AMES, Iowa--Continuing poor economic conditions are taking a toll on many Iowans, but especially swine and dairy producers. As they face difficult choices, they are looking for information and Iowa State University Extension is providing it in a variety of ways. ISU Extension workshops and seminars with information specific to their needs are being scheduled; Iowa Concerns hotline is answering an increasing number of farm related calls; and Web sites dedicated to managing tough times are continually updated.
Swine and dairy seminars
Swine producers can attend a swine transition seminar on Aug. 5 in Sheldon. “Long-standing networks of producers, owners, contractors and managers are under stress. Many are being forced to consider new arrangements,” said Dave Stender, ISU Extension swine field specialist. “This seminar will address the options and opportunities for producers.”
The seminar begins at 10 a.m. in Building C at the Northwest Community College in Sheldon, with John Lawrence, ISU ag economist speaking, then breaks into two tracks. “One track will look at management issues and how producers might work together – ones with sow unit shares available and others facing empty barns and reduced payments looking for a new pig source,” Stender said.
Stender says the pork industry needs to contract in order to get out of the economic situation it is in; the second track looks at the least painful options individuals have to contract their operation. Additional information and required registration for the day-long event that includes a lunch are at www.ipic.iastate.edu/events/SwineTransition.pdf .
Dairy producers, bankers and lenders, and community leaders are encouraged to attend workshops being offered at ten Iowa locations this summer. They will learn about financial and legal options available to dairy farm owners, and about stress management strategies and resources for farm owners and their families.
“Dairy operators are seeing unprecedented losses from each hundred weight of milk produced,” said Chris Mondak, ISU Extension dairy specialist. “Even the very best herdsmen and very best managers are experiencing financial crisis because of the dynamics of the global economy. Our workshops will provide information about legal and financial options, strategies and resource people.”
Mondak and other ISU Extension specialists will present information to help producers prepare paperwork and information to talk to bankers, explain legal options and their ramifications, and identify signs of stress and how to manage stress. Complete workshop information, including locations and times is available at www.extension.iastate.edu/news/2009/jul/161702.htm.
Hotline and counseling assistance
More Iowans are calling the Iowa Concern Hotline with farm related issues, according to Margaret VanGinkel, Iowa Concern Hotline coordinator. “As many as one-fourth of our calls are farm related and that number continues to increase,” she said. “Rural and farm families that need more assistance than we can offer on a call have the option of a free counseling program.”
When callers dial 800-447-1985 to reach Iowa Concerns they have access to an attorney for legal calls, counselors for stress related issues, and information and referral services that cover a wide variety of topics. The Iowa Concerns Web site features a frequently asked questions data base for legal, finance, crisis and disaster, and personal health issues. The Web site, www.extension.iastate.edu/iowaconcern/ , is also linked to Iowa Concern’s live person service – connecting the visitor with a stress counselor for a one-on-one conversation in a secure environment.
“All Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week – at no charge,” said Extension’s VanGinkel. “Farm and rural families that need additional support may qualify for the Sowing Seeds of Hope program. This program offers five free visits to a professional counselor. Our counselors can verify the caller’s eligibility and give contact information for participating providers.”
Extension Web sites
In March, ISU Extension launched the Managing Tough Times Web site, www.extension.iastate.edu/answers, as a means of offering facts, tools and experts to individuals, businesses and communities as they looked for solutions to the hard economic times. The site focuses on three primary audiences – families, businesses and agriculture. It uses videos, Web links, articles, and an ask the expert blog to connect visitors with useable information.
Another resource for producers and anyone looking for family financial guidance is the Extension to Families Web site that focuses on family money management issues. The site, called "Managing Money in Tough Times" at www.extension.iastate.edu/finances/toughtimes.htm includes information about
• paying bills (e.g., debt management in tough times, meeting your insurance needs, applying for unemployment)
• employment issues (e.g., searching for a job, tax impact of job loss)
• family issues (e.g., coping with stress, teaching children coping skills)
• financial and legal resources (e.g., working with a financial planner).