JAVA CENTER, N.Y. (WKBW) — Facing disproportionately higher suicide rates among farmers and little to no data on the crisis, Senator Chuck Schumer is launching a plan to fight a rise in suicide rates.
"If you've had a farm in your family, and your family depends on you and somehow the crop fails, the prices are too low, you can't make your mortgage, the bank's going to take away your farm...it's tough," said Schumer.
He said farmers have a suicide rate that is 3.5 times that of the general population.
Patrick McCormick, a dairy farmer and owner of Robbiehill Family Dairy Farm, said farmers love what they do, but it's a tough business.
"I know farmers not too far from here, two of them this past year that have committed suicide. And it's been very tough on those families," he said. "Because they lost the family farm."
Senator Schumer has called on the Centers for Disease Control to conduct a comprehensive study of suicide rates among farmers, saying there is a lack of precise data.
This study would be the first of it's kind.
A current state-funded program called New York Farmnet provides free and confidential consulting to farmers, both financial and personal.
"It's gotten increasingly worse. The number of times - because we run an 800 help line, we will talk directly with the farmers before we start a case with them - and the number of times we've had to screen for suicide has dramatically increased in the past year," said Kate Downes, Farmnet's Outreach Director.
Senator Schumer also called on Congress to pass the Seeding Rural Resilience Act as soon as possible.
This would establish initiatives designed to put an end to farmer suicides, like requiring the Department of Agriculture to offer voluntary stress management training to farmers.