Agriculture is the economic engine of Iowa, the livelihood of farmers and their families, and the lifeblood of our rural communities across Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. Our producers work long hours in all types of weather conditions to grow the food and produce the fuel that our country and the world depend on. Their hard work is the reason that Iowa remains the breadbasket to the world and that our district in particular leads the nation in corn, pork, egg, and biofuel production.
However, farming can be a lonely endeavor, and it can also be a stressful industry when the economy takes a turn for the worse, tornadoes and derechos devastate farmland, and animal diseases infect flocks and livestock – all of which impact the wellbeing of our producers.
According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health commissioned by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, roughly 8.6 million Americans living in rural communities reported experiencing behavioral health challenges. The National Alliance on Mental Illness also reports that suicide rates are higher in rural America than in big cities with 18.3 to 20.5 cases per 100,000 residents in rural communities compared to 10.9 per 100,000 in urban centers. 65% of rural counties further lack a psychiatrist and 47% lack a psychologist, underscoring the prevalence of healthcare deserts in rural Iowa and across the Midwest. These statistics cannot be the norm. Our farmers and our families deserve access to high-quality care – no matter their zip code.
That’s why, as a strong voice for our farmers and rural communities in Congress, I proudly introduced the Farmers First Act, which would expand behavioral health resources in our rural communities and connect our farmers with medical professionals who can provide the care that our producers deserve. More specifically, this legislation would reauthorize the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN), increase funding to a total of $15,000,000 annually over the next five years, and allow FRSAN regional centers to establish referral connections with certified community behavioral health clinics, critical access hospitals, and rural health centers. By collaborating and coordinating across rural health centers, hospitals, and clinics, we can ensure that our farmers and their families receive the personalized, rapid care that they need.
I thank my colleagues – Reps. Mike Bost (R-IL), Zach Nunn (R-IA), Jim Costa (D-CA), and Angie Craig (D-MN) – for joining me on this worthy mission to ensure that our hardworking farmers have access to the resources that they need to continue their selfless work feeding and fueling our country and the world. Serving on both the House Agriculture Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, I will continue my work to expand access to healthcare services in our rural communities, connect folks during times of crisis with the support that they deserve, and serve our farmers and rural communities to the best of my ability.
We are government together, and your thoughts and opinions matter to me. Please contact my office at Feenstra.House.Gov or by phone at 202-225-4426 if I can ever be of assistance. I am proud to represent our families, farmers, main street businesses, and rural communities in Congress.