Sen. Baldwin announces federal funding increase to Farmers First Act

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - In an effort to help farmers, one Wisconsin senator announced an increase to funding that allows more access to mental health care for farmers.

Senator Tammy Baldwin and Iowa Senator Joni Ernst partnered to create the, “Facilitating Accessible Resources for Mental Health and Encouraging Rural Solutions for Immediate Response to Stressful times” or the “Farmers First Act.” The goal is to provide better access to mental health care to farmers in Wisconsin and across the county.

“When we passed the Farmers First Act, we weren't reinventing the wheel,” Baldwin said.

The Farmers First Act was included in the 2018 Farm Bill. Now, Baldwin and Ernst have added an additional $6,000,000 in federal funding to the program.

UW-Extension Agriculture Agent Jerry Clark said the increase will help farmers gain access to more mental health resources.

“I think it provides more access to that support whether through that's through professional help, councilors, guidance, and other agencies that can provide that support,” Clark said.

With low milk prices, a milk surplus and an ongoing trade war, Wisconsin farmers are struggling. In the first seven months of 2019, Wisconsin has lost 491 dairy farms.

“This is because of low prices that are low for five years running, it’s because of an oversupply, it’s because of a raging trade war with China,” Baldwin said. “Export markets for our farmers have begun to dry up considerably, to the extent that we are losing roughly three farms a day.”

Because of these tough times, some farmers are under incredible stress. The funding increase announced by Senator Baldwin looks to provide more resources to those who don't see a way out.

“We've been working diligently to fund it at an adequate level where it can really make a difference and in particular, try to reduce the increase we've seen in farmer suicide across the county and certainly we've seen it in Wisconsin,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin said while this funding helps, it does not fix the Ag and Dairy Crises.

“The Dairy Crisis and our Ag Crisis generally is severe enough that no one program is going to solve it.”