Minnesota's Farmer Crisis Line

Nov 11, 2017
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A crisis helpline has been relaunched in Minnesota. A rainy growing season this year left fields across the Midwest muddy and sometimes inaccessible. That has delayed, which can destroy some of the harvests of corn and soybeans. For farmers, that's just not a weather report. It's a loss of income. They need to pay their bills.

MEG MOYNIHAN: Farming at the best of times is a challenging occupation - lots of stress.

SIMON: Meg Moynihan is a senior adviser at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and a farmer. She and her husband run a 70-cow dairy operation.

MOYNIHAN: There are also an awful lot of factors that they just do not have control over.

SIMON: Like the weather or how low-crop and livestock prices have been in recent years. And debt. Many farmers take out huge loans at the start of the year, figuring they'll be able to pay them off with profits from a good harvest. All that can lead to anxiety and depression. When you live in an isolated place, it can be hard to know where to turn.

MOYNIHAN: Farmers are very much used to solving their own problems. So I think that, sometimes, disclosing that you're not feeling quite right - it could be interpreted by them as, like, I don't want to appear weak. I would be ashamed to tell somebody this.

SIMON: Ms. Moynihan restarted the state's 24/7 farm and rural helpline, where farmers can turn to get financial or legal advice or emotional support. They don't have to call it a crisis.

MOYNIHAN: You know, in the Midwest, sometimes, you just feel like - it's like, oh, yeah, it's a crisis line. And, oh, maybe my crisis isn't big enough that I can call that hotline. I'm just feeling a little blue. So we want those people to know that is what it's for.

SIMON: Meg Moynihan of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.