Last week, Oklahoma farm advocate Mona Lee Brock was recognized by the Oklahoma House of Representatives for her work on behalf of family farmers. Prior to the citation ceremony on the floor of the House, the Rural Caucus of both the Oklahoma House and Senate viewed Homeplace Under Fire, Farm Aid’s documentary film about farm advocates, including Mona Lee Brock, who rose up from the Farm Crisis of the 1980s to help farmers fight for their farms. Young elected officials commented that they did not have a full understanding of the impact of the Farm Crisis until viewing the film. And they were grateful to be made aware that farmers face similar challenges now, all these years later. Farm Aid is honored that our film was well-received by legislators who have the power to advocate at the state level for family farmers and ranchers.
Being one who lost her farm during that crisis, and knowing others who were going through the same crisis, she helped these folks get through that time.
Mona Lee Brock was unable to travel to Oklahoma City for the event, but her son Ron Brock accepted the citation on her behalf. Click here to view footage of the occasion.
Speaker Charles McCall of House District 22 explained that the citation is “to recognize a very wonderful person living within my district, someone who has devoted her life to agriculture and to the people of this state through some very difficult times. Mona Lee Brock was recently acknowledged by Willie Nelson and Farm Aid nationally for her work during the Farm Crisis of the 1980s. Being one who lost her farm during that crisis, and knowing others who were going through the same crisis, she helped these folks get through that time. Giving of her time and helping others is the epitome of my house district and I think, the State of Oklahoma.”
Ron Brock said, “It’s quite an honor to be here to represent my mother, and on behalf of Farm Aid also. She was a retired school teacher, and when the Farm Crisis started, she started doing farm crisis intervention. There were suicides, and she worked to get help and she did that through the state along with the help of you.”
Ron closed him remarks by thanking the members of the House “for your service and continued support for the American agriculture movement and family farms across the nation.”
Then the citation was read:
“Whereas the devastating Farm Crisis of the 1980s was the worst economic downturn in farming since The Great Depression;
And whereas dubious federal policies during the 1970s and 1980s led to not only record agriculture production but also rising interest rates and reduced exporting opportunities, which contributed to the Farm Crisis;
Thus farming debt more than doubled between 1978 and 1984 to $215 billion. And farming land plummeted in value by more than 70% in many parts of the nation;
And whereas the farm crisis led to a record number of bankruptcies and farming foreclosures throughout the 1980s and a drastic uptick in suicide rates among farmers and ranchers;
More than 300,000 farms across the nation were foreclosed during the Farm Crisis throughout the 1980s;
As a result, numerous farmers and ranchers throughout the nation became advocates in an effort to help farmers keep their land and their livelihoods;
And whereas during the farm crisis, Mona Lee Brock of Durant, Oklahoma, began volunteering for the OK Conference of Churches and the National Farm Crisis Center hotline to refer callers to services that could assist farmers and ranchers who were at risk;
And whereas upon losing their family’s farm, Mona Lee Brock became a full time farm advocate for farmers and ranchers during the Farm Crisis of the 1980s. She handled thousands of calls from suicidal and desperate farmers and ranchers and counseled the families of numerous farmers and ranchers who had committed suicide;
And whereas Mona Lee Brock has worked as a farm advocate and crisis intervention counselor for struggling farmers and ranchers for more than 30 years. The work of farm advocates throughout the nation led to the creation of Farm Aid and the Farmers Legal Action Group;
And whereas country music legend Willie Nelson, the founder of Farm Aid, once called Mona Lee Brock “the angel on the other end of the line” for her efforts in counseling suicidal farmers and ranchers throughout the Farm Crisis;
Ms Brock also was featured in the Farm Aid documentary Homeplace Under Fire, which chronicled the efforts of farm advocates in the 1980s who worked to help farmers keep their land.
Now, pursuant to the Motion of Speaker Charles McCall, the Oklahoma House of Representatives extends to Mona Lee Brock sincere gratitude for her tireless efforts and her selfless dedication to helping farmers and ranchers in Oklahoma and throughout the nation and directs that this citation be presented.”
Willard Tillman of the Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project, Inc, which provides outreach and training to small, disadvantaged farmers, rural businesses and forest landowners, and former representative Mike Shelton were recognized for bringing the film and notice of Mona Lee Brock’s work to the legislature. Farm Aid is very grateful for their work on behalf of Farm Aid and Ms. Brock, and to Speaker McCall for bringing the motion to honor Mona Lee Brock.
There are a few people like Mona Lee who gave their all, and continue to do so, for family farmers in other states in this country. We hope to bring similar recognition of their dedicated work to each of them. These kinds of events offer the opportunity, as well, to inform people about the current farm crisis family farmers and ranchers face, and the solutions that are possible to ensure that family farmers stay on the land.