Washington, D.C. (April 20, 2020)—The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) today sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue praising the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) response to the COVID-19 pandemic and urging him to broaden that response by focusing on the impact the crisis is having on the mental health of producers around the country.
“The financial relief measures the Department is providing to production agriculture is a much-needed tourniquet, but this pandemic is exacerbating the ongoing mental health problems for some farmers and ranchers. We have reached the point where producers are making heartbreaking decisions to destroy or abandon their produce, dump their milk, and even destroy livestock,” the letter states. “The frustration of seeing the value of your hard work going for naught can compound feelings of depression. For some, mental health may become as or more important than financial health. Unfortunately, money will not heal all problems.”
The letter notes that USDA, together with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, has been active for several years to help producers struggling with farm stress. USDA could leverage this experience at this time to provide a lifeline to farmers and ranchers struggling with the impacts of this crisis.
The letter suggests that USDA convey to producers that:
- You are not alone. Producers across the country are facing similar challenges. We all need to step up, particularly in rural America, and reach out to our neighbors.
- This is not your fault. The current environment is something you could have never predicted or planned for and the difficult decisions you are being forced to make on your farm are no fault of your own.
- You will get through this and we are here to help you do that. There will be challenging days ahead, but there are resources available on how to cope and manage the stress and emotional toll this pandemic is causing.
“Now more than ever, your role as Secretary is commanding the attention and trust of nearly every producer in the country,” the letter says. “We would like to suggest using this platform to extend a lifeline to producers who may be struggling.”
Since 1929, NCFC has been the voice of America’s farmer cooperatives. Our members are regional and national farmer cooperatives, which are in turn composed of nearly 2,000 local farmer cooperatives across the country. NCFC members also include 26 state and regional councils of cooperatives. Farmer cooperatives allow individual farmers the ability to own and lead organizations that are essential for continued competitiveness in both the domestic and international markets.
America’s farmer-owned cooperatives provide a comprehensive array of services for their members. These diverse organizations handle, process and market virtually every type of agricultural commodity. They also provide farmers with access to infrastructure necessary to manufacture, distribute and sell a variety of farm inputs. Additionally, they provide credit and related financial services, including export financing.