The week of September 20-26 has been designated National Farm Safety and Health Week and it is certainly an event that merits recognition. This yearís theme is a truly worthy sentiment - ďAg safety is not just a slogan, itís a lifestyle.Ē
As a long-standing member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, I work closely with our famers to help them thrive economically and to also make sure they return safely to their families when the chores are done.
One specific agriculture safety initiative I have consistently supported is the highly successful New York Rollover Protection System (ROPS) Rebate Program. Several years ago, the program lost state funding leaving many farmers in the lurch. However, in recent years I have been able to direct state support to the lifesaving initiative on a consistent basis, including $250,000 in the current 2015-16 state budget.
According to the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH), a Bassett Healthcare Network program, which administers the ROPS program, the tractor is the leading cause of death on the farm. To go a few steps further:
Each year 4 out of every 100,000 American workers die on the job;
The fatality rate for farmers is 800 percent higher than all American workers;
The most frequent cause of tractor related deaths are side and rear overturns;
Farmers in the northeast experience the highest rates of overturn death;
80 percent of deaths caused by rollovers happen to experienced farmers;
1 in 7 farmers involved in tractor overturns are permanently disabled;
7 out of 10 farms will go out of business within a year of a tractor overturn fatality.
Newer tractor models built after 1985 have built-in rollover protection systems to help minimize injury in the event of a rollover. However, tractors are expensive and have a long life span, so many farmers are still utilizing older models without this life saving enhancement.
By retrofitting older tractor models with a ROPS lives can be saved. In the event of a rollover, the use of a ROPS and a seatbelt reduces the risk of injury by 99 percent. Use of a ROPS without a seatbelt is less effective, but still reduces serious injury by 70 percent.
Farmers however are faced with a number of financial challenges every day. Utility costs and fuel expenses keep many farmers awake at night and make it difficult to make ends meet. For dairy farmers, the low and unpredictable price they receive for their milk also takes a toll. Thatís why when NYCAMH approached me several years ago with a request for funding for the ROPS Rebate Program I was pleased to help.
The New York ROPS Rebate Program will rebate 70 percent of the cost of purchasing and installing the ROPS (Rollover Protective Structure) up to a maximum out of pocket cost of $500. Should the out of pocket expense to a farmer be greater than $500 then NYCAMH will increase the rebate to ensure that a farmer does not have to shoulder a higher expense. This includes the cost of a certified roll bar, shipping, and professional installation charges (if desired).
Farmers interested in more information should call toll-free 1-877-ROPS-R4U (1-877-767-7748) or check on-line at www.ropsr4u.com. Along with the funding, staff members will also research the type of equipment needed, provide estimated costs and let farmers know where they can purchase the life-saving system.
Farmers deal with countless challenges every day. Anything that can be done to ease their financial burden, increase productivity and enhance farm safety in the process has my strong support. Initiatives like the ROPS Rebate Program and similar programs help farmers succeed today, while, at the same time, strengthen the agriculture industry for generations to come.