"Click It or Ticket."
You've probably seen the billboards and electronic signs for safe travel displayed along New York state highways. I've smugly smiled because I always belt myself in. That's one safety law that doesn't extend to our farm tractors and lawn tractors, so we brush that off as we clamber on and off our machinery without losing time and flexibility under the law that requires seat belts.
A few years ago I gave my husband another anecdote to relate to his fellow farmers when I dug out the never-used seat belt on our Ford 5610 and clicked it prior to driving the 3 miles on the road to our "other" farm to help load a wagon of large bales and take them home.
Why the new diligence? I'd read a brief account of a pickup-tractor accident in central New York. The farm tractor's driver had been thrown to his death by the impact delivered when an errant pickup impacted the tractor pulling a spray rig. Yes, I did use the seat belt for each of the several trips to retrieve the hay bales that day. That detail was mentioned to at least two neighbors as we worked that day.
Even with my awakened awareness, I was totally unprepared and deeply saddened a couple of years ago to hear that David Huse, a Schoharie County beef farmer, had died in a car and farm tractor accident on a Schoharie County road.
David was knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and assertive. He was recognized by many for his integrity and his efforts with NYFB, NY Beef Producers Association and other farm organizations. He pursued improvement for New York farmers. He was diligent in applying the Farm Bureau grassroots procedure from identification of problem, developing a resolution, adopting that resolution at NYFB's annual meeting, and ultimately meeting with legislators to explain the policy and lobby for the legislation that solves the problem that had been identified at the grassroots level.
John Walrath, president of Otsego County Farm Bureau (OCFB), and their board talked with Schoharie's board about an appropriate way to honor David Huse for his impact in our District 9. OCFB challenged other county Farm Bureaus to follow its example because it had determined to fund a Rollover Protection System for a farmer in production agriculture in Otsego County through cooperation with New York Center for Ag Medicine and Health.
Schoharie County made progress more slowly, but similarly SCFB with the Ag Medicine and Health Center has provided rollover systems for one farmer in Schoharie County.
The progress to improve safety doesn't need to end there. The New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health administers the rollover protection system program, now in its sixth year, which has outfitted over 1,000 tractors with the life-saving rollover protection to be used with a seatbelt.
"Our campaign has increased by tenfold the number of farmers making their tractors safe by retrofitting them with rollover protection systems," said Dr. John May, director of the state Ag Medicine and Health Center. "This is important because a farmer's risk of dying on the job is eight times higher than that of the average American worker."
Tractor overturns are the primary cause of these fatal and permanently crippling injuries. In the event of a rollover, the use of a rollover protection system and a seatbelt reduces the risk of injury by 99 percent. Use of a rollover system without a seatbelt is less effective, but still reduces serious injury by 70 percent. Tractors built after 1985 have built-in rollover protection, but many tractors in use today are older than that.
"We are grateful to the state legislature for recognizing the need for this program and their continued support even in difficult financial times," added Dr. May. "In our region we have been blessed with strong legislative concern for the well-being of New York farmers. This has helped make this life saving program an on-going reality."
I am extremely thankful that NYFB, the legislature, and the Ag Medicine and Health Center have recognized the importance of rollover protection systems in farm safety and the importance of providing them at a cost farmers can afford.
Farmers interested in more information should call toll-free 1-877-ROPS-R4U (1-877-767-7748) or check on-line at ropsr4u.com. The rebate amounts to 70 percent of the cost of purchasing and installing rollover protection on a tractor, a savings of up to $865.
Winnie Nelson, New York Farm Bureau District 9 promotion and education chair, lives in Schoharie.