AgrAbility Day at the Capitol successful
More than 60 people gathered at the Capitol on March 9 to increase state legislators' awareness of agricultural producers who have disabilities and to highlight the importance of the Oklahoma AgrAbility Project.
This was the second year for the event.
"Our general purpose, for AgrAbility Day at the Capitol, is to educate legislators, allow former clients to share stories and let legislators get a better sense of who we are," said Linda Jaco, Oklahoma AgrAbility co-director. "We hope this will show the need for state support to provide additional services to our rural clients as Oklahoma AgrAbility fills a gap in services and resources available to these rural families by providing education, networking and direct assistance."
The Oklahoma AgrAbility Project strives each year to increase its visibility and meet the needs of Oklahoma agricultural producers with disabilities and their families.
"Oklahoma is just one of 22 state AgrAbility Projects in the nation and we have a responsibility to support our local farmers and ranchers with disabilities as they continue to successfully contribute to the economic engine of rural Oklahoma," Jaco said. "The average farm in Oklahoma annually contributes approximately $53,000 in products to the market and is one of Oklahoma's most dangerous industries. According to the 2004 census, farmers experienced a fatality rate of 28 per 100,000 people while the fatality rate of all other occupations was six per 100,000."
Oklahoma AgrAbility clients were able to explain to state legislators the impact of Oklahoma AgrAbility on their lives and its importance to the future of other producers with disabilities.
"The clients and potential clients of AgrAbility are real people with real goals. America is the land of opportunity. If we don't support someone because they have a disability we have failed. We can help ourselves by supporting those who want to work in the agriculture industry," said Jay McPherson, AgrAbility client.
The Oklahoma AgrAbility Project, established in 2002, supports the rehabilitation and assistive technology needs of Oklahoma farmers, ranchers and their families who have been impacted by disabilities and face barriers to continuing participation in agriculture.
"A moderate investment in the Oklahoma AgrAbility Project will easily be multiplied through the productivity of those that are served by the program," said Randy Taylor, co-director of the Oklahoma AgrAbility Project.
Originally authorized in the 1990 Farm Bill, the Oklahoma AgrAbility Project Act became law in 2007. The act created, but did not provide funding for the Project.
"AgrAbility projects are prohibited from utilizing federal grant funds, awarded from the United States Department of Agriculture, for the direct purchase of needed assistive technologies and farm environment modifications," Jaco said. "State appropriations would enable the program to build capacity and assist many more individuals than is currently possible, as well as purchase needed assistive technology to reduce farm environment barriers."
The vendors who attended AgrAbility Day at the Capitol include the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service; Oklahoma ABLE Tech; Langston University School of Physical Therapy; Langston University Migrant Seasonal Farmer Worker Grant; Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services; Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council; Oklahoma Farm Bureau; American Farmers & Ranchers Mutual Insurance Company; Oklahoma Area Health Education Centers; Oklahoma Agriculture Mediation Program; Standridge Equipment John Deere of Chickasha; Newby Vance of Guthrie and Life Essentials headquartered in Brookston, Indiana.
The OCES, the Oklahoma Assistive Technology Foundation, Oklahoma ABLE Tech and Langston University School of Physical Therapy have partnered to provide AgrAbility services to more than 150 families, train approximately 300 health care professionals and educate more than 25,000 people through outreach programs since 2002.