Smith: The Minnesota Farm Bureau is taking on the rural opioid crisis, combatting what they say is a safety issue in rural America. After analyzing information gathered from a joint survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union, Ruth Meirick, the Director of the Minnesota Farm Bureau Foundation, said the Minnesota Farm Bureau decided to become more involved in the fight against opioid addiction.
Meirick: Keeping our farmers safe and healthy is very important to Farm Bureau and our members. We used that information as a vehicle to get more involved to talk about the opioid epidemic to provide information and resources because the information shows us if we can reduce the stigma and provide resources to our farm and ranch families, we can help with the opioid epidemic.
Smith: Meirick says the survey showed three out of four farmers were able to access prescription medications without having a prescription, increasing the risk of addiction to opioids. She says the Minnesota Farm Bureau has found internal and external partners to help them get the message out.
Meirick: Internally, we really look at our county Farm Bureaus, our committees that we have within Farm Bureau. Within our own state, we have these other agricultural organizations we can partner with, law enforcement, our local pharmacists, rotary members or chamber of commerce members. Externally, those are people such as the Minnesota Police Association, the Minnesota Board of Realtors. We work with a national organization called RALI, the Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative, they provide us resources and a web of networking across the nation of a lot of different people that want to make a difference in the opioid crisis.
Smith: Meirick says their approach to combatting the rural opioid crisis involves many different approaches and programming to connect with those who need to hear their message.
Meirick: We developed a county opioid crisis handbook that our county Farm Bureaus can use as a resource that gives them information on how they can have activities in their own counties or in their own communities. We’ve held community meetings where we’ve brought players from all different types of organizations in industry and business together to talk about our approaches to the opioid epidemic. We’re speaking at meetings. I encourage all that are involved in agriculture, we have to be talking about this. We need to make sure that our farmers are safe.
Smith: Chad Smith, Washington