In January 2018 every American who is defined as a farmer by the IRS was asked to complete the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Conducted every five years, the Census included anyone who earned more than a $1,000 from farming activities in 2017, such as raising crops and/or livestock, or from non-farming alternatives such as the Conservation Reserve Program.
Outcomes of treatments for substance abuse are difficult to predict and also are difficult for the people affected by the substance abuser to deal with. This is the 10th report about Dan and Darla, a farm couple and their two children, a daughter who is 13 and a son who is 9 years old. As usual, I have not used their real names or revealed identifying information. My first description of their circumstance was published in October 2013, but Dan's problems with alcohol and other aspects of his life began well before then. The most recent report was in early December last year.
There are 5 million wild pigs in the U.S., double the number 30 years ago, according to a 2018 U.S. Department of Agriculture report entitled Feral Swine Distribution by County 1982-2015. Feral pigs live in 38 states, with the highest concentrations in southern states and California.
Recently, a friend who retired from farming in 2016 passed away at age 77. He and his wife, whom he cared for because she suffers from Alzheimer's disease, moved to town three years ago so he could be with her at all times, unless his daughter or other competent persons were available for backup.
An expanding news media is bringing attention to the current financial struggles of many U.S. agricultural producers and their families. The attention comes in established and new ways and with an intensity not seen since the Farm Crisis of the 1980s. Media methods have changed substantially since the 1980s' depression in the farm economy, when reports of farmer suicide and protests were almost a daily news item.
In October 2012 I wrote that every farmer should have these five signed and notarized documents: 1) will, 2) advance health care directive, 3) a designated power of attorney to make health care decisions, 4) designated power of attorney to make business decisions and 5) letter of instruction. These are still the minimum legal documents every farmer — actually every adult — should have in place to assist family members, other loved ones, business associates,and others who might become involved in case you become disabled or die.
As times change for agricultural producers, so do the stresses that generate worries and affect the well-being of their families and agricultural operations. Farming has become more complex than during previous generations.
The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which is the title of the new farm bill that was approved by Congress and President Donald Trump, includes $10 million for each of the next five years for behavioral health supports for distressed farmers. Matt Perdue of National Farmers Union reported that "the recently passed appropriations bill includes $2 million for a pilot Farmer Stress Assistance Network."
The questions that distressed farmers and ranchers ask me often differ from those of agricultural journalists, media reporters and outsiders from agriculture. The North Dakota farmer who inspired last week's article made me look further at the questions producers who are "in trouble" usually ask, like these: • Can you help us because we are underwater financially and our lender wants to foreclose? • Where can we find people who understand our side and who aren't just those telling us to get an off-farm job or to quit?
A North Dakota farmer wrote me two weeks ago and described thoughtfully how costs for farmland and crop yields are impacting his financial outcome. His points should be considered by others in similar situations, as well as by lenders, insurers, counselors, and anyone involved in the management of risks associated with agriculture.