Weather comes and goes, but farming income has declined over the past decade.

Given recent news like a record-rainfall planting season and Chinese tariffs on ag imports dropping grain prices, farmers are facing more uncertainty than usual. Purdue Extension officials are calling this year the third-worst planting season on record, and in light of all of this, Purdue Extension is reaching out to farmers to make sure they have the tools to handle the stress.

Two Purdue Extension educators, Tonya Short and Elysia Rogers, addressed an audience of Hoosier farmers this week in a webinar called “Weathering the storm: How to cultivate a productive mindset,” which went over the signs, symptoms and effects of stress and how to productively deal with it.

Rogers said farmer stress is most often created by disagreements over finances, weather, government regulation and finances among other things.

According to USDA statistics, the net cash income of the average farm in Grant County was $105,420 in 2012, but in 2017 the average income dropped to $59,843.

Northern Indiana farmer Brian Warpup said he thinks this trend will drop further south by next year, causing him to stop spending money on his operation which also affects his ability to farm effectively.

Warpup also said the uncertain market this year and accompanying low prices for crops is adding to his stress, even though he’s remaining optimistic.

“Everything that goes down has to come back up eventually,” he said.

Rogers said it’s important to recognize symptoms of stress like irritable mood, forgetful tendencies, poor sleep habits and eating too much or too little.

Some stress is good, like the urge to get into the field to maximize yields. But some stress can have a negative effect on the farmer’s physical and mental health, Rogers says.

Hydrocortisone, a stress hormone, can suppress the digestive system, cause high blood pressure and even shorten life-span if elevated for too long.

Short said farmers should have the right coping mechanisms handy this year to help manage stress.

She made sure to differentiate which ones were healthy and which ones were not.

Healthy examples include positive self-talk, breathing techniques like meditation and accepting yourself.

She said if you suspect a farmer, family member or friend is suffering from stress or having suicidal thoughts, you should ask directly. If they threaten to harm themselves or commit suicide, she said seek immediate help.

She said you can also call the Sucide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or call the hotline if you suspect someone may be having these thoughts to get more information.

Grant County also has the Cornerstone Behavioral Health Center that can provide help. The center can be reached if there is a crisis at 765-662-3971 or 800-755-3469
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