On December 11, Congress passed H.R 6395, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021, which includes S. 2599, the Seeding Rural Resilience Act, sponsored by Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). The Seeding Rural Resilience Act aims to curb the suicide rates in rural areas, but particularly among farmers and ranchers. NACo supports the Seeding Rural Resilience Act and continues to work with Congress to ensure its passage.
During the pandemic we have seen an increase in suicide rates across the nation, and especially among farmers and ranchers. These industries have suffered tremendously as a result of the current economic crisis and our rural communities have been hit especially hard with increased isolation in efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19. Currently USDA provides the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) which connects farmers and ranchers to stress assistance programs and resources through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). This law would establish additional programs to help mitigate industry and community related stressors.
Through the Seeding Rural Resilience Act, our rural communities will be provided with the necessary resources to provide mental health education and federal funding to bolster local services. The law would create three initiatives:
- A Farmer Facing 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;
- A partnership between the Department of Health and Human Services and USDA to create a $3 million public service announcement campaign to increase public awareness of farm and ranch stress and destigmatize mental health care in rural communities; and
- Directs 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 proposed law would aid counties in keeping the residents of our most vulnerable communities safe and healthy. NACo supports these efforts to strengthen the intergovernmental partnership between federal, state and local governments, which is vital to the prosperity of our nation.