As part of its mission to support rural communities and agriculture, Farm Credit formed a partnership with American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), National Farmers Union (NFU) and Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) to develop trainings for individuals who interact with farmers and ranchers to help them recognize signs of stress and offer assistance. 

infographic of program identifying stress
The Need

Low commodity prices, extreme weather events and tariff/trade conditions create rising stress for Farm Credit’s customer-owners and employees. That's why Farm Credit partnered with Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) to create an online training course focused on mental and emotional health. This training provides support and advice for loan officers having difficult or stressful conversations, while also offering tips for strengthening their own mental well-being. The training will also help Farm Credit employees identify signs of stress in customers and provide techniques and coping strategies to help customers manage that stress.

About the Program

The Farm Credit training curriculum is modeled on a previous farm stress program Michigan State University Extension developed for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA). This combination of online and in-person trainings is designed specifically for individuals who interact with farmers and ranchers. It provides participants the skills to understand the sources of stress, learn the warning signs of stress and suicide, identify effective communication strategies, reduce the stigma related to mental health concerns and connect farmers and ranchers with appropriate mental health and other resources.

To help the resources better permeate rural communities, Farm Credit is offering this program to regional and state leaders of the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union. These trainings provide additional resources to rural communities across the country to help reach more individual farmers and ranchers.

The entire farm stress management program is made possible by Farm Credit’s National Contributions Fund, and we hope to partner with more farm and rural organizations in 2020.

To learn more about the announcement, listen to the archived audio, watch live footage or download photos from the December 11, 2019, press conference. 

Additional Efforts

This training builds on other Farm Credit System efforts to support rural mental health. We partner with the AgriSafe Network to educate rural health professionals on the mental health risks faced by farmers and ranchers and trains them to integrate basic mental health screenings into their primary care practices. The Total Farmer Health campaign helps address the limited mental health services in many rural areas and trains primary care practitioners to better understand and recognize the challenges agricultural producers face and how they might manifest.

Farm Credit also partnered with the Progressive Agriculture Foundation to develop a new curriculum focused on the mental well-being of rural youth ages four to 13, as part the “Ag Safety Days” it hosts across rural America. This curriculum launched in January 2020.

We also partner with American Agri-Women on its Cultivating Resiliency initiative. This includes webinar discussions with farm families who have dealt with mental health issues. In addition are Coffee Chat Sessions, which provide an anonymous online forum for group discussion with folks in other regions experiencing similar situations, led by a trained professional.