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Why now?

State’s agriculture industry partners to create special task force in response to increased farmer suicides
Story by Allison Parker 1/28/2019

The farming community has recently made national headlines for a reason most would have never guessed.


In late 2018, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a report stating that in 2016 the occupational group of farming, fishing, and forestry had the highest rate of suicide in males.

Although the report was later retracted for further statistical review, the results confirmed what many in the agricultural community already suspected.

Throughout history, farming has always been a stressful job filled with lots of unknowns. So, the report begs one big question: Why now?

The truth is, no one knows why.

The taboo nature of the topic and lack of statistics provide few answers, but some experts suggest the recent increase in farmer suicides might stem from the following:

• The lack of mental health resources in rural areas.

• The negative stigma of reaching out for help with mental health struggles.

• The increase in sales of cherished multigenerational farmland.

• The tremendous burden of providing for a family with the rising cost of living and an uncertain commodities market.

Unfortunately, no one can pinpoint what has sparked the recent increase in suicide among those in the farming community nationwide. But the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) and those within the agriculture industry are determined to find out.

 The partnership has created the Tennessee Farmers Suicide Prevention Task Force.

This task force has a plan to proactively address this critical issue in the state.

“Farming isn’t just a job – it’s a life’s work,” says former Tennessee Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton. “Many Tennessee farmers are facing challenges right now and experiencing different kinds of stress. However, those in the agriculture community look after one another. Our producers deserve access to resources that support them, and we plan to provide just that.”

In order to accomplish this mission, the task force was created by the Gubernatorial-appointed Advisory Council of Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN) in June 2018. The group’s primary goal is to work alongside TSPN to create and carry out action items to best help the at-risk population of farmers across the state.

The task force includes representatives from the TDA, Tennessee Farmers Cooperative, Tennessee Farm Bureau, Farm Credit, Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association, Middle Tennessee State University, University of Tennessee Extension, Centerstone, the Farm Animal Care Coalition of Tennessee, Tennessee Dairy Producers Association, Tennessee Pork Producers, Tennessee Poultry Association, Tennessee Soybean Association, Tennessee State University, and University of Tennessee.

“With the support of the task force members, TSPN will be better prepared to assist Tennessee farmers in getting the help they need to continue to prevent suicide in our state,” says TSPN’s Executive Director Scott Ridgway, expressing his enthusiasm about the task force.

Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network has a wide variety of resources available at for anyone interested in learning more about how they can help bring awareness to the public about the warning signs of suicide, how to make a difference in their communities, and help to save lives.

“We want to do everything we can to help Tennessee farmers who may be struggling with these challenges,” says Ryan King, TFC marketing and events coordinator. “Tennessee Farmers Cooperative will work hard along with industry partners to support the work of the task force. We plan to do everything in our ability to provide resources to the committee so those who have thoughts of suicide can get the proper treatment.”

If you are feeling desperate, alone, hopeless, or just need someone to talk to, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This hotline provides access to trained phone counselors, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also text TN to 741741 to connect to the Crisis Text Line and a trained counselor.

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