Agriculture ranks among the most dangerous professions in the United States, and tragically in Minnesota, an alarming increase in deaths involving grain bins is leaving families and entire communities heartbroken and looking for answers.
This is happening on top of other crises like historically low commodity prices, extreme weather events, and trade uncertainty.
In less than a year, 10 people in Minnesota have died in farming-related accidents.
One of the most important ways we can honor the individuals who perished is to enact new laws that keep Minnesotans safe on the farm.
Gov. Tim Walz proclaimed February 16-22, 2020, as Grain Bin Safety Week to draw attention to the rising incidence rates of accidents and deaths in and around grain bins. Lawmakers in both the Minnesota House and Senate are authoring legislation this year to reduce the number of preventable injuries and deaths.
State Rep. Jeff Brand, DFL-St. Peter, and Sen. Nick Frentz, DFL-North Mankato, introduced bills during the first week of our 2020 legislative session, which began Feb. 11. Their legislation would establish a new grain storage safety grant program and reauthorize an expired tractor safety program. Both programs would be administered by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
Under the grain safety program, the MDA would reimburse 75% or $1,000, whichever is less, of a farmer’s cost to purchase, ship and install eligible safety equipment, such as fall protection or dust collection systems.
The state Legislature created the Tractor Rollover Protection pilot program in 2016, and the statute expired in 2019. This bill would reestablish the program on a permanent basis to reimburse schools or farmers that retrofit eligible, older tractors with rollover bars and seat belts.
Both Democrats and Republicans support the bill.
The legislation authored by Brand and Frentz was inspired by the tragic death of an 18-year-old constituent named Landon Gran, who passed away on August 14, 2019, in a grain bin incident at a Norseland-area farm after getting caught in a piece of running equipment. Landon’s family have become active participants in finding solutions at the local, state and federal levels. They refer to their proposals as Landon’s Law, to honor their son’s memory and legacy.
His mom, Michele, has said, “I just feel that if we even save one, if one person came and said thank you for pushing Landon’s Law, it’ll all be worth it.”
I’m grateful for the cooperation and collaboration between families, agriculture professionals, organizations, elected officials and state agencies to address the rise in accidents and deaths on the farm. We’re a close-knit community that doesn’t blink when confronted by the many unique challenges facing today’s agriculture industry.
Through education and awareness of hazards and safe work practices and procedures, we can reduce tragedies and prevent the heartbreak Minnesota communities are feeling.
Rep. Jeanne Poppe, D-Austin, is the chair of the Minnesota House Agriculture and Food Finance and Policy Division. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-296-4193.