Every farmer counts (Editorial)
Farm safety negligence was considered an unpatriotic act during wartime.
As World War II raged in 1943, Minnesota Cooperative Extension agent George M. Gehant wrote that the energy and resources lost to treat injured farmers could be “used to good advantage producing food, fiber and fats and other materials needed by the boys in our fighting forces. So, safety practices on the farm can contribute materially to the war effort in many ways.”
President Franklin D. Roosevelt also believed in the importance of farm safety, so he proclaimed the third week of September as National Farm Safety and Health Week.
This annual observance has been deemed as such by each U.S. president since 1944.
Now the nation is embroiled in a different war, fighting a pandemic that has killed thousands and put millions out of work.
Farmer safety is still just as important, with even more reasons tacked on. The average age for farm operators continues to creep upward and with every year, farmers make up a smaller part of the population, making each one responsible for feeding more people.
“Every Farmer Counts” is the theme for 2020 National Farm Safety and Health Week, Sept. 20-26, led by the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety, the agricultural partner of the National Safety Council.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018 data indicates that the agricultural sector is still the most dangerous in America with 574 fatalities, which equates to 23.4 deaths per 100,000 workers.
Fall harvest time can be one of the busiest and most dangerous seasons of the year for the agriculture industry.
Unlike this spring when the shutdown of non-essential businesses pulled huge numbers of motorists off the roads and offered farmers some small relief in moving equipment, the much-needed reawakening economy has traffic patterns in the Mid-Atlantic nearly back to pre-COVID levels.
The hurried nature of crop harvest brings its own risks in operating equipment and grain bins and working long hours to get it all done.
Dismal prices in several ag sectors and other financial pressures have pushed concerns about farmer stress and mental health to the front burner with multiple farm groups and Extension services developing outreach initiatives.
“Every Farmer Counts” is intended to remind the agricultural community and the public that it is in everyone’s best interest to prioritize the health and safety of those who work to provide our abundant supply of food, fiber and fuel.
Online at www.necasag.org, daily topics of focus during the week are: tractor safety and rural roadway safety; overall farmer health; safety and health of youth in agriculture; emergency preparedness in agriculture; and safety and health of women in agriculture.
After taking care of their families, their land, animals, and feeding the world, National Farm Safety and Health Week is a reminder to us all to take care of our farmers.
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