HELP HOTLINES

MEDIATION AND COUN­SEL­ING AVAIL­ABLE TO HELP FARM­ERS THROUGH AG DOWN­TURN.

Successful Farming - - MENTAL HEALTH - By Cheryl Te­vis

Slug­gish com­mod­ity prices, com­bined with drought and down­pours, as well as un­cer­tain­ties about trade agree­ments, are ex­act­ing a toll on farm­ers. “Farm­ers aren’t able to off­set con­tin­ued low prices with good yields and over­all pro­duc­tion,” says For­rest Buh­ler, Kansas Agri­cul­ture Mediation Ser­vices, Man­hat­tan. “Our wheat pro­duc­tion is ex­pected to be down be­cause of drought, so the bushels won’t be there.”

Forty states have a USDA ag mediation pro­gram staffed with trained and im­par­tial me­di­a­tors to help re­view and dis­cuss le­gal and fi­nan­cial con­flicts and to iden­tify op­tions to re­solve dis­putes with lenders. The ser­vices are free, but in some states, the lender must ini­ti­ate the process.

“We’re see­ing more car­ry­over debt again this year,” Buh­ler says. “Many farm­ers have been through re­struc­tur­ing once or twice, and now there isn’t enough eq­uity or cash flow to ser­vice it. We’re start­ing to see farm­ers with neg­a­tive net worth. When they’re out of op­tions, liq­ui­da­tion of as­sets and bank­ruptcy are dis­cussed.”

Fi­nan­cial coun­selors and farm ad­vo­cates in sev­eral states use FINPACK, a fi­nan­cial soft­ware pack­age, to an­a­lyze op­er­a­tions. Re­fer­rals to Kansas State’s one-on-one Farm An­a­lyst Pro­gram are up again this year, Buh­ler says.

IN­CREAS­ING STRESS

Men­tal health re­fer­rals are avail­able through most ag mediation ser­vices. In Wis­con­sin, a Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture Trade and Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion pro­gram of­fers vouch­ers for one-on-one men­tal health coun­sel­ing.

“Re­quests for vouch­ers are up sig­nifi-

cantly from one year ago,” says Mike Lochner, se­nior ag pro­gram spe­cial­ist at the Wis­con­sin Farm Cen­ter Hot­line, op­er­ated by the depart­ment.

Lochner says about 45% to 50% of calls in­volve fi­nanc­ing is­sues, in­clud­ing be­ing de­nied by lenders. “An ad­di­tional 10% to 15% are dairy farm­ers with con­cerns about be­ing dropped by milk pro­ces­sors,” he says.

At Iowa Con­cern, ad­min­is­tered by Iowa State Univer­sity Ex­ten­sion, callers are ask­ing about avail­able re­sources. “Our hot­line staff is avail­able 24-7,” says Tammy Ja­cobs, co­or­di­na­tor.

Ag Help Hotlines

• Illi­nois Agri­cul­ture Mediation Pro­gram: 618/549-1200 Ext. 1001 • Ru­ral Ser­vices of In­di­ana, Inc.: 574/299-9460

• Iowa Con­cern: 800/447-1985 • Iowa Mediation Ser­vices, Inc.: 515/331-8081

• Kansas Ag Mediation Ser­vices: 800/321-3276

• Min­nesota Farm & Ru­ral Helpline: 833/600-2670 • Mis­souri Agri­cul­tural Mediation

Pro­gram: 573/751-5520 • Ne­braska Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture Ne­go­ti­a­tions Pro­gram: 800/446-4071 • Ne­braska Ru­ral Re­sponse Hot­line: 800/464-0258 • New York State Ag Mediation Pro­gram: 518/687-2240 or 866/669-7267

• New York Farm Net: 800/547-3276

• North Dakota Mediation Ser­vice: 844/642-4752; 701/328-4158 • North Dakota 211 Help Line Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion in North Dakota: 800/472-2911 • North Dakota Agri­cul­tural Mediation Ser­vices: 800/642-4757 or 701/328-2061

• South Dakota Ag Mediation Pro­gram: 605/773-5436 or 605/280-4745 • South Dakota Ru­ral Help Line: 800/664-1349 • Wis­con­sin Farm Cen­ter Hot­line: 800/942-2474

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