Tester Secures $500,000 to Provide Stress Assistance for Montana Farmers

Funding to provide mental health programming for farmers and ranchers across the state

Following severe drought and disastrous farming conditions, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced $500,000 in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) funding to the Montana Department of Agriculture to provide stress assistance and mental health resources for agricultural producers across the state through the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN).

“Between historic drought and hail storms, this was a stressful year for producers across the Treasure State,” said Tester. “Production ag is a tough business, and we need to do everything we can to combat the stigma around talking about the stress and mental health challenges that come with it. This funding will go a long way toward achieving that goal, and will help get folks the health resources that they need to stay healthy and work through a difficult year.”

The Montana Department of Agriculture will create a mini-grant program to distribute this funding to agricultural groups and organizations across the state, allowing them to bring mental health-specific programs to their members and communities. The grants will be capped at $10,000 per organization and can be used for speaker fees, travel, and other costs associated with mental health programming. Funding will also be used to increase awareness of the program through a marketing campaign which will include radio and television advertisements, highway billboards, short informational videos, and other marketing materials.

Tester helped secure this funding through a bipartisan push to include full funding for the FRSAN in the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) Appropriations bill, and recently led a similar push for the FY22 Appropriations bill.

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate is 45 percent higher in rural America than in urban areas, and Montana already has one of the highest suicide rates in the country.

As a third generation farmer, Senator Tester has long been an advocate for increased mental health resources for rural America and passed his Seeding Rural Resilience Act in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. The legislation fights high rates of suicide in rural America by:

  • Implementing a Farmer-Facing Employee Training Program that provides voluntary stress management training to Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency, and National Resources Conservation Service employees;
  • Forming a partnership between the Department of Health and Human Services and the United States Department of Agriculture to create a $3 million public service announcement campaign to increase public awareness of farm and ranch stress and destigmatize mental health care in rural communities; and
  • Directing the Secretary of Agriculture to work with state, local, and nongovernmental stakeholders to determine best practices for responding to farm and ranch mental stress.

Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK, or 1-800-273-8255.