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The drought monitor report as of Tuesday, Sept. 13, indicates an ever-increasing expansion of extreme and exceptional drought eastward toward Barton County. Currently the outlook is past grim for fall wheat planting in much of the state. The six to ten-day outlook (Sept. 20 to 24) indicates a 60 to 80% chance of above normal temperatures and normal to a 33 to 40% chance of below normal precipitation which isn’t much to begin with. The eight to 14-day outlook (Sept. 22 to 28) indicates our area a 50 to 60% chance of above temperatures and 33 to 40% chance of below normal precipitation.  

National Farm Safety and Health Week kicks off tomorrow. Farmers and ranchers are well aware of how dangerous the agricultural industry can be but how about the general public. We will focus on injury today but remember the health aspects – from long-term exposure to dust, sun, and chemicals to mental health (agricultural producers have an extremely high rate of suicide), there are many health concerns in the industry. For today, however, let’s focus on safety.

There is some variation on how dangerous farming is, in terms of fatalities, but it ranks as one of the most dangerous occupations per capita. It is typically ranked in the top ten. Often around number eight for farmers and number eleven for agricultural workers, with occupations like delivery driver, iron workers, and pilots being ahead of farming. Logging typically number one. Strangely, law enforcement isn’t in the top ten. The most common fatal accidents in agriculture are transportation accidents which isn’t surprising. OSHA puts it at number ten.  

• The average fatality rate for farmers is 24.7/100,000 workers. Which is actually a decrease as more safety equipment and technologies along with awareness have help decline the number.

• In 2020, there were 11,880 injuries in agricultural production that required days away from work. From 2014-2015, 42% of all hired crop worker injuries were classified as a sprain or strain. In 2014, an estimated 12,000 youth were injured on farms; 4,000 of these injuries were due to farm work. It’s hard to obtain really current number but this paints the picture effectively.  

Without going into grizzly details, the majority of serious injury accidents and fatalities fall into several broad categories: transportation accidents, equipment rollovers, falls, grain storage (the Barton County Farm Bureau just held a seminar last weekend regarding this), electrocution, and poisoning. A major contributing factor in many cases is extreme tiredness which is seemingly part of the job.  

Finally, don’t forget the hazards of working with livestock, old equipment or equipment in need of repair, and carelessness. Many jobs in agriculture are routine and producers can often become complacent as all of us will.  

This isn’t all doom and gloom though. Through education, training, rules and regulations along with advances in technology, the agriculture industry is steadily becoming less dangerous.

Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207, or

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