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Minnesota Farmer Assistance Network offers business and personal assistance

Chuck Schwartau

Published in Dairy Star December 18, 2009

Few farmers will argue that 2009 has been among their toughest years ever. It started with extremely high fertilizer prices last winter. Many areas had late wet springs. Milk prices went “in the tank” (sorry for the pun). Hog prices were so bad it was like the farmer taped a $50 bill to each hog as it went out the driveway. It was dry in the summer. It was wet in the fall. Harvest was delayed. Credit tightened up so some farmers are concerned about not only 2009 loan repayment, but also financing the 2010 crop inputs. Mercifully, it finally froze HARD the first couple weeks of December to put an end to the 2009 season.

All in all, stressful situations were heaped on farmers all year long. Many farmers are experiencing the financial stress and readily acknowledge that as an issue. There are farmers struggling with the day-to-day issues of keeping their families properly fed and clothed, or dealing with health issues but don’t feel they can afford to see a doctor because they let their insurance lapse. This might be your family, or might be your neighbor, but chances are no one else knows about it. This stress goes right to farmers because they take great pride in taking care of themselves.

What is harder for many farmers is to admit they also suffer from other stresses. The mental pressure of farming is real anytime, but it is probably more acute this year. Right along with the finances goes the feeling of inadequacy or failure when the farmer can’t meet his or her obligations or fill the needs of their family. Even when it is needed the most, farm families have a difficult time reaching out for help.

It is for all these reasons the Minnesota Farmer Assistance Network (MFAN) has been formed. MFAN is a partnership of organizations pulled together by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in response to the struggling rural economy to address the needs of farm families. The purpose of MFAN is to provide one place a farm family can call for a wide range of business and personal assistance during stressful times.

The MFAN network includes volunteers available to help with business analysis and suggestions to keep the business going as well as deal with personal issues. Professionals from many organizations are ready to help steer farm families to the right resources, and in many cases provide the direct assistance, to help farm families make it through.

MFAN is a confidential system wherein farm families can call a toll-free number any time of the day or night to explain their concern and request help. If the concern is related to the business, business advisors will be put in touch with the farm. Not all matters are financial, however. If the need is food, health care or other personal welfare, or legal guidance, the volunteers know who in the network can provide assistance to the family.

Some people may feel the need for personal counseling to deal with the stress. Those resources are also in the network with professionals ready to start the process with the callers. All contacts are maintained as confidential so there is no need to worry that someone will know you are reaching out for help.

Partners in MFAN include:

  • Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA)
  • University of Minnesota Extension
  • MnSCU Farm Business Management Programs
  • Crisis Connections
  • MDA Farm Advocate Program
  • Farmer-Lender Mediation
  • Farmers Legal Action Group
  • USDA-Farm Service Agency
  • Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
  • Lutheran Social Services
  • Catholic Charities
  • County Social Service Agencies

Access to MFAN is by one of these phone numbers:

You can also contact MFAN by e-mail at:

During working hours, these calls will be answered by designated staff within the MDA to start you into the system. During evening, night or weekend hours (24 hours per day), the phones will be answered by Crisis Connection who will then start the process to help you and your family. Either way, you have access to the same set of resources.

Don’t let 2009 keep you in the corner. If you feel the need for help, or even want to talk to someone about whether more help would be appropriate, call MFAN. It could be your way to a healthier future.

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