Today we highlight our story on telehealth and farmers. Farmers are among the most likely to die by suicide and the stigma around mental health makes these efforts all the more important. We also share our dicamba story, the result of over five years of intensive reporting. Read on and stay safe.
This story is part of a yearlong project exploring the ways farmers and farming communities tackle mental health and is supported with a grant from the Solutions Journalism Network.
Last month, Illinois farmers in a handful of counties received a new option to help alleviate their stress.
Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and the Illinois Department of Agriculture introduced a helpline for Illinois farmers on Oct. 28 — the first farmer-specific helpline in Illinois. While only available in six counties now, the plan is to extend it across the state.
That’s the choice soybean farmers such as Will Glazik face. The past few summers, farmers near Glazik’s central Illinois farm have sprayed so much of the weed killer dicamba at the same time that it has polluted the air for hours and sometimes days.
As Glazik puts it, there are two types of soybeans: Monsanto’s, which are genetically engineered to withstand dicamba, and everyone else’s.
“This is the first product in American history that literally destroys the competition ... You buy it or else.”
BILLY RANDLES, ATTORNEY FOR BILL BADER
Glazik’s soybeans have been the damaged ones. His soybean leaves will curl up, then the plants will become smaller and weaker. He’s lost as much as 40 bushels an acre in some fields, a huge loss when organic soybeans are $20 a bushel. He has to hold his breath every year to see if the damage will cause him to lose his organic certification.
His neighbors who spray dicamba are frustrated with him, he said. There’s an easy solution to avoid damage, they tell him: Buy Monsanto’s seeds.
This reality is what Monsanto was counting on when it launched dicamba-tolerant crops, an investigation by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting found.
Executives from Monsanto and BASF, a German chemical company that worked with Monsanto to launch the system, knew their dicamba weed killers would cause large-scale damage to fields across the United States but decided to push them on unsuspecting farmers anyway, in a bid to corner the soybean and cotton markets.