Protecting agriculture’s future

By Dee Jepsen 

National Farm Safety and Health Week is September 18-24, 2022. The annual event historically occurs on the third week of September. This year’s theme is “Protecting agriculture’s future.” 

Farm safety is necessary for the U.S. economy

The U.S. agricultural workforce is small and getting smaller every year. Ag workers make up about 1% of the total laborers in the country. Yet these workers are responsible for all fruits, vegetables, animal- and plant-based protein sources we consume. Besides food, these workers produce a wide variety of agricultural inputs that contribute to the fuel supply, clothing items, furniture, cosmetics, and the beer and wine industries. Agriculture is big business — and important work. It’s understandable that protecting this workforce is necessary for the U.S. economy. 

Farm safety is a patriotic act

While farm safety week is not a widely known national holiday, it is a commemorative week to promote safe work practices. This tradition was put in place in 1944, when U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt first commemorated the promotional week. 

During Roosevelt’s term, protecting farm workers was a matter of national security. America had to protect the people who produced food and fiber for the soldiers serving in World War II. Coming out of the Great Depression, it was important for the freedom of our country to have adequate clothing and a healthy food supply for the troops serving overseas as well as those serving state-side.

During both Roosevelt’s and Harry Truman’s terms of presidency, labor unions and farmworkers were a critical workforce to keep America running while young men were called away and enlisted in the armed forces. During this time there was a decrease in skilled farm laborers to keep national production goals in place. Every farmworker was important to agriculture’s contribution to the gross national product.

The first years of the national campaign called for many groups to come together and support farm safety. Machinery and equipment dealers, hospitals, and insurance companies created safety messages to remind workers about safety practices and how to reduce injuries on farms and ranches. The agricultural media helped to broadcast these messages. In farm communities across the country programs and safety campaigns were organized by Cooperative Extension educators, 4-H clubs, and FFA chapters. Certainly, practicing farm safety became a patriotic act.

Today’s farm safety promotion

Each day of the 2022 campaign will focus on a different message. Emphasis will be on the top hazards of today’s farms and ranches including: tractor safety, rural roadway safety, and confined space hazards. Additional topics have been created specifically for young workers and women in agriculture. To learn more about the webinars and statistics available for this year, visit the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety at www.necasag.org.

The OSU Ag Safety & Health Program invites the public to help share social media announcements each day of Farm Safety Week. Promotional safety and health messages can be found at www.facebook.com/OSUAgSafetyandHealth.

Dee Jepsen, Professor, can be reached at 614-292-6008 or jepsen.4@osu.edu.  

This column is provided by the OSU Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, OSU Extension, Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center, and the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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