COLUMBIA, Mo. – Drought. You're either in it, preparing for it or recovering from it.

That’s how University of Missouri Extension specialists describe the sentiments of farm families facing yet another year of uncertainty.

“Missouri stands at the precipice of its fourth significant drought in six years,” says Rob Kallenbach, associate dean of the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

“Water scarcity threatens agriculture, ecosystems, businesses and communities,” says Kallenbach, who oversees agriculture extension specialists in 114 counties. “The University of Missouri’s extension programs offer science-based solutions to mitigate the impact of drought.”

MU Extension developed a Drought Resources webpage in 2012 and has continued to add articles and publications to it to help guide farmers and ranchers. Specialists across all disciplines meet weekly to develop resources and discuss ways to help Missourians keep livestock and crop operations going.

Just as importantly, they try to help those who are in mental distress because of the financial and emotional hardships farm families face.

MU Extension health and safety specialist Karen Funkenbusch says MU Extension has resources to help. She sees stress and anxiety daily in the furrowed brows of farmers who are often reluctant to talk about their troubles.

“These are farmers who pride themselves on their independence,” Funkenbusch says. “They are used to taking care of others as they feed our nation. Those in the agricultural community often put unrealistic pressure on themselves to control things beyond their control – like the weather.

“When that happens, we need to provide them a safe place to share the pressures they are facing. We talk about how we can take care of our livestock and our crops during drought, but we often overlook the importance of caring for ourselves and others, mentally and physically.”

One in five people will experience mental illness during their lifetime, she says. Those numbers increase during times of uncertainty that affect the livelihood and lifestyle of farm families. The effects ripple through multiple generations of families and through rural communities where people are closely connected.

Funkenbusch notes resources available to Missouri farm families:

• The MU Psychological Services Clinic, through its Coping With Stress on the Farm program, offers free, confidential teletherapy sessions for farmers and ranchers and members of their immediate families. Learn more at, or contact the clinic at or 573-882-4677.

• Missouri Department of Agriculture’s AgriStress Helpline also offers free, confidential help to farmers and their families. Call or text 833-897-2474 to speak to a health care professional. The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Learn more at

• MU Extension, through a North Central Region Farm and Ranch Assistance Network federal grant, is part of Iowa Concern, which provides stress counselors, an attorney for legal education, information and referral services for farm families. The toll-free number is 800-447-1985.

• The 24-hour Suicide & Crisis Lifeline provides free, confidential services. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 988 or go to

• Veteran farmers needing support may contact the Veterans Crisis Line, which offers 24/7 confidential crisis support for veterans and their loved ones. Dial 988 then press 1.

Find other resources in the MU Extension 2023 Mental Health Toolkit at (PDF).

MU Extension specialists like Funkenbusch and representatives of the state’s Show-Me Farm Safety program will be on hand in the Agriculture Building at the Missouri State Fair to listen and provide printed material with available mental health resources. The 2023 fair runs Aug. 10-20 in Sedalia.

Media Contact