MDA Announces Program Prioritizing Mental Health

HELENA, Mont. (NMB) – The Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA) has announced plans to prioritize mental health through a comprehensive program aimed at alleviating stress for Montana farmers and ranchers.

MDA recently secured a $500,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN), a program authorized through the Farm Bill to connect individuals engaged in farming, ranching, and other agriculture-related occupations to stress assistance programs.

“Working in Agriculture is stressful—plain and simple,” said Christy Clark, Acting Director at Montana Department of Agriculture. “Montana’s farmers and ranchers are carrying heavy workloads, braving the elements no matter the weather, not to mention taking care of equipment, animals, family members, and everything else that comes along with their work of feeding the world. Our department is excited to roll out resources to ensure our producers are taken care of first and foremost, because they are truly the most important part of their operation.”

The Montana Department of Agriculture’s stress assistance program includes Montana-specific initiatives to reduce the negative stigma tied to mental health and connect producers with tangible, effective resources. To address the limited access to mental healthcare services in the state, the department will provide vouchers to Montana farmers and ranchers for free, confidential counseling services, both in-person and tele-health, to be provided by in-state providers who have ties to Montana communities and an appreciation for agriculture. MDA will also work in partnership with Montana agricultural groups and organizations to provide grant funding that can be used to help pay for mental health programming, such as a speaker or workshop.

Montana has ranked in the top five states for national suicide rates for the past three decades and suicide rates among agricultural producers and workers are higher than national averages. These unfortunate statistics can be attributed to the inherently high-stress nature of the profession, including financial pressures driven by commodity prices and market volatilities, extreme weather events, and social isolation. The Montana Department of Agriculture aims to help Montana’s agricultural community cope with and manage stressors they may be experiencing.

In addition to the counseling voucher and grant programs, MDA will promote existing resources such as the Montana Ag Producer Stress Resource Clearing House developed by the Montana State University and the Western Region Agricultural Stress Assistance Programs to continue enhancing mental health among those involved in Montana agriculture.

To learn more about Montana’s Farm and Ranch Assistance Program, contact Marty Earnheart at (406) 444-9126 or 

Courtesy of the Montana Department of Agriculture

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