Community Agriculture Alliance: Tough times for farmers and ranchers
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
If you’ve read any agricultural news of late, you know there are several challenges causing stress on farmers and ranchers. This was another wild weather year that saw flooding in the Midwest, record late-season heat in the Southeast and June frosts and snows in our part of the world.
Trade wars have caused decreased prices in soybean and corn markets since once profitable markets are no longer accepting U.S. grain. The average age of farmers and ranchers has risen to 58, with many having no retirement plan. The list goes on.
Land values seem to be ever-increasing. Costs for equipment, fuel and other inputs have continued to rise the past three years. Farmers and ranchers, feeling an already squeezed pocketbook get tighter, have taken on more debt, and the prospect of being able to pay back that debt is looking difficult.
On top of all of this, many farmers and ranchers are trying to transition their operations to the next generation. Some have heirs who are interested in taking on the family business, while others have heirs who wonder why anyone would want to take on a money-losing operation.
Most farmers and ranchers won’t share this sad story with you. A hardy lot, most just grin and bear it, weather the storm — many will rarely admit they are in financial trouble, physically challenged or suffering from depression. Especially during this part of the year when the days are cold, the nights are long and the end-of-year finances are being figured out, farmers and ranchers experiencing tough times may find they have reached their breaking point.
If you have the opportunity to visit with a farmer or rancher this holiday season and feel you are able to do so, ask them how they are really feeling this year. Pay attention to warning signs that depression is taking root in your friends, neighbors or other loved ones and get them help.
Knowing this issue is hard to deal with on your own, Colorado State University Extension Office, Colorado Department of Agriculture, Colorado Farm Bureau and the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union have teamed up to fund a hotline to support our families experiencing the agriculture economic crisis. Call 844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255 if you or someone you know needs to talk.
Farming and ranching is an independent lifestyle, but sometimes, even the most independent people need help. Your family, your community and your country need you, but are also here to support you. Reach out to the hotline or CSU Extension Office and let us help you figure out how to make the New Year more manageable.
Todd Hagenbuch is the director and agriculture agent at the Routt County Colorado State University Extension Office.
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