CAHFS Weekly Update: MN Department of Agriculture Receives Funding to Bolster Rural Stress and Mental Health Initiative; COVID-19 Vaccine Approved for 5-11yr old Population; United Nations (UN) Climate Conference
Margaret Sirolli, DVM, MPH


MN Department of Agriculture Receives Funding to Bolster Rural Stress and Mental Health Initiative

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), and 11 partners, recently received $500,000 to advance it’s “Bend, Don’t Break” initiative. The funding, awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), will support efforts targeted toward rural Minnesotan communities to address mental health challenges. MDA and its partners will build on existing programs across the state to support Minnesotan farmers, their families, and communities by providing counseling, training, a 24/7 Farm & Rural Helpline, a radio show, and a podcast series.

In a statement released by MDA, Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Peterson stated, “We know from working with farmers that suicide, farm transition and succession, legal problems, family relationships, and youth stress are crucial issues where we can all make a difference.” This work will build upon previous “safeTALK” training opportunities organized by MDA and MN Department of Health (MDH) in 2019 and 2020, aimed at preventing suicides among farmers and others in the agricultural community. MDA has funds available to sponsor groups and organizations to provide the 4-hour workshop. Free “Farm Stress Training” and additional resources are  also available from the Upper Midwest and Agricultural Safety and Health Center.

Securing funding for the “Bend, Don’t Break” initiative is timely, as the impact of recent climate events, supply chain issues, and inflation are expected to continue. At the Ag & Food Summit, held last week in Minneapolis, the recent surge in U.S. agricultural exports was noted. However, pessimism overshadowed these gains as farmers face increasing operating costs and expect inflation well into 2022. A recent survey of farmers compiled by Purdue University’s Ag Economy Barometer showed farmers expect “overall costs to rise at least  8% over the next year.” This is up from a historic average of 2% per year increase in operating cost. MDA, and its partners, will execute the initiative by providing workshops, training, and other resources to professionals that work with farm families.


If you, or someone you know is struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts-call. Sometimes it’s easier to talk with someone you don’t know. The free, confidential and 24/7call center is located in Minnesota, and is answered by trained staff and volunteers.

Minnesota Farm & Rural Helpline

Phone: 833-600-2670
Text: FARMSTRESS to 898211
Email: [email protected]



COVID-19 Vaccine Approved for 5-11yr old Population

After much anticipation, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, signed off on approval for the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5-11 yrs old. Dr. Walensky’s approval quickly followed the unanimous 14-0 recommendation by the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice (ACIP) on November 2, 2021. The addition of the 5-11 yr old population in the US expands those eligible to receive vaccination to approximately 28 million children.

Expanded eligibility for children to be vaccinated was welcomed news to many parents and grandparents across the U.S. In a recent report from CDC,hospitalization rates attributed to COVID-19 among children and adolescents rose nearly five-fold from late-June 2021 to mid-August 2021. The study found unvaccinated adolescents were hospitalized 10 times more often than those fully vaccinated. In addition, data presented to the ACIP indicated approximately ⅓ of hospitalized children aged 5-11 yrs require ICU admission. Data presented by Pfizer/BioNTech demonstrated nearly 91% efficacy in preventing COVID-19 in children 5-11yrs old. 

Severe hyperinflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) as a result of COVID-19 infection, has been documented in just over 5,200 children in the U.S. between February 19, 2020 to September 23, 2021. MIS-C results in a wide range of clinical manifestations, resulting in 60%-70% of cases admitted to intensive care. The average age of MIS-C cases is 9 yrs old.  With 44% of cases (2,316), MIS-C occurred most often in children 5-11 yrs old. Vaccinations for children began across the nation the following day, with many community and school-based clinics scheduled to roll out in the coming weeks. Vaccination in this age group is expected to reduce cases across the US by approximately 8% (600,000 cases) between November 2021 and March 2022, as well as decrease negative impact on parental participation in the workforce, and lower transmission within schools and communities.


United Nations (UN) Climate Conference

The UN Conference of Parties 26th (COP26) meeting got underway in Glasgow, Scotland last week. COP26 will last two weeks and includes representation from over 25,000 delegates from 200 countries. The main goal of the conference is to continue progress toward the collective agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to “net zero” by 2050 made under the Paris Agreement six years ago. This goal was established to keep the rise in global average temperature to 1.5C. Developed nations also committed to provide aid to poorer countries with the impact of climate change and assist in the reduction of their greenhouse emissions. In Paris, more than 130 countries committed to meet the carbon neutrality goal by 2050.

In the first week of COP26, several new commitments were announced by world leaders. The Glasgow Forest Declaration has been signed by 130 nations, including Brazil, committing  to end deforestation by 2030. Over 80 countries pledged to reduce methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030. Forty-six countries committed to end coal investments and scale up clean power. However, many of the nations required to make significant impacts in these key areas did not commit to the reductions, leading to large protests and calls for more impactful change.

Developing nations, those contributing least to climate change, are most vulnerable to the effects of rising temperatures. In 2015, developed countries committed to provide $100 billion in aid annually by 2020 to help developing countries manage the effects of climate change and reduce emissions. These commitments have not been met. Protecting and supporting ecosystem health is essential to manage extreme weather conditions resulting from climate change and provide the habitat necessary for food production in these vulnerable communities and around the world.