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Wisconsin state officials discuss farming concerns with public

Mondovi (WQOW) – Friday at the Buffalo County Fair, Sen. Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire) and Rep. Rob Summerfield (R-Bloomer) sat down with local farmers to discuss issues facing those in the agriculture industry.

Some voiced concerns about the lack of success of smaller farms not only in Buffalo County but around the state.

Officials pointed out that even though numbers show consumers like their products to be from smaller family farms, the farms themselves are not seeing a match in revenue.

Another topic of discussion was access to mental and physical healthcare, especially in light of rising suicide rates among farmers.

Local activist Noah Reif, who has a family background in agriculture, says it’s a fundamental need to the success and well-being of farmers.

“We believe healthcare is a human right and that’s another part of mental health. If you get hurt on the farm and can’t go get it taken care of. It just compounds, gets worse, and ultimately we want to make sure people are being able to go in and take care of these needs when they happen rather than 10, 15 years down the line when it’s too late,” said Reif.

Sen. Smith echoed the public’s concerns, saying the issue of mental health care and suicide prevention needs to be a top priority for state officials.

“This is an immediate problem. We don’t need to know how many people have committed suicide, all we need to know is that people have committed suicide and the trend is going up. Let’s talk about this now and not talk about it in political terms,” said Smith.

Rep. Summerfield added these town hall-style meetings help give farmers across Wisconsin a voice in the issues they’re facing, so officials and constituents can work together to solve the problems at hand.

“I’m just happy reaching out to people, have people reaching out to my office,” said Summerfield. “I’m open to all sorts of new ideas so we can continue to help farmers.”

State officials are planning another session like Friday’s for sometime this fall.

Mary Pautsch

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