmers and farmworkers say financial issues, farm or business problems and fear of losing their farm negatively impact their mental health,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a letter to senators urging them to approve the Seeding Rural Resilience Act as an amendment to the defense authorization bill.

Passage of the bill is part of Farm Bureau’s efforts to reduce the stigma surrounding the topic of mental health in rural communities and to provide relevant information to farm families on this important topic, Duvall added.

The Seeding Rural Resilience Act would create three initiatives to promote mental wellness and mental health awareness in rural America:

  • A farmer-facing employee training program that requires USDA to provide voluntary stress management training to employees at the Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency and National Resources Conservation Service.
  • A partnership between the Department of Health and Human Services and USDA to create a $3 million PSA to increase public awareness of farm and ranch stress and destigmatize mental health care in rural communities.
  • Collaboration among state, local and non-governmental stakeholders, led by the secretary of agriculture, to determine best practices for responding to farm and ranch mental stress.

The Seeding Rural Resilience Act was introduced in the Senate last year by Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and in the House by Reps. Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.), Angie Craig (D-Minn.) and John Katko (R-N.Y.).

The House and Senate must negotiate a single national defense authorization bill before it goes to the president for his signature.

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