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Federal grants will help address farm stress and mental health

The USDA grants will involve multiple organizations across many states. There are $500,000 grants for projects in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin

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Mental and emotional stress can make it difficult to continue making decisions to run a farm. Experts recommend making health a priority as a farm management strategy. (Erin Brown/Grand Vale Creative)
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Farm and ranch mental health programs across the country are getting a funding boost from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture on Wednesday, Oct. 27, announced an investment of nearly $25 million for 50 grants supporting the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network and projects through state department of ag.

Here are summaries of projects in the Upper Midwest, with each receiving $500,000 grants.

Iowa: The grant applications outlines three goals: (1) greatly strengthen local outreach consultations and activities to the farm community regarding stress assistance programs, such as Mental Health First Aid, Question.Persuade.Refer. (QPR), and Strengthening Families Program; (2) Individuals in the farm community will also be recruited to attend two regional facilitator trainings for Strengthening Families Program. The program will also be implemented in six selected sites across Iowa; (3) A farm resource packet will be developed and will include information on how to access other Iowa State University Extension and Outreach stress assistance and family finance programming

Minnesota: The “Bend, Don’t Break” initiative will build upon existing efforts to connect farmers and rural Minnesotans with resources to help reduce stress, anxiety and crisis situations, such as the drought that is affecting many Minnesota farms and ranches. It will support, improve, and promote services, such as mental health counseling, farm advocates, marriage retreats, and a 24/7 Farm and Rural Helpline , and will expand a radio show and podcast series that profiles farmers who have navigated difficult situations. The initiative will also enhance the skills and responsiveness of professionals who work with farm families in stress through workshops, trainings, and other resources.

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Montana: Department of Agriculture will implement a counseling voucher program. This program will be modeled after the very successful "Farmer Wellness Program" that is ran by the Wisconsin Farm Center. These vouchers will provide free, confidential counseling services for any Montana farmer or rancher. The vouchers will be available for both in-person and via tele-health, so no rural area is too small or isolated to receive care. $500,000

North Dakota: The North Dakota Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network project seeks to establishing a coordinated network of partners to work together in addressing farm stress issues, as well as delivering educational resources and programs that build capacity and resilience in addressing health-related concerns in agriculture, particularly mental and behavioral health. One goal is to reach over 1,000 individuals a year with the educational programming efforts.

South Dakota: The Avera Farm and Rural Stress Hotline will receive funding. Farmers and ranchers will have access to mental health resources through a new mental health voucher program. South Dakota State University Extension will offer trainings for counselors so they are equipped to handle the nuances of farm and rural stress. SDSU Extension will also fund essential existing programs to allow more farmers and ranchers the opportunity to take advantage of them.

Wisconsin: In July 2020 a "Wisconsin Farmer Wellness Program" was instituted to help farmers cope with the stress and anxiety or address any other mental health concerns. The program includes a 24/7 helpline staffed by licensed mental health counselors, a telecounselor available for online sessions, and the continuation and growth of our longstanding counseling voucher program with a network of 200+ counselors. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection will focus on what it calls the "4-A's" of most common barriers preventing farmers from receiving mental health support: accessibility, affordability, acceptability, and awareness.

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