OKLAHOMA CITY — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced an investment of nearly $25 million for 50 grants supporting Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FSRAN) State Department of Agriculture projects. The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry was awarded $500,000 to allocate to our state partners.
These grant dollars will be used to improve mental health services for Oklahoma agriculturalists. Using federal dollars, ODAFF intends to engage region partners, such as the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Services and Oklahoma American Farmers and Ranchers, to fund mental health trainings, research and community outreach programs.
“Life in agriculture is sometimes tough and isolating,” said Blayne Arthur, Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture. “Producers are certainly some of the most resilient people, but natural disasters, disease, retailer demands, market uncertainties and misconceptions, and a seemingly growing list of other issues wears on everyone.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of Oklahomans dealing with mental health conditions like anxiety or depression have risen 25%. Suicide rates have increased 17% in rural communities since 2017.
A portion of the recently granted funding will be used to develop programs such as the Heal the Harvester ECHO, a bi-weekly webinar series designed to equip Oklahoma Extension agents to assist struggling farmers and ranchers that they come into contact with in their community through mental health education, awareness and resource training. For more information regarding this webinar series, visit https://medicine.okstate.edu/echo/heal-the-harvester-echo.html.
The remaining federal dollars will be used to support state partners in mental health research and outreach efforts.
“There are so many resources out there in addition to the Heal the Harvester program, including a Farm Stress Management Team at AFR, that understand the unique challenges of production ag,” Arthur said. “Reach out, check in, lighten a load, have a conversation with a friend. We are all in this together.”
–Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry