Following on the heels of lawmaker proposals, Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said they support a state funding proposal of $250,000 to enhance farm safety measures across the state.
In a Feb. 25 news conference, Walz proposed the funding for tractor rollover protection and grain bin safety equipment.
“Too many Minnesota families have lost loved ones to preventable farming accidents,” he said. “We need to make sure all Minnesota farmers have access to these resources so they can work safely and prevent future tragedies.”
When asked about the funding level he proposed, Walz indicated that was a starting point for budgeting purposes and that he was open to a higher number.
Also at the news conference was Michele Gran of Norseland. Her 18-year-old son Landon died in a grain bin accident Aug. 14 while cleaning a corn bin at a farm where he worked. Efforts are being made in both the state House and Senate to move forward on a farm safety bill, similar to what the governor proposed, that will be named Landon’s Law.
The Walz-Flanagan proposal has three approaches to address farm safety:
Rollovers. The proposal would relaunch the Tractor Rollover Protection Grant Program, originally created by Minnesota Statute 17.119. Once reinstated, the program reimburses farmers who retrofit eligible tractors with rollover protective structures.
Grain bins. The proposal would also create a cost-share or reimbursement program for farmers who wish to invest in grain bin safety equipment.
Outreach. The proposal would initiate a farm safety outreach campaign highlighting tractor safety and grain bin safety and promoting the availability of funding.
While 2% of Minnesota’s workforce is engaged in agriculture, it accounted for more than 30% of workplace fatalities in 2014 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. At least 10 people have died in farming-related accidents in Minnesota since June 2019, according to the governor’s office. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other sources consistently cite tractors (including rollovers, entanglements, collisions, etc.) as the most common cause of death on farms nationally.
The House bill, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Brand, DFL-St. Peter, would create some of those safety measures, allocating $500,000 from the general fund for farm safety grants and $250,000 for an agriculture safety education program.
Laid over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill, the bill would create a grain storage safety grant program and resurrect a tractor safety program that was created in 2016 and expired last year.
HF3224 would also make permanent a program to reimburse schools and farmers to retrofit older tractors with rollover bars and seatbelts. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture, which would oversee both programs, would reimburse 75%, or $1,000, of a farmer’s cost to purchase fall protection measures, dust collection systems or other safety equipment.
A companion bill in the Senate, SF3007, is sponsored by Sen. Nick Frentz, DFL-North Mankato.