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State tractor safety program a success

WASECA--One of the Minnesota tractor rollover protection kit rebate program's first participants, Randy Peterson, was determined not to become a statistic. "I heard that they were considering it in the Legislature so I made sure to call as soon a...

Boston Bates, 2, explores a tractor as his grandpa, Jerry Thomsen, of Mitchell, takes him exploring on Thursday morning, at the last day of Dakotafest at Schlaffman Farm southeast of Mitchell. (Matt Gade/Republic)
Boston Bates, 2, tries out a Case tractor as his grandpa Jerry Thomsen of Mitchell takes him exploring at Dakotafest southeast of Mitchell, South Dakota, in August 2015. The tractor is equipped with a rollbar for safety. Minnesota farmers can apply for a rebate to retrofit older tractors with a rollbar. Matt Gade / Forum News Service

WASECA-One of the Minnesota tractor rollover protection kit rebate program's first participants, Randy Peterson, was determined not to become a statistic. "I heard that they were considering it in the Legislature so I made sure to call as soon as it was in place because I knew the funding would go quickly," Peterson says in a news release.

A third-generation farmer, he and wife Sandy operate a 300-acre crop, cattle and deer farm in Waseca. Peterson's prediction was accurate. In just 10 weeks of the Rollover Protective Structures Rebate Program, which launched in July, most of the funding has been allocated to farmers to have a rollbar installed on an older tractor. Peterson retrofitted two John Deere 4020s at a total out-of-pocket cost of $241 per tractor.

"I'm not at all surprised by the tremendous response," says Julie Sorensen, director of the Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety, in a news release. Her center started the first rollover protection rebate program in New York in 2006, manages Minnesota's program with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and is advocating for a national rollover protective structure rebate program.

Minnesota is the seventh state to adopt a rollover protective structure program. "Other states are considering it and we have an impressive waiting list of hundreds of farmers from throughout the country who want rollover protection," Sorensen says. "Sadly, while they wait farmers continue to be injured and die in rollover accidents on unprotected tractors."

According to the release from the Northeast Center, deaths as a result of rollovers occurred in Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin this summer alone. "There are nearly 200 farmers on a wait list for (rollover protective structures) in Pennsylvania alone," she adds.

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Pennsylvania has a rollover protective structure rebate program in place but lacks funding. New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and Wisconsin also have rebate programs.

According to the release, 210 Minnesota farmers have died in the past decade in tractor rollover accidents, the leading cause of death on U.S. farms. According to data from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health Agricultural Safety and Health Centers, rollover protective structures and a seatbelt are 99 percent effective in preventing tractor rollovers, which cause nearly 100 deaths annually.

The Minnesota Legislature designated $250,000 toward the new program, and $42,500 in private donations has also been received. Since its inception, 150 farmers have been approved for a rollover protective structures. They have had the equipment installed and have been reimbursed by the program or the installation and/or reimbursement are in progress.

Another 127 farmers have an application pending, some of which are approved and in the process of finding an appropriate rollover protective structure kit. These 277 kits will consume about 75 percent of the funding. The remaining funds are expected to be consumed relatively quickly.

"I would definitely recommend the program," Peterson says. "I mow road ditches for hay and they are not real steep but steep enough and, if I hit a bump, I could easily roll over. I have a 15-year-old great nephew who drives for me so I feel better knowing the tractor is safe."

For more information or to make a donation, visit www.ROPSr4u.org or call 1-877-ROPS-r4u (1-877-767-7748) and select option 2.

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