In light of a continuous farm crisis, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is guiding farmers toward financial, personal and emotional support.
Meg Moynihan, a senior advisor for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, is also a dairy farmer. She was aware of the headlines hitting Wisconsin’s dairy industry, and said shared the same concerns about the dairy situation in Minnesota.
“We are experiencing market volatility,” Moynihan said. “We are experiencing weather volatility. Prices have been consistently low, at or below the cost of production for three or four years, and it is really taking a toll on our farmers.”
Moynihan added that Minnesota has a diverse agriculture industry. In addition to corn and soybeans, some parts are strong in small grain production and some oil seeds like canola. The state also boasts a strong poultry industry.
To protect the many faces of farming, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture partnered with county Farm Service Agency offices to distribute brochures with resources for farmers.
Some of those services include a Minnesota Farm and Rural Helpline (833-600-2670) that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Moynihan said it can connect people with a counselor over the phone, or provide other sources of information about financial and legal assistance.
People who are worried about someone else in their life can call this number for help approaching the issues. Minnesota also has a psychologist funded by the legislature who works specifically with farmers and farm families at no charge to them.
Another opportunity for help is the Farm Advocate Network. Moynihan said it consists of peer farms across the state that can help farmers navigate difficult situations that they encounter, whether it is a natural or financial disaster.
“This is someone who can help with the problem-solving steps or even walk with you to the bank,” Moynihan said.
Additionally, the Minnesota state system has farm business management advice and counseling. The extension service offers confidential farm financial counseling, and there are various other resources available from different players.
“We are looking to work together to expand the safety net for farmers so nobody falls through the cracks,” Moynihan said. “We are hearing a lot about farm foreclosures. We are hearing more about bankruptcy. We are hearing in the spring about operating loans being denied. We hear about farmers taking more off-farm jobs.”
Moynihan said after years of increasing stress levels for farmers, the pressure on communities is mounting as well.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is increasingly realizing that people who work with farmers, such as those operating feed mills, applying pesticides, or having to deny farm loans, are facing similar stressors.
She said the resources apply for everyone involved in agriculture generally.
“In rural areas, your customers are your neighbors,” Moynihan said. “What affects one person affects the rest of us.”
Moynihan added that the most important thing for people to realize is that they are not alone in trying to navigate these problems and find solutions.
Their goal is to help them find the appropriate information for their particular circumstance as quickly as possible.
“The more agricultural communities work together, the more unified we are in trying to weather these storms,” Moynihan said.
Minnesotans can all 651-201-6012 to receive a copy of the brochure in the mail, or they can download it at minnesotafarmstress.com.