A bipartisan bill introduced in Congress — sponsored by U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi — would introduce programs to help prevent farmer suicides.

The suicide rate is 45 percent higher in rural areas than in urban areas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“A career in agriculture is a difficult, but rewarding life,” Brindisi, D-Utica, said in a statement. “Our Upstate farmers help feed the world but, unfortunately, many bear incredible burdens. Whether it’s low prices, a trade war or Mother Nature, much of a farmer’s bottom line is out of their control and that uncertainty can add to daily stresses. Our bill will help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health in our rural communities and ensure all farmers have better access to mental health care.”

The Seeding Rural Resilience Act would:

• Create a voluntary stress management training program for some United States Department of Agriculture employees who work with farmers that would teach them to recognize signs of mental health distress.

• Have federal agencies work together to create a $3 million public service announcement to increase awareness of farm and ranch distress and de-stigmatize mental health care in rural areas.

• Get the USDA to collaborate with state and local governments and agencies to determine best practices for responding to mental health issues on farms and ranches.

The bill was sponsored in the House of Representatives by Rep. John Katko, R-Camillus, and Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minnesota, and in the Senate by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

“As a longtime farmer and active member of the agricultural community, I can tell you that a lot of farmers struggle with their mental health,” Remsen farmer Ben Simons said in a statement, “whether it is from the stress of running a business that deals with a lot of uncertainties or because of factors like low milk prices and a tough economy.”

The act would, if passed, help farmers identify and manage stress and let them know where to get help when they need it, Simons said.

“In addition,” said New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher in a statement, “efforts to educate rural communities on mental health issues can provide an opportunity to open up a dialogue and reduce the stigma often surrounding it. This support could not only save a farm — it could save a life.”

 Contact reporter Amy Neff Roth at 315-792-5166 or follow her on Twitter (@OD_Roth).