Top Stories

Open letter to readers: Today and tomorrow

By Lynda Waddington | 11.17.11

Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.

ACS lockout continues; plan emerges to repeal sugar protections

By Virginia Chamlee | 11.15.11

A recently introduced bill could have far-reaching impact on the U.S. sugar industry, including American Crystal Sugar, a farmer-owned cooperative that locked out 1,300 Midwest workers on Aug. 1.

Cain campaign: Farmers know more about regulations than EPA

By Andrew Duffelmeyer | 11.15.11

The chairman for Herman Cain’s Iowa effort says the campaign “relied more on the word of farmers than Washington regulators” in deciding to run an ad containing claims the Environmental Protection Agency says are false.

Mathis wins, Democrats maintain Senate control

Liz Mathis
By Lynda Waddington | 11.08.11

The Iowa Senate will remain under the control of a slim 26-25 Democratic majority when it reconvenes in January 2012.

Press Release

PR: Nation should work to address veterans’ challenges

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

BRUCE BRALEY RELEASE — As US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan ends, it’s more important than ever that our nation works to address the challenges faced by the men and women who fought there.

PR: Honoring veterans, help in hiring

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

CHUCK GRASSLEY RELEASE — A difficult job market is challenging the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have protected America’s interests by serving in the Armed Forces.

PR: In honor of America’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

TOM LATHAM RELEASE — No one has done more to secure the freedom enjoyed by every single American than our veterans and those currently serving in the armed services.

PR: Honoring and supporting our nation’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

DAVE LOEBSACK RELEASE — Veterans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the service of generations of veterans and to honor the sacrifices they and their families have made so that we may live in peace and freedom here at home.

States struggle to meet rural behavioral health needs without federal funds

By Lynda Waddington | 09.11.09 | 12:16 pm

Facing increased demand for behavioral health services in rural areas that rivals what was seen during the 1980s farm crisis, agencies in at least 28 states have been looking to Iowa for advice on the problem.

Although rural families facing economic hardship are located throughout the nation, states like Iowa that have a crisis hotline geared to agriculture workers are best prepared to meet the behavioral health needs of this population.

Although rural families facing economic hardship are located throughout the nation, states like Iowa that have a crisis hotline geared to agriculture workers are best prepared to meet the behavioral health needs of this population. (Iowa photo courtesy USDA NCRS)

“I’ve spoken with people from the states of Oklahoma, Utah and Colorado — and that has just been in the last week,” said Dr. Mike Rosmann, executive director of Harlan-based AgriWellness.

Along with Iowa State University Extension, AgriWellness operates the Sowing the Seeds of Hope program, which provides residents in seven states a support hotline and up to five free visits with a counselor that can help with martial and family conflict, financial concerns, general stress and overall crisis situations. The program is geared toward rural patients and is open to families who do not have mental health coverage or are under-insured.

A global economic crisis and significant fluctuations in commodity markets have severely impacted agricultural interests throughout the nation, and crises related to unmet behavioral health needs are affecting farming communities everywhere. But evidence suggests that states like Iowa, where an assistance network is already in place, have avoided the worst of it.

“In the other states, agencies get calls from rural people who don’t know who they can speak with or where they can go to get assistance,” Rosmann explained. “It was difficult for states to provide behavioral health services before, but now, because of financial difficulties, the number of farmers and ranchers who need assistance is growing and, without a hotline and additional services like our Sowing the Seeds of Hope in place, states are scrambling to meet these needs.”

Although other states began contacting Rosmann and AgriWellness about two years ago about providing similar programs, interest has intensified over the past year, coinciding with increased financial strain in several agricultural sectors. While Rosmann can offer advice about operating mental health services for rural residents, the one question he does not know the answer to is how states will find the money to fund the services.

“Although the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network has been authorized as a part of the Farm Bill, Congress has unfortunately not made appropriations for it,” Rosmann said.

With federal appropriations in place, the program would have made competitive grants available through extension services to establish hotline services as well as provide behavioral health care access in the nation’s most geographically rural areas. Without the funding, individual states must use their own resources to begin outreach and assistance to rural areas — a task made more difficult by strained state budgets nationwide.


“We are still hopeful that a federal appropriation will come through. Without it, I just don’t see how these other states are going to be able to get the ball rolling,” Rosmann said.

Although appropriations were not contained in either the U.S. House or Senate versions of the relevant appropriations bill, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said Thursday morning that he will continue to fight for the program both through the appropriations bill conference and through direct negotiations with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“In Iowa we have things like Sowing the Seeds of Hope, which is a program available to farmers. Farmers in other states might not be so fortunate,” Harkin said by phone. “That’s why I’m going to continue to fight for funding for this as it moves through conference. I recognize the need to provide this, and I’m going to continue to fight for it.

“I’ve got to tell you that getting the funding is going to be an uphill battle, but I’m going to do everything I can because I remember what happened in the 1980s and I don’t want a repeat of that — where farmers were committing suicide and families were breaking up because of the undue stress that happened in the 1980s. And, for a meager amount of money, you can provide a lot of assistance to farmers and ranchers who are in real trouble.”

Specifically, Harkin is hoping to redirect money that is either already included in the farm appropriations bills or at the disposal of the USDA.

“I hope we can be successful,” Harkin added. “As I said, we know it is needed. We learned from the 1980s that some of these things can be very, very helpful in getting people through a rough patch. I just can’t tell you whether or not we will be successful or not, but we’ll do our best and see what happens. … We know we have some hurdles, but we’re going to continue to try.”

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