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Farm Bureau president: Mental health of farmers, rural Virginians needs to be a priority

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The president of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation said the organization is focusing on the mental health of farmers and other rural Virginians because farming can be a stressful occupation.

“When you add the pandemic to natural disasters, financial pressures, fluctuating commodity prices, labor shortages, trade disruptions and supply chain interruptions and resulting price increases, it’s no surprise that more farmers and their families are experiencing stress and mental health concerns,” Wayne F. Pryor told farmers from across the state on Dec. 1 during the VFBF 2021 Annual Meeting of Voting Delegates.

He cited an American Farm Bureau Federation poll conducted at the end of 2020 that found 66% of farmers and farmworkers said the COVID-19 pandemic had adversely affected their mental health. And 61% of rural adults said the pandemic had impacted mental health in rural communities to some extent.

“So this is something we should all be concerned about,” Pryor said. “It’s a difficult time, but you are not alone. We are all in this together, and it’s OK not to be OK.”

He shared that the AFBF’s Farm State of Mind campaign emphasizes the need to openly discuss the issue.

“If you—or someone you know—need help, I encourage you to talk to someone,” Pryor added. He encouraged attendees to reach out to a family member, friend, doctor or pastor. “Farm Bureau has cared about the health and safety of its members for 95 years, and we’re not going to stop now.”

“95 Years and Still Growing” is the theme of this year’s convention, which is being held in Williamsburg through Dec. 2.

Pryor told Farm Bureau’s volunteer leaders that 2021 would be known as a year of successes for the organization.

Farm Bureau not only met its membership goal for a fifth year consecutive year, but then went on to surpass it by more than 2,000 members, counting 132,296 members for 2021. “This is truly remarkable, and we couldn’t have done it without all of your help,” Pryor told county Farm Bureau leaders.

Another success in 2021 was the return of the State Fair of Virginia. After being cancelled in 2020, attendance in 2021 was estimated at 215,000. The fair’s annual youth livestock Sale of Champions brought in a record $105,000 to fund scholarships.

Other successes included $65 million from the General Assembly for the state’s Agriculture Best Management Practices Cost Share Program. “This is a record amount of funding,” Pryor noted.


augusta free press
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