Stressed farmers offered help

By Laurel Stowell,

Uncertainty, low prices, high debt and dry weather are a depressing combination for farmers.

Wanganui Federated Farmers provincial president Brian Doughty believes some farmers may be feeling the pressure.

"I suspect if you were to talk to the banks they would tell you that they have quite a few clients that need to make some pretty hard financial decisions in the next few months," he said.

Times are toughest for farmers with a high debt load and lots of interest to pay. Dairy prices are "not that flash", the dry spell stopped grass growth, the high New Zealand dollar puts off buyers and prices are at the whim of overseas markets.

Sheep and beef farmers could be equally down, over slow grass growth and low prices for lambs, ewes and wool.

Farmers, like anyone else, may also be subject to family pressures. And with the amalgamation of farms there is less community for them to fall back on, he said.

"The farms are bigger and further apart. The communities have gone in some areas," Mr Doughty said.

Federated Farmers has picked up on all this angst, with its When Life's A Bitch mental health campaign. For their part, Rural Women are running a Feeling Rotten survey.

Since the 1980s farmers have at least been able to talk about their troubles, Mr Doughty said. That's when a national network of Rural Family Support Trusts was set up, funded by what's now the Ministry for Primary Industries.

The trusts work by sending someone to talk with affected people, and find out what help they need. Help could be financial or personal, or consist of work on the farm. Visits and help were completely confidential, Mr Doughty said.

The important thing was to ask for help quickly.

"The longer you leave it, the bigger it gets."

Mr Doughty and Ruapehu provincial president Lyn Neeson are the first points of contact for the Ruapehu Wanganui Rural Family Support Trust. Their phone numbers are 027 485 7903 and 027 353 7907, respectively.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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