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Corn Prices and Mental Health

Monday, June 20th, 2022

by Douglas L. Anderson, PsyD



I started thinking about farmers and ranchers this morning while reading an article about the fruit growing industry in Florida.  The Asian citrus psyllid is a tiny brown bug that eats the leaves and stems of citrus trees, and leaves a bacteria behind that causes greening on the fruit that results in inedible fruit.  The result has been a gradual decline in production over the past 10 years, and gradual financial collapse to those in the agricultural industry in Florida.  In fact, this season’s orange crop in Florida is predicted to be the lowest since the 1944-1945 season.

Reading that led me into a little research around corn prices.  I found a helpful article that used data from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) written just a few weeks ago.  It had a table of corn prices over the past 20 years.  I know this is not news to anyone reading this piece, but the fluctuation in price per bushel is significant and prices appear to be quite unpredictable.  

For example, this year corn prices are looking quite good.  That would help given the high cost of fuel this year.  However, the article adds this caveat (and it is speaking about prices in Illinois, not South Dakota), that corn prices for 2022 are at high levels, and that during the first two weeks in May fall delivery bids in central illinois averaged $7.39 per bushel of corn.  But significant changes in prices are possible as we head into the fall.  The article notes that history suggests there is a 5% chance that cash prices for corn in October will be below $4.60 per bushel.  

I get a bit anxious just reading about such extreme fluctuations, and I can only imagine what it is like to be a farmer or rancher trying to out guess the markets, and trying to balance the budget with measured amounts of beef, pork, wheat, corn, soybeans, and so on.  It is disconcerting to know that random world events (pandemics, wars…) can impact the success of a couple square miles of land in rural South Dakota.

The Rural Health Information Hub (RHIhub) starts an article on their website with this paragraph:

“Farmers and ranchers in the U.S. have demanding jobs that are often compounded by economic uncertainty, vulnerability to weather events, and isolation. Rural agricultural communities may also have limited access to healthcare and mental health services, which can make it difficult for farm and ranch families to receive support when they are experiencing extreme stress, anxiety, depression, or another mental health crisis. Addressing mental health challenges is critical so that farmers can successfully navigate other stressors that are common in their day-to-day lives.”

If you are a farmer or rancher, then you know the stress you face in your industry.  If you are a business owner in a rural community, then you know the financial stress on you in years where farming and ranching have poor economic outcomes.  All of this, even in good years, generates mental health challenges, with anxiety and depression being increasingly common when margins are so thin.  It also contributes to significant interpersonal and marital distress and struggle.

We need to attend to our mental health needs in our rural communities.  If you aren’t sleeping well, if anxiety has increased, if your marriage or partner relationship feels damaged, if you are depressed and have had any internal hints of suicidal feelings, please reach out to the resources that are available to you.  There are hotlines, online resources, books and articles, and organizations dedicated to the farming and ranching industry and the well-being of its patrons.

If you are looking for local or regional psychotherapy services to help you cope more effectively with the challenges of rural life in the current era, give us a call.  River Counseling Services and Sioux Falls Psychological Services meet you where you are, offering hope.  You may schedule an appointment with the Platte office at 605-337-3444, or meet with one of our Sioux Falls Psychological Services therapists from your own computer or smartphone.  To schedule an appointment please call 605-334-2696.