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New bill would provide funding for farm tractor safety improvements

Workers harvesting corn on the Biadasz farm11/20/19 (WSAW photo)
Workers harvesting corn on the Biadasz farm11/20/19 (WSAW photo)(WSAW)
Published: Nov. 20, 2019 at 7:37 PM CST
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A bill up for debate in the state Senate would provide funding for farmers to make safety improvements to their tractors.

Should Senate Bill 35 pass, it would set aside funding for grants that farmers would be able to use to help offset the costs of installing a Rollover Protection System (ROPS) on their farming equipment.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, tractor rollovers are the leading cause of farm deaths in the United States.

"Many tractors, especially those built before 1985, don't have a rollover protection structure installed, so that need to be retrofitted," said Casper Bendixsen, a center director at Marshfield Clinic’s National Farm Medicine Center. “That mitigates life-changing injury and fatality by 99.9%. We don’t have a reported fatality that we know of when the driver has had a ROPS and a seat belt.”

According to Bendixsen, the ROPS create a “crush proof zone” around the driver’s compartment in the tractor. That, along with a seat belt in the tractor, are designed to maintain the driver in the compartment should a rollover occur.

“Currently, 700 farmers are waiting for ROPS to be put on their tractor,” said Melissa Ploeckelman, outreach specialist for the National Farm Medicine Center. “We know they are interested in the program and we would like to help them move forward, and this bill will help us get them there.”

The bill would provide the National Farm Medicine Center with $150,000 for the next three years, allowing them to reimburse the farmers that choose to invest in the safety measures.

“The bill builds on research from ag health and safety,” said Bendixsen. “We reimburse farmers for installing these and we try and limit the out-of-pocket cost to the farmer.”

The state funds would cover 70% of the safety innovations, with farmers having to pay around $500 out of pocket, something Bendixsen says is tremendous.

“Fifty percent of the tractors in-use don’t have this safety structure,” said Ploeckelman. “With us being able to have the funds to help farmers retrofit their tractors, that’s going to help keep them safe.”

Not only is it an investment in the farmer’s own safety, but an investment in the community.

“When a farmer dies, it costs a community, according to the research, $1.5 million,” said Bendixsen. “So, when you talk about an individual farmer paying $500 to protect themselves or their workers, of course it’s worth every dollar.”

if you're interested in getting ROPS on your tractor.