ASA, USB and soy states offer #SoyHelp to overcome farm stress
WASHINGTON — The American Soybean Association COVID-19 Task Force conducted a survey in April regarding the effects of COVID-19 on soy growers, their operations, employees and families. Stress reported by the 86 farmer respondents from across the soy-producing states was high. ASA, state soybean affiliates, and the United Soybean Board want to help.
In May, during Mental Health Month, ASA launched a proactive communications campaign to combat #FarmStress and offer #SoyHelp. Help comes in many forms and from many sources, and ASA has researched a range of options that will be shared both nationally and by state soybean affiliates:
• National mental health resources, including suicide hotlines and crisis centers.
• Agriculture-specific resources for farmers and farm families, both national and state.
• COVID-19-specific resources for stress and other concerns, both national and state.
“Stress levels have crept up out there in farm communities for some time now,” said Kevin Scott, soybean farmer from South Dakota and chair of the ASA C-19 Task Force. “As farmers, we are all faced with varying levels of anxiety resulting from a host of concerns — the coronavirus pandemic, weather issues, China trade problems, and other farm stressors. But, knowing there are issues compounding out there and knowing how to talk about them and work to reduce them are two different things. This survey cast a light on ASA’s responsibility to try to help,” Scott explained.
The #SoyHelp campaign will include the following outreach:
• #SoyHelp social media posts in May on ASA Facebook and Twitter.
• A social media toolkit for each soybean state and USB to participate and share resources.
• Related stories in ASA’s weekly eBean email newsletter and content for state newsletters.
• Editorials from soy growers on #FarmStress.
• Expert advice on the subjects of farm stress and seeking emotional support.
Wendy Brannen, ASA senior director of marketing & communications and C-19 Task Force member said, “Emotional struggles are not one-size-fits-all. Our team has researched resources to accommodate an array of individuals and their needs, and how they or their families can seek qualified help — and we are hopeful this campaign can melt away a bit of the stigma that sometimes still exists in talking openly about the tolls of stress and seeking help.”
Resources and guidance are available to address concerns ranging from temporary stress to ongoing struggles with anxiety and from depression to thoughts of suicide. Options exist for men, women, beginning farmers, veterans and other groups with specific needs or commonalities, including language and disability barriers. Some are specific to disasters, including COVID-19 and how the pandemic has increased instances of or worsened levels of stress. States have local and regional resources available, including information on telehealth options, financial resources, and government offices able to assist with farm operation issues.
“We want these resources to resonate regardless of age, location, gender, or what circumstances have led to needing a hand. It could be a long-time farmer who feels trapped by the current situation, a young person just starting out with concerns about financial hardships, or family members out there trying to navigate how to help in any number of scenarios,” Brannen said.
Included in the resources are links to self-assessments, professional services and local health care facilities; hotlines for urgent needs, warmlines for helpful advice, chat and text lines for instant access; and articles on symptoms, solutions, and opening uncomfortable discussions.
ASA hopes the campaign will get a boost outside the soy family: Toolkits are available for individuals or others interested in sharing directly, or they may repost and share ASA and state association materials.
The American Soybean Association represents U.S. soybean farmers on domestic and international policy issues important to the soybean industry. ASA has 26 affiliated state associations representing 30 soybean producing states and more than 300,000 soybean farmers. More information at soygrowers.com.
The ASA COVID-19 Task Force is a 12-person group formed in March and consisting of ASA board members and senior staff, state affiliate leaders, and a representative from fellow soybean organizations United Soybean Board and U.S. Soybean Export Council. The objective of the ASA COVID-19 Task Force is to collect information on how COVID-19 is impacting soy farmers and share that information with national leaders, as well as to communicate information from national leaders to soy farmers and the agricultural community. The survey referenced was sent to approximately 140 farmer leaders serving on the boards of ASA, USB and USSEC, with 60% of those persons participating. It is available on soygrowers.com. ❖
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