Farmers Are Committing Suicide At Higher Rates, Some Analysts Blame Donald Trump’s Trade Policies

'America’s family farmers ... have approached endangered status,' says Farm Aid.

a farmer with his crop
eliasfalla / Pixabay

'America’s family farmers ... have approached endangered status,' says Farm Aid.

Farmers in the Midwest are committing suicide at the highest rate in decades, and some analysts blame the Trump administration’s policies — including tariffs that have resulted in crops sitting in storage containers and not being sold — as part of the cause.

As HuffPost reports, a recent study showed that suicide is on the rise in the United States, and the problem is most pronounced in rural areas. There are several reasons why rural areas are more affected by suicide than urban, such as social fragmentation (being disconnected from supportive family and social communities) and unemployment or under-employment.

However, in some cases, the increase in suicides can be tied to farmers, squeezed financially by Trump administration policies. Grain, once earmarked for sale to China, is now just sitting on their property unsold. Farm-industry representatives say those markets may never come back again, which is concerning to hear for those whose livelihoods depend on those Chinese contracts.

Patty Edelburg, vice president of the National Farmers Union, said that recent financial stresses are causing a strain on farmers’ mental health.

“We’ve had a lot more bankruptcies going on, a lot more farmer suicides.”

Minnesota soybean farmer Bill Gordon said as much. Thanks to Trump administration policies, farmers’ income is drying up, banks are reluctant to extend credit, and their farms are being foreclosed upon. Some have turned to suicide, he says.

“We have seen a definite increase in the suicide rate and depression in farmers in the U.S.”

Similarly, farmers’ help group Farm Aid reports that calls to its assistance hotline are up 30 percent this year. A spokesperson for the group said that family farmers, be it through foreclosure, getting out of the business voluntarily, or suicide, are becoming extinct.

“America’s family farmers — reduced in numbers since the farm crisis of the 1980s — have approached endangered status…. We spend our time on the phone with anxious farm families who cannot make ends meet, and who will not be able to improve their situation simply by working harder,” said the organization.

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The Numbers

Pinning down the exact number of farmers who have committed suicide due to the financial stress of Trump administration policies is difficult. In Wisconsin, for example, where net farm income plunged 50 percent in the last year, there were 915 suicides, “many” of them, according to HuffPost, farmers under financial stress.

Rural Voters Still Support Trump

Despite this, rural voters in general, and farmers specifically, still support Donald Trump. As NBC News reported in August, even though the Trump administration tariffs are devastating the farming industry, there’s been “little erosion” of support for Donald Trump among farmers in some Midwestern states.