The farm bill and farm stress

John Lawrence’s message from Dec. 2, 2019

Since mid-November our farm management specialists and local USDA Farm Service Agency representatives have been holding public meetings to provide an overview of the 2018 Farm Bill. Farmers, landowners and ag professionals have been gathering in extension offices, community centers and other venues, as they do most years when there’s a new farm bill, to learn about decision points and program rules and regulations that pertain to each part of the state. But that’s not all they’re learning about this year.

Did you know? In general, farmers are entering this farm bill with more financial stress and less operating capital than in 2014, when commodity prices were still high. The financial stress has the potential to impact not only the future of the farm, but also the health of the operator. That’s why at each farm bill meeting, a human sciences specialist in family life is presenting “Stress on the Farm: Strategies to Help Each Other.” This 40-minute, scenario-based, suicide prevention training reviews the risk factors and warning signs of suicide, as well as protective factors and a strategy for how to intervene.

Our farm bill meetings – more than 60 altogether – will continue through January. We will continue to educate Iowans about Price Loss Coverage and Agriculture Risk Coverage to help them deal with the farm bill that affects their livelihood. But we’ll also continue to promote healthy strategies to help each other recognize and cope with the stress that impacts daily life.

ICM Conference

The Integrated Crop Management Conference is another way we help farmers and the ag industry prepare for 2020 and beyond. Nearly 900 attendees will gather for the Dec. 4-5 conference in Ames. Now in its 31st year, the annual event is a great opportunity for farmers, industry, ag retailers, agronomists and educators to network with each other, interact with university specialists, and learn about the latest in crop research and technology. ISU Extension and Outreach and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences host the conference.

More notes

  • The public seminar by Jay Harmon, candidate for Associate Dean for Extension and Outreach and ISU Extension Program Director for Agriculture and Natural Resources, is Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. in 0013 Curtiss Hall and via Zoom, at https://zoom.us/j/415857802. Learn about his strategy for leading our ANR program. The seminar will be recorded and available for viewing beginning Dec. 4. The question and answer session will not be recorded.
  • Our Growing Together volunteers harvested and donated approximately 115,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables throughout the 2019 growing season. That’s nearly 345,000 servings of fresh produce to fight hunger in Iowa. Learn more about this and other programs in the December Program Update from the leadership team.
  • A committee has begun developing a new Memorandum of Understanding between Extension Districts and Iowa State that incorporates the Structured for Success plan for our future. The MOU will be ready for councils to review and begin signing in early spring 2020. (It must be signed by June 1, 2020.) The MOU will cover three years, July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2023. We expect there will be one overarching MOU and three separate operating agreements depending on which model a council selects.
  • Congratulations to Van Buren County, the first county to submit its 2019 stakeholder report. The reports are due Jan. 1 and will be available from the County Services website. You can use your county stakeholder report throughout the year to build awareness of programs, demonstrate impact and outcomes, and show return on investment. Thank you to everyone who contributes to these reports. Sharing our extension stories helps people know how we are working in your county and throughout the state to build a strong Iowa.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

Still calling Iowa Concern

John Lawrence’s message from July 2, 2018

Sometimes a phone call can make all the difference, and even save a life. ISU Extension and Outreach learned that lesson more than 30 years ago. When Iowa farmers, families and rural communities were under stress and needed help during the 1980s farm crisis, we responded with Iowa Concern. Today we continue to answer Iowans’ calls 24/7, not only with stress counselors and a toll-free phone number, but also with live chat capabilities, email and a website. Iowa Concern provides Iowans with access to an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. Did you know?

  • ISU Extension and Outreach started the referral service, originally called Rural Concern, in cooperation with Iowa Department of Human Services and United Way of Central Iowa in 1985 (thus the phone number, 800-447-1985). Initially it was funded through donations from Farm Bureau, FmHA and the Farm Credit System. In 1986, the Iowa General Assembly appropriated money to continue the service, according to “75 Years of Service: Cooperative Extension in Iowa,” an extension history book by Iowa State’s Dorothy Schwieder.
  • After the floods of 1993, the name was changed to Iowa Concern to expand the hotline’s reach as a source of help for all Iowans in need.
  • According to Tammy Jacobs, current coordinator for Iowa Concern and all other Human Sciences Extension and Outreach hotlines, Iowa Concern answered 7,826 calls in 2017. All contacts are confidential.

Tammy says the hotline has seen a slight increase in ag-related calls in the last few months. Caller concerns include the farm bill, ag prices and most recently how this year’s flooding has been impacting farmers. Iowa Concern also answers calls related to financial issues and basic needs – such as connecting Iowans with assistance for rent, utility, food and medical needs, to name a few. Iowa Concern focuses on the immediacy of the individual’s need and works to connect people with helpful resources. For more information, contact Tammy directly at trjacobs@iastate.edu or 515-727-0656.

Recently each county office received at no cost a package containing two mini tabletop displays and a supply of information cards and bookmarks highlighting Iowa Concern and AnswerLine. We hope you will use these resources at upcoming community events and programs to raise awareness among our clients. Thank you for partnering with Human Sciences to get the word out about these valuable resources.

One more note: Have a happy and safe Fourth of July holiday.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

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