MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Minnesota Extension is providing free help to farmers who may be struggling in an agricultural economic downturn.

The extension's Farm Information Line is connecting farmers with retired agricultural financial and business experts who will provide analysis and advice, the Minnesota Daily reported.

The Extension began the private and confidential program more than a year ago to help address farmers' growing concerns about financial burdens, according to Kevin Klair, an agricultural economist with Extension.

"The biggest thing is to help them figure out where they're at financially," Klair said. "It's mostly about exploring what options might be available."

The line has helped over 100 farmers. Klair said more farmers are expected to utilize the counseling resource as the end of this year's harvest approaches.

"The next several months — December, January, February, March — will be the months when (farmers) really have to analyze where they're at, discuss with their lenders, see how they're doing and what their options are," he said.

Brad Hovel, a farmer in Cannon Falls, said farmers may have difficulty asking for help, even when they need it.

"Farmers are pretty proud people and I don't know if they'd really tell their neighbors or friends if they're having financial trouble or not," Hovel said.

Low crop prices and poor weather during the planting and growing season have hurt Minnesota farmers over the last few years, said Extension Associate Dean Michael Schmitt.

Financial stress can have negative impacts on farmers' families and their mental health, Schmitt said.

"We are concerned when people don't talk about their challenges with anybody, because they can't get the help they need, they can't get the advice they need," he said.