Farmers Union Pres. Roger Johnson Joins AFBF, USDA to Create Awareness on Rural Opioid AbuseMon, 08 Jan 2018 16:28:17 CST
President of the National Farmers Union Roger Johnson is in Nashville, Tenn. this week attending the 99th Annual American Farm Bureau Convention and participated in a roundtable discussion with his AFBF counterpart Zippy Duvall, promoting a new initiative by the two general farm organizations in cooperation with the US Department of Agriculture, spotlighting the growing impact that opioid abuse is having on our rural communities. Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays was there to take part as well, joining Michael Clements of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters in speaking with Johnson about the spreading epidemic. Listen to their complete interview by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
“This is a really big issue in farm country and farmers don’t understand it’s as big an issue as it is,” Johnson prefaced. “If you look at the statistics coming out, one thing we know is that the crisis is greater in rural America than urban America. About half of rural Americans know somebody in their family, or a direct acquaintance or themselves that is directly impacted by an opioid addiction.”
Johnson went on to explain that of those in rural America impacted, when it comes to actual farmers and ranchers, three out of four are among those affected. Citing further studies into the problem, Johnson reports that another recent government survey indicates that life expectancy in rural America is decreasing - the primary contributing factor being opioid addiction. Directly related to that, he cites yet another study showing that in a three-year span between 2013-1016, opioid addiction in rural America had an annual increase of 88 percent.
“That’s almost doubling every year,” Johnson exclaimed, adding that if you ask farmers and ranchers where they believe the problem is, they say in urban areas and think only a third of farmers and ranchers are affected. “So, there’s an information gap that exists. This is a dramatic problem we have and it’s coming on really, really fast. So, it needs a lot of attention.”
According to Johnson, though, the situation is not totally dire in the sense that there is a way to address and resolve this problem. He says the first step in finding a solution is understanding the problem. He noted that NFU and AFBF, along with the USDA, are committed to continue working together to bring awareness to this issue and have agreed to host more events like this one across the country. He also directs audiences to visit the www.farmtownstrong.org website for more information on the matter.
“Both Zippy and I understand that rural communities come together really well in the face of tragedy,” he said. “If we can get folks to sort of view this drug addiction problem in that same way, then we think that’s the solution. I’m hopeful it becomes a major topic of conversation in a lot of communities, because that’s what needs to happen.”
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