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Iowa Concern Hotline Provides Resources for Farmers
Iowa Ag Connection - 10/12/2018

This has been a stressful year for Iowa farmers. Stagnant crop prices, trade disputes and a lukewarm forecast for the next several years have left many farmers worried about what the future will bring.

"Farmers are concerned with how long low prices will last," said Alejandro Plastina, assistant professor and extension economist with Iowa State University. "Is there something on the horizon with upward potential for farm income? Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case."

Net farm income for medium-sized farms increased in 2017 compared to the last two years and cash income has increased back to 2013 levels, according to Plastina. However, profitability is relatively low as the average operating profit margin is 4.4 percent.

Uncertainty regarding trade agreements has also created problems within the farm economy.

"The new government programs available to compensate farmers for losses due to increased tariffs will help, but the bigger problem is uncertainty in the medium term," Plastina said. "Is this phase going to last for 10 years and how will land values react?"

As farmers confront these conditions head-on, there are resources available through Iowa State University Extension and Outreach to navigate both questions they have about the profitability of their farm and about the well-being of themselves and their families.

The Iowa Concern Hotline is a 24-hour a day, 7-day a week free, confidential resource for anyone with concerns or questions about farm finances, crisis and disaster response and personal health issues. Access to an attorney is also available to help provide legal education.

When someone calls the Iowa Concern Hotline's toll-free number (800-447-1985), trained specialists provide immediate support to either answer questions directly or get the caller in touch with experts who can provide additional information or support.

"If someone calls who is dealing with stress and its effects, the first thing we do is to work with the person on that issue and provide immediate stress counseling," said Tammy Jacobs, Iowa Concern Hotline coordinator. "We try to provide access to the assistance each individual needs."

Iowa Concern Hotline staffers work to provide contact information for ISU Extension and Outreach specialists who can help address specific questions or direct callers to other partners near where they live to help navigate through their current situation.

"Whether they need to speak to an ISU Extension and Outreach farm management specialist, an attorney, someone with Iowa Mediation Service or a mental health specialist, we try to connect callers with the resources that will be most helpful to them," Jacobs said.

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