Farm groups lead campaign to address rural opioid epidemic
WASHINGTON – Following a survey last fall that showed 74 percent of farmers and farm workers say they have been directly impacted by the opioid epidemic, the nation’s two largest general farm organizations teamed up to confront the issue.
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and National Farmers Union (NFU) started the “Farm Town Strong” campaign in January to raise awareness of the crisis’ impact on farming communities. The campaign will also provide resources and information to help farm communities and encourage farmer-to-farmer support to overcome the crisis.
The groups have launched a new website, FarmTownStrong.org, to provide easy access to information and resources that can help struggling farm families and rural communities.
The survey, commissioned by AFBF and NFU, highlighted how the opioid epidemic has hit farmers and farm workers especially hard. While just under half of rural Americans say it would be easy for someone in their community to access a large amount of prescription opioids or painkillers without a prescription, three in four farmers say there is easy access to opioids.
According to the Farm Town Strong website, rural adults are "largely unaware that rural communities are impacted by the opioid crisis." Half of rural adults also say addiction to opioids is a disease, rather than a lack of willpower.
While three out of four people recognize opioid abuse can begin accidentally, more than half of respondents in the survey say increasing public education surrounding resources and reducing stigma around addiction will help solve the crisis, according to the website.
The Farm Town Strong website also provides hotline numbers, treatment options, resources to help prevent abuse and ways to properly dispose of drugs.
“Farm country has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic – even harder than rural America as a whole, or big cities,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall in a press release. “It’s going to take everyone working together to combat this crisis to make a difference. That’s why Farm Bureau and Farmers Union are teaming up to show unity on this issue and encourage farm families to help their neighbors. If you or a family member has been affected by opioid addiction, it’s important to talk about it so that others will know they are not fighting this alone.
“Opioid addiction—along with all of its consequences—is a silent, but very real, crisis for our farming communities,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “The lack of services, treatment and support exacerbates the issue in rural areas, and the negative stigma associated with addiction makes it hard for farmers to discuss the problem. Too often, those struggling with addiction and their family members don’t seek the support they need. Through the Farm Town Strong campaign, we’re tackling this crisis head-on by encouraging more dialogue, more information sharing, and more farmer-to-farmer engagement.”