KUNC

         

A 2002 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that men living in rural counties were much more likely to kill themselves than urban men. (Stephen D/Flickr)
A 2002 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that men living in rural counties were much more likely to kill themselves than urban men. (Stephen D/Flickr)

An alarming number of farmers in the U.S. take their own lives, according to the magazine Newsweek. And while we don’t have great statistics, some of the best numbers available suggest men on the farm today kill themselves nearly twice as often as other men in the general population.

The numbers are the jumping off point for Max Kutner, who wrote the Newsweek cover story, “Death on the farm.”

“Farmers are a dying breed, in part because they’re killing themselves in record numbers,” the Newsweek cover proclaims.

While that’s strong rhetoric, studies show that suicides are much more likely in rural areas. A 2002 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that men living in rural counties were much more likely to kill themselves than urban men.  And Michael Rosmann, a farmer and a psychologist who works with farmers, says surveys suggest an increased risk of suicide for farmers (PDF), in particular.

Illinois farmer Matt Boucher used a drone to scout his winter wheat crop. He found the harsh winter left very little green sprouting. (Courtesy Boucher Farms)
Illinois farmer Matt Boucher used a drone to scout his winter wheat crop. He found the harsh winter left very little green sprouting. (Courtesy Boucher Farms)

Fourth-generation family farmer Matt Boucher took his first unmanned aerial vehicle (what we might commonly refer to as a “drone”) out of its box last Christmas.

Farmers like Boucher see drones as the next popular tech tool for farmers. But the FAA says using drones for commercial use is illegal, until regulators figure out appropriate rules. While researching my story on the drone rules, I found that a bunch of farmers are itching to get their hands on aerial scouts. But what can a farmer actually learn using a personal drone? (Check out video from the scouting mission below)

Boucher has been running test flights over his frozen, snow-covered fields near Dwight, Ill., for months. Now that spring has finally arrived in the Midwest, he’s using the football-sized drone to get the first glimpse of his winter wheat.

“The cold has really affected it,” Boucher said after reviewing the footage. “We knew one field would be ‘iffy’, but by doing a fly-over with an unmanned system, you learn a lot in a hurry.”

Anti-GMO protestors at a 2013 Denver, Colo., rally (File: Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media)
Anti-GMO protestors at a 2013 Denver, Colo., rally (File: Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media)

State efforts to label genetically-modified food would be outlawed under a bill unveiled by a Kansas congressman Wednesday – a plan immediately criticized as a “legislative Hail Mary” that won’t pass.

The bill by Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Republican from Wichita, would also bar the Food and Drug Administration from labeling efforts, a move highly popular with consumers, and allow so-called “natural” foods to contain bio-engineered ingredients.  

Backed by grocery and food industry giants, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Pompeo said the legislation would set a “federal norm” and prevent the many state ballot initiatives popping up across the country.  

“Some of the campaigns in some of the states aren’t really to inform consumers but rather aimed at scaring them,” Pompeo said. “And so it’s my judgment and what this bill attempts to do is set a standard.”

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