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Summer is upon us and the reality is that it means long workdays are ahead for farmers and ranchers and the agribusinesses that support them.

Wheat harvest is in full swing in the southern region of the Journal’s coverage area and will quickly spread northward. For those who are not harvesting there are a multitude of other operations that have to be completed. The summer’s sun means longer workdays. There is limited time to relax.  That’s when danger can lurk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries. The CDC statistics show there were nearly 2.04 million full-time workers employed in production agriculture in the United States in 2018. There are 1.4 to 2.1 million people hired to work crops and an estimated 454,000 youth perform farm work, according to 2014 statistics.

The CDC notes that in 2016, 416 farmers and farm workers died from work-related injury, which results in a fatality rate of 20.4 deaths per 100,000 workers. Transportation accidents, which include tractor overturns, were the leading cause of death. The CDC and farm safety advocates say the most effective way to prevent tractor overturn deaths is the use of the Roll-Over Protective Structure with a seatbelt. Youth tractor safety courses, championed by Extension professionals across the High Plains, agree on those points and that safety begins before starting the motor.

Combines, grain augers, round balers, farm chemicals, grain bins, power lines, PTOs and all-terrain vehicles all have the potential to cause serious injuries and, unfortunately, death to those who least suspect it.

The ability for families to provide an opportunity for youth to work on a farm teaches timeless values about the need for hard work and completing tasks on time. Yet we also need to remember they are the vulnerable, if proper adult supervision is cut short. Our call is to make sure an adult supervisor stresses that safety always comes first.

Summer also has another challenge in 2020. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic many travelers are going to crisscross the countryside looking to get out, whether for a day trip or a vacation. Those vehicles are going to add to the stress and safety risk. Never assume that those who have ventured out to areas are going to be patient when slow-moving farm equipment and semi-tractor and trailers are out in the fields. Safety is a shared responsibility so let’s continue to strive for a high standard.

Father’s Day was also celebrated on June 21 and we’d like to thank all the dads in the High Plains who have made a difference and continue to make a difference in the lives of their children. High Plains agriculture gives us a unique heartbeat and while many of those dads spent the day in fields and tending to livestock it never hurts to say thanks for all they do and what they mean to us—particularly to those who have departed this land.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or dbergmeier@hpj.com.

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