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Farmers gain industry insight from experts at Farm Bureau workshops

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While modern agricultural and economic challenges may add to farmers’ already-full plates, insights from industry experts can help them bite into solutions.

Farmers and agricultural advocates who attended the American Farm Bureau Federation Convention in Atlanta Jan. 7-12 participated in workshops covering numerous topics, including rural mental health, turbulent livestock markets and an outlook for the farm economy in 2022.

Convention goers who attended the “Mobilizing the Conversation Around Mental Health” workshop learned what various state Farm Bureaus are doing to actively promote, support and advance the conversation around mental health in farming communities. Last year AFBF launched a comprehensive resource site called Farm State of Mind for farmers and their families who are experiencing stress and mental health challenges.

Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Women’s Leadership Committee Chair Faye Hundley said the information shared by panelists empowered workshop participants to speak up when they recognize signs of farmer distress.

“They talked about how we should pay attention, and be open to conversations with those who may be stressed, or going through something,” she said.

Panelist Jeb Wilson, a fifth-generation South Carolina farmer, shared this: “All farmers will hit a wall at some point, and we have to reach out for help. Even if you don’t call a hotline, reach out to your friends and family members—the people who care about you.”

In addition to mental health issues facing farmers, AFBF’s economics team said during the “Top 15 Market Outlook Issues” workshop that top issues facing the ag economy include inflation, uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic and labor market stresses.

At $16.8 billion, 2021’s estimated net farm income is the highest in eight years, which may be surprising to some, said AFBF chief economist Roger Cryan. The numbers reflect higher receipts for row crops, returns on livestock production and “quite a lot of government payments.”

Dr. Stephen Koontz, a Cooperative Extension economist and livestock marketing professor at Colorado State University, discussed livestock market expectations for 2022 and beyond. He said it may take two more years for steer processing to recover from its pandemic-related dip.

“Demand for protein is outstanding,” he reported. “The issues at the farm level are entirely related to capacities on the supply chain system.”



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