FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 17, 2018
WASHINGTON – The presidents of the nation’s two largest general farm organizations today visited the “Prescribed to Death” opioid memorial in Washington, D.C., in a show of unity to address the national opioid epidemic that is disproportionately affecting farming communities.
American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Zippy Duvall and National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson joined Anne Hazlett, Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The three toured the exhibit, which memorializes the 22,000 people who died from a prescription opioid overdose in 2015.
“Rural Americans are often ashamed or embarrassed to talk about family members who struggle with addiction,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. “We know this is a difficult conversation. But we all need to talk about this problem to get help for those we care about. And people who are struggling with addiction need to know it’s all right to ask for help. Our rural communities are strong enough to overcome this struggle.”
“The only way farming communities are going to overcome the opioid epidemic is if local communities and local governments make it a priority,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “The attention on it can’t just come from the news, it needs to be something we talk about in our daily conversation. It needs to be talked about openly, from mother to son, from family to family, and from neighbor to neighbor. Until we get to a point where everyone is comfortable talking about the issue, understands it is a crisis for their communities, and treats the addiction as a disease, the opioid epidemic is going to continue to take far too many lives.”
AFBF and NFU are confronting the opioid epidemic in farming communities through their “Farm Town Strong” campaign. Addiction experts and government officials have credited the program for raising awareness of the crisis in farming communities, providing resources and information to help those communities, and encouraging farmer-to-farmer cooperation to overcome the crisis.
The two organizations’ survey from late 2017 demonstrates the opioid crisis’ disproportionate effects on farmers and farmworkers compared to other rural Americans. While just under half of rural Americans say they have been directly impacted by opioid abuse, 74 percent of farmers and farm workers say they have. The survey also indicated that a strong majority of respondents believe increasing public education surrounding resources and reducing the stigma around opioid addiction would help solve the opioid crisis.
More information can be found at FarmTownStrong.org.