Blue Dogs Back Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Address High Suicide Rates in Rural America
WASHINGTON—The Democratic Blue Dog Coalition has endorsed the bipartisan, bicameral Seeding Rural Resilience Act, which helps to address the growing rate of suicide in rural communities across the country. The bill was introduced in the House by Blue Dog Coalition Co-Chair for Whip, Rep. Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), as well as Reps. John Katko (NY-24) and Angie Craig (MN-02). The companion bill in the Senate is sponsored by Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA).
From 1999 to 2016, suicide rates grew in nearly all 50 states. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate is 45 percent higher in rural areas than in urban areas.
“A career in agriculture is a difficult but rewarding life. Farmer in Upstate New York and around the country help feed the world, but unfortunately, many bear incredible burdens,” said Rep. Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), Blue Dog Coalition Co-Chair for Whip. “Whether it’s low prices, a trade war, or Mother Nature, much of a farmer’s bottom line is out of their control, and that uncertainty can add to daily stresses. Our bill will help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health in our rural communities and ensure all farmers have better access to mental health care. I am honored to have the Blue Dog Coalition’s endorsement of this commonsense and bipartisan bill.”
“At a time when the farm economy is experiencing low commodity prices, extreme weather, and volatile market fluctuations, producers face immense stress every day—and we need to provide them with access to mental health resources in their own communities,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger (VA-07), Co-Chair of the Blue Dog Task Force on Rural Opportunity. “As Co-Chair of the Blue Dog Coalition’s Rural Opportunity Task Force, I’m proud to endorse and cosponsor the Seeding Rural Resilience Act—and I thank Congressman Brindisi, Congressman Katko, and Congresswoman Craig for introducing this critical legislation. By reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness and promoting effective suicide prevention programs, this bipartisan bill is a step forward as we look to lend a hand to the hardworking men and women who feed the American people.”
“The nationwide shortage of mental health providers hits rural communities especially hard,” said Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (NM-02), Co-Chair of the Blue Dog Task Force on Rural Opportunity. “An expansion of suicide prevention efforts to remote areas will help address the high suicide rates facing rural residents. In order to expand opportunity to every corner of our country, suicide prevention must be a top priority if we are to ensure rural communities are receiving the care they need.”
The Seeding Rural Resilience Act would do the following:
- Implement a Farmer-Facing Employee Training Program that requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide voluntary stress management training to Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency, and National Resources Conservation Service Employees.
- Form 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.
- Direct the Secretary of Agriculture to work with state, local, and nongovernmental stakeholders to collaborate and determine best practices for responding to farm and ranch mental stress.
The bipartisan legislation is supported by the American Dairy Coalition, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychological Association, Farm Aid, Female Farmer Project, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Corn Growers’ Association, National Family Farm Coalition, National Farmers’ Union, National Milk Producers Federation, National Sunflower Association, National Young Farmers Coalition, Rural & Agricultural Council of America, U.S. Canola Association, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, and the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Association.