HELENA, Mont. - A new stress assistance program prioritizing mental health among Montana farmers and ranchers was announced Wednesday.
The Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA) said in a release they received a $500,000 federal grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network. The program will link farmers, ranchers and others involved in agriculture through the Farm Bill.
“Working in Agriculture is stressful—plain and simple,” Acting Director at Montana Department of Agriculture Christy Clark said in the release. “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 new program is geared towards lowering the stigma surrounding mental health and providing tangible and effective resources to Montana producers, according to MDA. MDA will offer free vouchers to farmers and ranchers and in-person and tele-health confidential counseling services. Montana providers with relations to Montana communities and interests in agriculture will lead the counseling. In addition, MDA said they will team up with agricultural organizations in the state to provide aid funding for mental health programming, including a speaker or workshop.
MDA said Montana has placed in the top five for highest suicide rates in the country with rates among agricultural producers and workers higher than the national average. This may be associated with the stressful nature of the profession surrounding financial pressures, natural disasters and social isolation, according to MDA.
Additionally, MDA said they will continue offering already established mental health support programs such as the Montana Ag Producer Stress Resource Clearing House.