The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA) announced $1.92 million in four competitive grants supporting projects to provide stress assistance programs to individuals engaged in farming, ranching and other agriculture-related occupations. These projects were awarded to four regional entities to help launch the Farm & Ranch Stress Assistance Network. Funding for the grants comes from the Farm & Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) program, authorized by the 2018 farm bill.
“This program sets the long-term foundation for a Farm & Ranch Stress Assistance Network that will provide stress assistance programs to individuals who are engaged in farming, ranching and other agriculture-related occupations on a regional basis. Our farmers, ranchers and producers need help and programs that provide professional agricultural behavioral health assistance and referral for other forms of support, as necessary,” NIFA director J. Scott Angle said.
FRSAN is a program created to establish a network that assists farmers, ranchers and other agriculture-related workers in times of stress and offers a conduit to improving behavioral health awareness, literacy and outcomes for them and their families. NIFA is providing funding to four regional entities to help launch the network in North Central, Northeast, southern and western regions. The long-term expectation is that agricultural producers and their families will now have greater opportunities to find help in their communities and states.
As one example, the Building an Inclusive & Comprehensive Network for Farm & Ranch Stress Assistance in the Northeast project, led by the National Young Farmers Coalition Inc., will convene a network of farmer service providers in the region to build connections and collaboration. Additionally, this project will gather resources, provide feedback on regional needs, develop an online clearinghouse to share available resources and referrals with farmers and service providers and train service providers on the network, available resources and best practices for working with farmers under stress.
The AgriSafe Network mobilized partners in the southern region of the U.S. to form the Southern Farm & Ranch Stress Assistance Network (S-FRSAN). AgriSafe will leverage the strengths of S-FRSAN to establish a clear blueprint for delivery of stress assistance services tailored to the agricultural population. AgriSafe's Total Farmer Health philosophy will be the basis by which the services are designed. AgriSafe's Total Farmer Health campaign embraces a holistic approach to caring for the agricultural community by focusing not only on the occupational hazards but also individual, social and mental health components that could affect one's health and well-being.
In the North Central region, housed at Iowa State University, the overarching goals of the project titled Farm & Ranch Wellness: The Next Steps are to: (1) develop a catalog of resources, trainings and connections to help farmers and ranchers know where to turn and (2) to provide a fuller and more robust network of stress assistance programs, including a stress hotline and prescription drug abuse education, in the North Central region. Individuals who are directly engaged in farming and ranching can lower their stress by attending programs such as "Stress on the Farm: Strategies that Help" or financial management programs for farm and ranch women. Advocates would be better able to assist farmers and ranchers after attending "Question. Persuade. Refer" or "Mental Health First Aid." All audiences can benefit from "GenerationRx," which offers a comprehensive set of materials on the dangers of misusing prescription medications, including opioids.
The Iowa Concern Hotline, which offers confidential stress counseling, will also be supported and is available to states in the North Central region. Each participating university will have an online site designated to farm and ranch wellness that lists available resources and publications. These sites will also link to other participating university sites. With permission, links to all universities’ sites in the North Central region that target farm stress will also be included. An online program catalog of stress assistance programs will then be completed and made available region-wide.
The Western Regional Agricultural Stress Assistance Program partners consist of Washington State University Skagit County Extension, Oregon State University Extension, Volunteers of America Western Washington and the Washington State Department of Health. The trusted network of Washington State and Oregon State extension services provides avenues for outreach that coincide with pre-existing points of outreach for this otherwise hard-to-reach community (workshops and field days, farm trainings, etc.). Volunteers of America and the Washington health department have the behavioral health expertise, relationships with networks of service providers and the institutional capacity to host crisis hotlines, link people to resources and provide training.