Dwindling Farm Safety Programs and the Rise of Farming Accidents
Not long ago, Texas, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota and other big farming states offered a large sampling of various farm safety programs for youth and adults alike. In 2001 in Minnesota alone, over 12,000 children in 63 counties attended these programs. Training camps across the state convened to teach these kids about farm safety and health. Likewise, over 1,000 adults participated in similar training seminars. Then, as accident rates began to fall, federal funding was diverted to other areas. Now, farm safety programs are at an all-time low, and accidents are on the rise.
Few Farm Safety Programs Available
Today, Minnesota offers tractor training in only two counties out of 87. These trainings are only accessible to high school students. There are zero farm safety programs for adults. Additionally, the position of farm safety advisor for Minnesota has been vacant since 2008. This isn’t just a Minnesota problem. The job of overseeing farm safety has been eliminated in many other big farming states
Instead of offering safety programs with an officer to oversee the protection of farmers and farm workers, federal officials created 10 regional safety centers. These sites are supposed to find ways to prevent farm accidents and improve the health of agricultural workers. However, there have been repeated proposals to eliminate these centers, too. Federal reviews claim these sites fail to adequately monitor accidents and do not provide sufficient assistance to farmers.
This is because there is little funding. With their scant federal dollars, these centers try to focus resources on new research projects instead of assistance. One research project is antibiotic-resistant infections among swine veterinarians. When the Minnesota Star Tribune inquired why centers are researching instead of teaching safety as they were created to do the director of the Iowa safety center, Fred Gerr, said: “In general, farmers died knowing quite well they are doing something that is potentially dangerous.”
Blaming the Hard-working Farmer
But, do they? If no one takes the time to inform farmers that many machines are manufactured with defects or are generally unsafe, how can anyone assume these farmers knew all along? Funding agricultural safety works.
Wisconsin has a $75,000 budget just for agricultural safety. Deaths in the state dropped 16% in the last decade. Farmers, there have the same agricultural hazards are other big farming states. One of their safety implementations is children under 16 must complete a safety course before legal operation of a tractor of other farm machines on a public road. Every year, 300 kids take the class. That is 300 kids who were potentially not injured.
If safety programs continue to be defunded, what will happen to the dedicated backbone of our country? Without farmers, the United States would not be the great country that it is. But, who is taking care of these dedicated individuals? How many have been hurt or injured and now do not have the resources to know what the next steps should be? The Farm Injury Resource Center will assist these farmers and farm workers during their difficult time. FIRC will provide confidential assistant 24 hours a day. Most of all, to let you know that if you or a loved one has been injured, it isn’t your fault.