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Budget Cuts To Affect Life-Saving Farm Equipment

In the proposed budget for 2018, cuts are being considered to a federal program that helps farmers afford safety equipment. Funding to reduce tractor roll-over deaths could be especially hard for farmers.

Experts from New York State came to Cache Valley to talk about the number one cause of death on American farms – tractor roll-overs. Roll over protection system, or ROPS is the solution to saving farmers’ lives. It includes a roll bar and seat belt that’s retro-fitted to tractors and is proven to be 99 percent effective.

“The program has been developed to address the most frequent cause of death on farms, which is tractor overturn fatalities,” said Julie Sorensen, the director of the Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety. “In some ways it’s an easy public health issued to resolve because we have a solution."

The problem is there are many older tractors that don’t have the roll bar and the seat belt. Sorensen said this program provides not only logistical assistance but helps farmers find the right ROPS model for their tractor and help them through the process. The program tries to provide rebate funding for up to 70 percent of the cost to retro-fit because cost for many of these farmers is a big barrier.

Brad Husberg, the director of agriculture in the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, said in 1985 there was a standard that came out that recommended all new tractors be installed with ROPS.

“One of the things we saw with the initial research that we were doing was that there wasn’t a big decrease in the number of fatalities from tractors rolling over," Husberg said. "That’s a lot of the research that we started getting involved with. A lot of it has been done through the center that we fund in New York which is the one Julie works with.”

Sorensen said the program developed is the social marketing program.

“Social marketing is about understanding what peoples’ barriers are to change and then removing those barriers and then providing motivators, incentives. Making it easier cost-effective and it gives some benefits,” Sorensen said.

Roll over protection awareness is seeing success in the eastern part of the U.S. with the number of farm accidents on the decline, but the program is still fairly new in the west. However, the program already struggles with funding and is now projected to be cut in the president’s proposed budget.

“It has been terminated in the past but the cuts are deeper and we are not sure if we are going to survive so I guess the shortest answer to your question is there would be no program. Why should somebody have to put their life at risk to make enough money to make ends meet? It just seems like- it seems unjust.”