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Giving Compass' Take:
• As COVID-19 disrupts food chains and farmer's productivity, behavioral health specialists are concerned about farmers' mental health during the pandemic.
• The Farm Bureau and Iowa Pork Industry Center are dispersing mental health resources for farmers. How can donors help contribute to this effort?
• Read more about the impact of COVID-19 on farmers.
Studies have found the rates of mental illness and suicide are higher for farmers. The profession requires long hours, limited social contact and is often at the mercy of external factors such as weather and market rates. Now the COVID-19 pandemic has farmers facing unprecedented challenges, and this has some worried about a mental health crisis in this community.
Bill Tentinger has been a hog farmer for 50 years. He’s been through droughts, market crashes, and even other viral outbreaks, but he says this pandemic is worse than anything he’s seen before.
"We’ve experienced everything, and I gotta tell you I have never seen anything like this in all the years that I've operated," he said.
Tentinger operates a farm in Le Mars, and he’s on the National Pork Board. He said since pork processing facilities have slowed due to COVID-19 outbreaks in the workforce, he’s been struggling with what to do with 2,500 excess pigs - with no end in sight.
Tentinger said cramming them into pens isn’t good for their health and not being able to sell them is taking a heavy toll on his farm.
"Basically I'm using up my retirement plan to, you know, to continue to operate," he said.
Many farmers like Tentinger are under an extreme amount of stress from the pandemic.
As restaurants closed and crop prices plummeted, groups such as the Farm Bureau and Iowa Pork Industry Center have been sending out resources to farmers on managing their mental health and stress.
"We may see more concerns related to alcohol abuse concerns related to depression, some forms of trauma if they are euthanizing livestock, things like that," said David Brown, a behavioral health specialist with Iowa State University Extension. "We're also concerned about a potential spike in suicides."
Read the full article about farmers' mental health during COVID-19 by Natalie Krebs at Harvest Public Media.