CDC agrees to fund farm safety program

Funding will keep the Tractor Rollover Protection Program running at full speed

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced that following his push, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has agreed to administratively provide funding for the work being done nationwide, including the Northeast Center For Occupational Safety And Health For Agriculture, Forestry And Fishing (NEC), on the National tractor rollover protection systems (ROPS) rebate program through the end of FY2019. Schumer, who has long advocated for the ROPS program, said the announcement is welcomed news for thousands of Upstate farmers. Schumer lauded the CDC for funding the ROPS program and said it is a vital program, considering that farm-related deaths are up to 800 percent higher than many other major industries, with tractor overturns being their most frequent cause at a rate of 96 cases per year.

 

“ROPS is a critical and cost-effective rebate program that provides important information to farmers across the country on how to find and install the right rollover bar for their machinery. The CDC’s decision to provide funding administratively for this life-saving program is a great first step, but I won’t rest until I know for certain it will still be fully operational for years to come.  I vow to continue working with the CDC to ensure our agricultural community has every available resource to succeed,” said Senator Schumer.

The ROPS program facilitates rebates in states with state-based funding to farmers to cover approximately 70 percent of the cost for a farmer to install a ROPS roll bar retrofit kit on their tractor. According to Schumer, the original grant funding for this important program was slated to expire in September, but following a major push by Schumer, the program will be funded for at least another year.

“Keeping family farmers and farm workers who operate dangerous machinery safe must be a major priority, especially in Upstate New York, where the agricultural community is our lifeblood. That is why I  laud the CDC for restoring funding for this critical farm safety program,” Schumer added. “The work done by organizations like the NEC is exactly the type of work the federal government should be investing in: it’s cost-effective, informed by real industry experts, and helps save farmers’ lives every day. Funding this program means that Upstate New York Farmers will have continued access to valuable critical resources including a 1-800 safety hot-line number and on the ground experts in rural communities to help farmers access the ROPS Rebate Program, which helps them correctly install rollover bars on their tractors just in case the tractor flips over. I’m proud of the role I played in helping secure funding for the ROPS program to plow forward and will be doing everything possible to make sure this program, which puts farmers first, is protected for years to come.”

According to NEC Director, Dr. Julie Sorensen, the program has also been considerably cost-effective with recent economic assessments pointing to a $5 million savings in NY State due to deaths and injuries averted through the program. As stated by Sorensen, “Before this program, many NY farmers had neither the money nor the time to invest in these crucial life-saving devices and unfortunately their only viable solution prior to the ROPS program was to routinely put their lives at risk hoping this wouldn’t be their day to die on the job. Senator Schumer’s advocacy sends a clear message to farmers-you are important and valued members of the New York community.”

 

Schumer said the agricultural community is the lifeblood of Upstate New York, and that protecting the well-being and safety of farmers must be a major priority. In response to the hazardous environment of working on a farm, the Northeast Center For Occupational Safety And Health For Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing launched an effort to create the life-saving ROPS Rebate Program, which covers approximately 70 percent of the cost for a farmer to install a ROPS rollbar kit on their tractor. In most cases, this means farmers only pay $500 or less for this life-saving equipment that can otherwise cost up to $1,200. NEC also provides information to farmers throughout the country on how to find and install the right rollover bar. Since its inception in 2006, the NEC reports that more than 2,150 tractors have been retrofitted with protective structures in seven states, with more than 1,500 of those retrofits occurring in New York State alone. Farmers throughout the country benefit from the hotline and administrative support that is provided through CDC funding. Furthermore, Schumer said, participants in New York reported 221 close calls and 19 serious incidents in which death or injury was likely without the protective ROPS structures.  Schumer said now that the CDC has agreed to administratively fund the program, critical outreach and infrastructure surrounding the ROPS program can continue and grow. Schumer lauded the CDC and vowed to do everything possible to ensure that the CDC administratively funds the program now and in the future so that the inroads the ROPS program has made can continue beyond 2020.

A copy of the Senator’s letter appears below:

Dear Director Redfield, MD

I write to bring attention to a problem which continues to threaten the lives of farmers and growers in Upstate New York and nationwide.  As you know, farm-related deaths are 800 percent higher than many other industries, with tractor overturns being the most frequent cause of deaths on farms, at a rate of 96 cases per year.  I commend and appreciate the great work being done at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to invest in tractor rollover protection systems (ROPS) and the continued safety of our farmers.  However, it has come to my attention that the federal funding for the ROPS program through NIOSH is in jeopardy of coming to an end in September.  Therefore, I urge you to work with the Northeast Regional Center in Cooperstown, New York, as well as other  NIOSH Centers across the country, in order to administratively fund this important work that saves almost 100 lives a year across the country.

As you know, our agricultural community is the lifeblood of rural America, and protecting the well-being and safety of our farmers must be a majority priority. In response to the hazardous environment of working on a farm, the Northeast Center For Occupational Safety And Health For Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (NEC) launched an effort to create the life-saving ROPS Rebate Program, which covers approximately 70% of the cost for a farmer to install a ROPS rollbar kit on their tractor.  In most cases, this means farmers only pay $500 or less for this life-saving equipment that can otherwise cost up to $1,200. NEC also provides information to farmers on how to find and install the right rollover bar. Since its inception in 2006, the NEC reports that more than 2,150 tractors have been retrofitted with protective structures in seven states, with more than 1,500 of those retrofits occurring in New York State alone.  However, all of this critical outreach and infrastructure surrounding the ROPS program could come to an end if federal funding comes to a halt.  This is why I urge you to administratively provide funding to the ROPS program so that the important inroads the ROPS program has made can continue.

During these challenging times for our agricultural communities, it is imperative that we do everything in our power to ensure that our farmers and growers have every tool available to succeed.  In New York State alone, the ROPS program has been extremely effective in preventing tractor rollover deaths and injuries to our farmers and growers.  Feedback from the agricultural community has been extremely positive, with participants in New York reporting 221 close calls and 19 serious incidents in which death or injury was likely without protective structures.  This kind of success should be touted and continued, which is why I urge you to ensure that you continue to fund the great work done by the NEC and ROPS as soon as possible.

I understand that in the current fiscal climate resources are constrained, and as always, I vow to stand with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) throughout the budget process.  However, based on the critical importance of protecting the health and safety of our agricultural workers, I ask that you ensure that federal funding continues to flow to the ROPS program past September. I look forward to working with you on this important request.