The American Soybean Association (ASA) COVID-19 Task Force conducted a survey in April regarding the effects of COVID-19 on soy growers, their operations, employees and families. Stress reported by the 86 farmer respondents from across the soy-producing states was high. ASA, state soybean affiliates and the United Soybean Board (USB) want to help.
During Mental Health Month in May, ASA launched a proactive communications campaign to combat #FarmStress and offer #SoyHelp. Help comes in many forms and from many sources, and ASA had researched a range of options that was shared both nationally and by state soybean affiliates:
- National mental health resources, including suicide hotlines and crisis centers
- Agriculture-specific resources for farmers and farm families, both national and state
- COVID-19-specific resources for stress and other concerns, both national and state
“Stress levels have crept up out there in farm communities for some time now,” said Kevin Scott, soybean farmer from South Dakota and chair of the ASA C-19 Task Force. “As farmers, we are all faced with varying levels of anxiety resulting from a host of concerns – the coronavirus pandemic, weather issues, China trade problems and other farm stressors. But, knowing there are issues compounding out there and knowing how to talk about them and work to reduce them are two different things. This survey cast a light on ASA’s responsibility to try to help,” Scott explained.
The #SoyHelp campaign’s resources and guidance helped to address concerns ranging from temporary stress to ongoing struggles with anxiety and from depression to thoughts of suicide. Options exist for men, women, beginning farmers, veterans and other groups with specific needs or commonalities, including language and disability barriers. Some are specific to disasters, including COVID-19 and how the pandemic has increased instances of or worsened levels of stress. North Dakota Soybean Growers Association and other affiliate states have local and regional resources available, including information on telehealth options, financial resources, and government offices able to assist with farm operation issues.
“ASA and the affiliate states, including North Dakota, are taking a proactive approach to stress in agriculture by giving farmers, ranchers and their families a pathway to many online resources and tools they need during this difficult time,” said Nancy Johnson, NDSGA executive director. NDSGA has provided these links and tools on its home page and also through its social media platforms. “Our aim is to provide information and resources quickly, when they need it most.”
Included in both ASA and state affiliate resources are links to self-assessments, professional services and local health care facilities; hotlines for urgent needs, warmlines for helpful advice, chat and text lines for instant access; and articles on symptoms, solutions, and opening uncomfortable discussions.
ASA tools and resources:
- A Heathy Farm is Nothing without You
- Staying Social from a Distance
- How to Start the Conversation
- Breaking Down Mental Health Barriers in Agriculture
- You Can’t Avoid Farm Stress, But You Can Manage It
- Sometimes You Need Help, and Sometimes You are the Help
- Ag State of Mind with Jason Medows Podcast
North Dakota tools and resources:
- North Dakota FirstLink: Call 701-235-7335 or text zip code to 898-211
- Dealing With Stress Webinar Series (U of MN)
- Managing a Farm (U of MN)
- Managing Farm Stress (Michigan State U)
- ND Prevention Resource and Media Center
- ND Response
- ND Suicide Prevention
- Production Ag and Stress (eXtension)
- The Village