How is COVID-19 affecting the mental wellbeing of American farmers and ranchers?
October 10th marks World Mental Health Day, while 2020 marks a year where our collective mental health has taken a vehement beating. As a particularly arduous industry both physically and mentally, farmer and rancher mental health has been hit especially hard this year.
COVID-19 has exacerbated stressors farmers and ranchers commonly face already, such as farm labor shortage, volatile commodity markets, and an unstable global economy while adding new challenges including increased health safety expenses and abrupt supply chain disruptions. This perfect storm of contributing factors is creating an influx of chronic stress among American farmers and ranchers. Over the past several months, experts agree that symptoms of chronic stress are on the rise. Common chronic stress symptoms include,
- Inability to sleep;
- Brain fog;
- Increased irritability;
- Frequent sickness;
- Digestive issues;
- Strained interactions with others;
- Emotional outbursts;
- Difficulty making decisions;
- High blood pressure; and
- Chronic fatigue.
In an industry where people are constantly putting the needs of others ahead of their own, it can be easy to put mental wellbeing and self-care on the backburner. Because of the essential nature of the agricultural industry, more emphasis is being placed on positive mental health for farmers—leading to a growth in support and resources.
Recent Challenges Impacting Mental Health in U.S. Agriculture
The most common source of mental stress for American farmers and ranchers is the current financial state of their operation. Farm profits have been trending downwards since its peak in 2013, but so has the rate of farm bankruptcies. The slight uptick in farm income that has slowed the farm loan delinquencies rate is largely due to an influx in federal subsidies, such as the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) to offset losses incurred by retaliatory tariffs in global trade markets and, more recently, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to ease the impacts of COVID-19 on the U.S. agriculture sector.
This significant increase in fiscal response has prevented the current farm loan delinquency rate from reaching the 2010 high of 3.76 percent, but the increasing reliance on the federal government to support this essential industry is not an idea that sits well in the minds of many American farmers, who are known for their unwavering independence.
Primary operators of multigenerational farms are feeling an enormous burden to continue their family legacy while keeping a nation sustained in historic volatility. Yet, relying on the government to keep their legacy alive is not only an uncomfortable thought but also not an option for many of these operations. Federal assistance programs often disproportionately assist large operations and leave the smaller farms with little relief when it’s needed most.
This increasing financial burden amid an uncertain economic future coupled with a stark imbalance in federal aid is aggravating chronic stress among farmers and ranchers. While public awareness of their critical role in our society is growing, proactive action must be taken to show the farmers who are facing chronic stress that they are not alone.
Improving the Financial Health of Your Agricultural Operation
Part of the proactive action needed to support this essential yet mentally-taxing industry is providing farmers and ranchers with access to the resources needed to enhance the financial health of their agricultural operation. While each operation is unique in specific needs, there are a couple of universal strategies farmers can implement to help them rest well in the face of economic calamity and alleviate the financial burden many are experiencing during this time.
Keeping track of input costs, financial documentation, and potential profit losses will benefit farmers and ranchers in more ways than one. First, it will make it easy to decide where costs can be cut back and what operational investments carry a high ROI. Second, a proper documentation filing system makes it easier when applying for crop insurance, ad hoc payments, or a farm loan.
Restructure Farm Debt
Proper financial documentation also provides insights into the existing financial structure of an agricultural operation and sheds light on how existing debt can be restructured in order to boost liquidity. Proactive communication with a lender who understands the volatility within the industry can alleviate the chronic stress that often comes with a heavy financial load.
AgAmerica’s Commitment to American Farmers and Ranchers
The mental health of farmers is a topic of growing importance as the burden they carry weighs heavier each day. It’s a discussion that needs to be acknowledged, normalized, and addressed so those facing hardships don’t feel as though they must do so alone. Being strong doesn’t mean suffering in silence, but rather knowing when to ask for help when you need it.
AgAmerica understands the gravity of maintaining your operation’s profitability during economic uncertainty, all while building a legacy and future for your farm operation. Our team’s mission is to not only create resilient and flexible financial structures that will ease your financial obligations but to also provide the additional resources and support needed for long-term success. With AgAmerica, farmers and ranchers get more than a lender—they get a partner.
“We now realize as we have ever realized before, our interdependence on each other.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt
AgAmerica is committed to doing what we can to improve the financial situation of farmers, ranchers, and rural landowners across the nation in the current economic climate. If you are interested in learning more about improving the financial structure of your operation, please visit our contact page to get in touch with one of our agricultural land lending experts.