Farmers Report Suffering Financial PTSD as Trade War Threats Escalate.

By Daily Editorials

May 7, 2019 4 min read

The winning never seems to stop for rural supporters of President Donald Trump. His effort to sabotage the Affordable Care Act has had devastating effects on rural health care. Opioid addiction rates are reaching acute levels. And the stresses of Trump's trade wars are causing serious mental health issues for farming families.

Trump's weekend threat to renew his trade war with China roiled international markets and no doubt prompted particular anguish for Midwestern farmers as soybean and corn futures continued to take a beating. Soybean sales to China, by far the Midwest's biggest export customer, declined by more than 57% as of January, according to federal government figures. Ongoing heavy floods add to the bleak financial prospects.

Farmers who have a front-row seat on the effects of climate change need to question the wisdom of supporting a president who refuses to acknowledge there's a problem. And as they watch their financial fortunes collapse amid Trump's trade war, they should be asking themselves: How much more of this "winning" can we take?

The Missouri Farm Bureau Federation last week cited the trade war as a major factor contributing to farmers' mental health problems. In a national survey sponsored by the American Farm Bureau, 91% of respondents cited financial trauma as affecting their mental health.

In the poll, 48% of respondents said they are personally feeling more stress and mental health challenges today than a year ago. A majority of rural adults have either sought mental-health care or have a family member who did. Two-thirds of farmers or farm workers say it's time to reduce the stigma surrounding those who seek mental health care.

"We all know how stressful farm life can be, and things are even tougher now because of the farm economy. More of us are affected, either directly or by having a friend or family member in distress," American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall stated. "This poll proves what we already knew anecdotally: Rural America is hurting not just economically but also emotionally."

The entire farming economy is taking a beating. Commerce Department figures indicate that purchases of farm equipment dropped by an annualized rate of $900 million in the first quarter.

"The retaliatory tariffs that China has levied on almost all U.S. agricultural exports has seriously hurt farmers, further depressed already stressed commodity prices, and has had a chilling effect on equipment manufacturers," Kip Eideberg of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers told Bloomberg.

No small part of the mental stress must come from rural Americans' inability to reconcile their support for Trump with administration policies that consistently destroy their lives and livelihoods. The time is overdue to end the stigma surrounding mental health care. Rural voters can do themselves another big favor by destigmatizing the idea of booting Trump from office in 2020.

REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

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