The newly-created Missouri House Rural Economic Development Caucus will be discussing several key issues, including suicide rates among farmers.

State Rep. Bill Reiboldt [Photo courtesy of Tim Bommel, House Communications)

The caucus held its first meeting on March 6, electing officers and brainstorming about topics to be discussed. One of those issues is suicide rates among farmers.

State Rep. Bill Reiboldt (R-Neosho), a caucus member, says the issue is personal for him.

“The reason my dad bought the farm that I own today, he bought it in the early 40s late 30s,” says Reiboldt. “And the gentleman there committed suicide, hung himself, and so the farm came up for sale.”

Reiboldt, who has worked in dairy, beef and crop production for more than 40 years in Newton County, tells Missourinet there’s a lot of stress on the farm.

“Whether the crops are going to make (it), whether we have a drought or whether we have a flood,” Reiboldt says. “I’ve confronted both the flood and the drought on my farm and cattle and production and banks and notes.”

“Newsweek” reported in July that a CDC study found that men who work in the farming, fishing and forestry industries had a suicide rate of 90.5 per 100,000 people, the highest of any occupational group. That CDC study used 2012 data.

That “Newsweek” article reported that some farmers have higher suicide rates than veterans, and that mental health experts say suicide numbers suggest that farmers need the federally-funded prevention resources that are available to veterans.

The Missouri House Rural Economic Development Caucus will meet on Monday nights in Jefferson City during the rest of the 2017 session, which ends in May.

Reiboldt says it’s important to raise awareness of the suicide rate among farmers. He tells Missourinet that he credits God and his church family for helping him during tough times on the farm.

“And I think one thing that always helped me was my faith in God and my support and attendance at our church (Hillcrest Church of Christ), and having that as a part of my life I think helped me through those troubling years,” says Reiboldt.

State Rep. Joe Don McGaugh (R-Carrollton) chairs the caucus, and State Rep. Hannah Kelly (R-Mountain Grove) is the vice chair.

Other members include State Reps. Sandy Crawford (R-Buffalo), Jay Houghton (R-Martinsburg), Don Rone (R-Portageville), Warren Love (R-Osceola), Tracy McCreery (D-Olivette) and Bruce Franks Jr. (D-St. Louis).

Reiboldt says it’s a pleasure to work with McGaugh and the other caucus members. He adds he has a good working relationship with McCreery and Franks, the two Democrats who are part of the caucus.

McGaugh tells Missourinet the caucus will meet on Monday evenings, upon adjournment.