Farm groups call for dialogue, action on opioid crisis

Opiod Impact in Farm Country, USA_AFBF_NFU_2017The opioid crisis has struck farm and ranch families much harder than the rest of rural America, a survey sponsored by the American Farm Bureau and National Farmers Union shows.

 While just under half of rural Americans say they have been directly impacted by opioid abuse, 74 percent of farmers and farm workers say they have. Three in four farmers say it would be easy for someone in their community to access opioids illegally, and just under half of rural adults – 46 percent – say the same. The poll, by market research company Morning Consult, is a first step in the groups’ collaboration on this issue.

“We’ve known for some time that opioid addiction is a serious problem in farm country, but numbers like these are heartbreaking,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. “Opioids have been too easy to come by and too easy to become addicted to. That’s why we are urging everyone we know to talk to their friends, family, co-workers – anyone at all they know or suspect needs help. And because opioid addiction is a disease, it’s up to all of us to help people who suffer from it and help them find the treatment they need. Government cannot and will not fix this on its own. Rural communities are strong. The strengths of our towns can overcome this crisis.”

“The opioid crisis is not just some talking point or abstract issue. It is an enormous challenge for both rural and urban America, and we as a country need to come to grips with it,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “These responses demonstrate the reach of the unrelenting and deadly crisis that is gripping farm families across the country. Farm and rural communities currently face major challenges in the fight against addiction, like access to services, treatment and support. Time and time again, farmers and ranchers have come together to help their families and their neighbors through challenging situations. That same resolve and compassion will help us break the grips of opioid addiction in rural America.”

 More highlights from the survey:

  • 50 percent of farmers and farm workers say addiction to opioids is a disease, rather than due to a lack of willpower.
  • 77 percent of farmers and 76 percent of those who work in agriculture generally say it would be easy for someone in their community to access a large amount of prescription opioids or painkillers without a prescription.
  • Rural adults overwhelmingly (by a 75 percent margin) recognize that opioid abuse can begin accidentally with the use of what are deemed safe painkillers, or opioids.
  • Only 31 percent of rural adults are aware that rural communities are impacted the most by the opioid crisis. And they say opioid abuse is a major problem in urban communities more so than in rural communities by a 10-point margin (57 percent vs. 47 percent).

Additional information on the survey can be found on AFBF’s website.