Editor’s note: The following is a guest editorial from Utah Commissioner of Agriculture.

Dear Editor:

As September is National Suicide Awareness Month, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) is partnering with the Cattleman’s Association, USU Extension, and other industry organizations to create a stronger connection between existing programs and resources available for agriculture producers in crisis.

Together, we are circling the wagons around all who are experiencing a sense of hopelessness. Regardless of one’s station in life, profession, or religious preference, suicide is far too frequent in Utah.

When times get tough, the lives of every citizen matter and far too many of our precious family, friends, and neighbors are not feeling that. I have seen it first-hand in my own life and I know many of you have as well.

When it comes to agriculture, there are no shortages of challenges for farmers and ranchers between access to market issues, weather, pests and diseases, regulatory changes, and trade policy.

According to the latest USDA Agriculture Census, 56 percent of U.S. farmers report a net loss in cash income on their farms. But worse than that, in Utah, that number rises to 65 percent.

One of my most important messages and efforts as commissioner will be to ensure we are doing more to love and care for one another as communities. We must do more to extend resources and programs out to farmers and ranchers experiencing pressures that lead to hopelessness, depression, and thoughts of suicide.

In Proverbs 27:23 it states, “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.” Through our partnerships and outreach efforts, we are circling our wagons around those who need it most and encourage you to join us. Be a listener, an encouraging and helping hand as there is no shortage of work that can be done here.

I’m optimistic that if we can all do a little more, in close coordination with our available resources and professional partners, then we can turn this trend around. It’s how we do things here – it’s the Utah way.

Allow me to share below some of the resources available in Utah right now that are posted on the UDAF website at https://ag.utah.gov/2019/08/23/circling-the-wagons/. If you would like to join our circle of wagons to suggest additional resources, call me personally at (801) 538-7100.

Kerry W. Gibson, UDAF

Salt Lake City