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Farmer suicide and the road to agricultural ruin


Table of Contents:

  • There is sometimes a bitter overlap between farming and suicide, and agriculture statistics bear blunt testimony.

Farming can be a lonely line of work when times are lean, and in 2013, losses took quite a toll across the agricultural world. In Ireland, following one of the wettest years on record, farmers were hit with a fodder crisis that was a major factor in a significant rise in suicide numbers. “Farmers who would have usually cut silage for winter feed in late May or early June found themselves having to wait until mid-July, meaning there was not enough to make it through the longer winter,” reports the The Irish Independent. Fodder shortages meant feed had to come in through the gate, financially breaking many producers.

In France, a health institute study released in 2013 showed that between 2007-2009, 485 farmers took their own lives as agriculture costs rose and profits declined. France has a relatively high suicide rate, but for farmers, the numbers were alarming. From The Local: “… the number of suicides among farmers stands at 35.9 per 100,000, meaning it is the sector in France most affected by the phenomenon. According to Europe1 radio, for factory workers in France the suicide rate stands at 31.8 per 100,000, for policemen it is 32 out of 100,000, for doctors it stands at 31 (per 100,000) and for the general population it is 16 per 100,000.”

In India, farmer suicide remains a hot-button issue, with blame often cast toward biotech crops and corporate agriculture. (For more, see Indian farmer suicides a case of misplaced GM blame.)

The United States hasn’t escaped. Over the last several years, California’s dairy crisis has brought devastation to several farm families. From the San Francisco Chronicle: “According to the Western United Dairymen … three dairy farmers have committed suicide since 2009, despairing over losing their family’s dairies.”

The stories and statistics are invariably bleak; grim reminders of the pitfalls of agriculture.


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