Washington, D.C. - Today, in light of Mental Health Awareness Month and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Representative Tom Emmer (MN-06) introduced legislation to provide improvements to the Farm Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN), which provides mental health assistance to the agriculture community. The improvements include expedited disbursement of funds to develop mental and emotional health resources for farmers and agricultural workers. The bill also provides additional funding for the program as farmers bear the impacts of the pandemic.
"During this pandemic, there has been significant attention on farmer’s balance sheets and financial well-being, and rightly so.” Emmer said, “But as farmers euthanize animals, dump milk, and see across-the-board commodity price declines, we also need to recognize the growing toll these factors take on farmer’s emotional well-being."
This legislation is supported by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Council on Farmer Cooperatives, and the National Milk Producers Federation.
Representative Emmer also sent letters to legislative and agency leadership urging them to mobilize their existing resources and authorities to address growing stress in our rural communities. One letter requests that leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees fully fund FRSAN, given the complications posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Representative Emmer also sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to request expedited disbursement of the funds Congress previously appropriated for FRSAN. The program is currently receiving applications for the grants for this year, but will not begin to consider awards until later in the summer.
Due to the nature of their work and the lack of mental health resources available in rural areas, individuals who work in agriculture suffer from higher rates of depression and suicide. The Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network was first created in 2008, but it did not receive any funding and therefore lapsed.
Emmer introduced the STRESS Act in 2018, which renewed FRSAN and brought attention to Americans in rural areas who suffer from a lack of access to mental health care. The STRESS Act language was included in the 2018 Farm Bill, and the program was reauthorized. Since then, Emmer has led the way to provide the needed funding for this program to carry out its mission in each appropriations cycle.
Specifically, the bill provides instructions to the United States Department of Agriculture to expedite awards for its current funding. It also increases the funding authorization of the program to $20 million to provide more resources to the agriculture community.
Read the bill here.
Read the letter to committee appropriators here.
Read the letter to USDA here.