Downwind"A Tough Topic"
I typically choose to focus on the positive and not the negative. I’m inclined towards the optimistic and I hope it’s reflected in what I write. However, 2019 was a difficult year for farmers and there’s no avoiding it.
Illinois Farm Bureau® (IFB) President, Richard Guebert, Jr. said last month in Chicago during his annual Illinois Farm Bureau address, “I do not know about you, but I am ready to be done with 2019 and turn the page to 2020!” He was talking about the never-ending weather issues that plagued farmers this past year, the depressed farm prices for most commodities, the continuing trade wars, escalating input costs and the many related issues facing American agriculture.
All of the 1000 farmer members in attendance at the speech clapped in agreement!
I have been working at the Farm Bureau for over 32 years, have been involved in farming all my life and have never seen a frustrating year like 2019 affecting all farmers. It rained all spring and into the summer. Only a portion of crops were planted and grown.
Hay grew uncut. Some of the hay that was cut was rained on, diminishing its quality. Now, I hear there’s a hay shortage in the area.
Storm clouds kept customers away from farm stands, greenhouses and other agricultural businesses that depend on direct sales. Customers stayed dry at home, leaving flower beds and gardens unplanted.
To throw salt on the wound, it continued to rain during the fall as farmers attempted harvest (what there was available to harvest).
Trade talks have been mired all season, depressing commodity prices. Finally, there has been a glimmer of hope on the trade front in recent weeks… a tentative agreement with China. The House of Representatives has opened discussions to consider approval of the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA). In addition, the recently announced Japanese trade deal grabbed a portion of the benefits that had been promised to farmers as a part of the Trans-Pacific partnership agreement several years ago which President Trump negated.
However, farmers are reluctant to get excited; what if the rug is yanked out from under their farms again?
IFB President Guebert described 2019 as the movie, The Perfect Storm. All the forces of nature and economics have come down hard upon the backs of our Midwestern farmers. This can take a toll on an individual physically, mentally, spiritually, and psychologically.
Knowing that this is been such a difficult year, I wanted to reach out to our members and farm producers that may be feeling down. Please know that there are people available to talk to and provide help.
What would happen if you as a farmer, ignored signs of stress in your crops and livestock? I know that you go out of your way to care for and fix the problem. Please do the same for yourself as well.
I have learned through example and witnessed myself that farmers are resilient. I have learned through example and witnessed myself that farmers are optimists. I have learned through example and witnessed myself that farmers tend to try to work it out, many times alone. Sometimes alone is not the right course.
2020 is a fresh, new year. The sun will shine again. Our fertile earth will provide again. Crops will grow. Livestock will provide so much to us. The consumer and customer will be back in full force seeking great food and local products.
Remember, your family and friends are your most precious commodity. We want all in agriculture to be a part of 2020’s rebirth.
Seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional or by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK if someone you know exhibits any of the following signs:
- Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself
- Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means
- Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person
- Feeling hopeless
- Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
- Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities - seemingly without thinking
- Feeling trapped - like there's no way out
- Increasing alcohol or drug use
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
- Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
- Experiencing dramatic mood changes
- Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life