3 Oct 2011

Farmers stressed by environmental rules

12:45 pm on 3 October 2011

A study into the health of dairy farmers shows environmental rules from regional councils, including those on water management, are a common cause of stress.

In the first year of a seven-year programme, AgResearch interviewed 500 dairy farmers to identify their main health issues.

It found 17% had experienced depression or anxiety and half did not seek help when they needed it.

Research programme head Neil Sposer says farmers have more on their plates than ever before.

He says a dozen Waikato farmers were interviewed about a year ago and the three things that worked against them were the drought, the recession and the pressure that comes from Government in terms of the environment.

Mr Sposer says the pressure will continue to rise and some farmers will need assistance to cope with that.

He says high debt levels are another source of worry, and half the farmers interviewed had racked up more debt in the past year.

Drinking on the rise

Mr Botha also says he is concerned by the findings that indicate farmers are drinking more to combat increased stress levels.

He says 81% of the 500 dairy farmers interviewed for the research had drunk alcohol in the past week, in line with the national average.

AgResearch will hold workshops with farmers to find out what support they would like on health issues.

The Rural Institute of Health says dairy farmers suffering from stress and fatigue are being given more support from the industry.

Chief executive Robin Steed says Rural Support Trusts are often the first contact in a community for a farmer seeking help

They are funded by DairyNZ and the Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry.

She says the trusts are busier during certain times of the farming cycle, or during times of bad weather.