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September 26, 2002

Poor harvest and hog prices bring stress; families learn to manage

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Some Hoosier farm families are facing a tough fall with a low-yielding harvest and poor hog prices, but a Purdue University specialist said there is a way to manage these difficult times.

Last week Indiana Gov. Frank O'Bannon and Lt. Gov. Joe Kernan asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for an agricultural disaster declaration for 74 counties. Not only are farmers faced with less than anticipated yields, but some also are getting hit with hog prices in the low- to mid-$30 range.

"We expect many farm families are facing stressful times this year," said Janet Bechman, Purdue Extension consumer sciences and retailing specialist. "Stress is a normal feeling that will happen; individuals just need to know how to navigate through it."

Each family member has different events that cause stress and each has different ways of dealing with worries.

"Each person needs to know his or her own signs that it's time to make a change," Bechman said. "Family members should develop individual plans on how they will deal with these stressful situations. They should not panic and get caught up in today; they instead should think about the long-term alternatives before taking drastic steps."

If families know a specific time, such as harvest, will be stressful, they should pay special attention to how they approach the situation. Individuals need to eat healthy and get plenty of rest so they can manage their situation better, Bechman said.

Bechman said the sooner an individual faces stressful events in life, the sooner changes can be made. In order to make change, people should talk with available resources such as lenders, accountants, financial advisers, church members, counselors or friends.

Stressful situations may cause family members to hold in their anger and anxiety and shut off lines of communication. However, individuals need to keep family and financial adviser relationships positive, Bechman said.

"Being conscious of individual communication styles is the key to working with others in tense situations," she said. "Individuals should not take stressful situations on by themselves. It also is important that family members give each other their full attention and do not blame each other."

Family members also need to develop communication strategies, Bechman said. Parents should establish a time when they sit down and talk together or when the entire family can share concerns.

Recognizing and monitoring the symptoms of stress will help families work through tough situations. Bechman said withdrawal, loss of appetite, increased eating, headaches or a change in normal behavior can be signs of stress.

Farm families also should have a clear picture of what expenses they have and set priorities for spending during difficult financial times. By taking action early, families can look at their alternative resources and skills that can replace lost income, she said. By reframing how these financially stressful times are viewed, they can be seen as an opportunity to reexamine spending behaviors rather than as a pitfall, Bechman said.

Writer: Jennifer Doup, (765) 494-8406, doupj@purdue.edu

Source: Janet Bechman, (765) 494-8309, jcb@purdue.edu

Related Web sites:
Indiana Agriculture in Transition
Purdue Agriculture News, Harvest 2002
Purdue Agriculture News, Pork Outlook

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, bforbes@aes.purdue.edu; http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/AgComm/public/agnews/

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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