Farmers in upstate New York have a chance to upgrade their on-farm safety with the help of a newly established, safety-funding program through the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH).
Julie Sorensen, Ph.D., NYCAMH’s new Director, announced the launching of the ‘John May Safety Fund Program’ at a news conference that took place at Turning Point Dairy Farm in Saratoga County.
“We’ll be launching this program in January 2016,” said Sorensen. “The program is geared towards small farms in upstate New York. We’re hoping to provide financial assistance to farms who would like to make safety upgrades.”
Sorensen said the program would provide up to $5,000 of funding for farm safety improvements that farmers are interested in making. “We will be providing 50 percent of the cost of the project.”
“We decided to launch this program because it bridges a current gap in farm safety programming that we have,” Sorensen explained.
NYCAMH currently provides a number of farm safety programs including farm safety training — provided in both English and Spanish, farm safety walk-throughs, the NY ROP rebate program, assistance with installation of roll bars on tractors and other farm programs.
NYCAMH also provides personal protective equipment, such as shield guarding and other protective equipment supplies for New York farms. “This program nicely rounds out the program that we provide to improve safety on farms,” Sorensen remarked. “The recent grant from the C. J. Heilig Foundation will provide significant support for farm safety and is a fitting tribute to Dr. May,” said Sorensen. Dr. John J. May is co-founder (along with Bassett colleague Dr. David Pratt) and was the long-time director of NYCAMH.
May and Pratt formed NYCAMH in the early 1980’s to help farmers and farm workers address the hazards of farm work. The program, which developed the rollover protective structures (ROPS) program, focuses on farm safety, providing and promoting education and even immunizations.
“More than 1,400 roll bar protection systems have been installed on tractors in New York State so far,” said Sorensen. “The roll bar protection devices are 99 percent effective in preventing injury or death in the event of an overturn when used with a seat belt.”
“Every farmer’s had a close call,” remarked New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner, Richard Ball. “We’ve all had several of them. When you’re working with the land, when you’re working with equipment, when you’re working with livestock and when you’re moving the tons of food around that we produce every day; safety needs to be front of mind, center of thought, constantly. You throw in 21st century technology, and even bigger equipment, and it becomes all the more important.”
New York Farm Bureau Public Affairs Manager Steve Ammerman attended the event and commented on the new program.
“New York Farm Bureau is a longtime supporter of NYCAMH and advocates for additional State funding for its programs,” said Ammerman. “The work that they do, the safety that they provide, the training and education and support to our farmers really does make all of the difference. Safety is certainly critical for our farmers, and paramount for our farmers who work side by side with their family members and employees.” Ammerman said that farmers know what’s best for them, their workers and their farms. They know the improvements that they would like to make, of course funding and money can be a challenge.”
Ammerman recognizes that agriculture is not the easiest business in the world with slim profit margins, and that this new program plays an important role in giving farmers incentive to “take that next step, and to work with NYCAMH to do what’s best for their farm.”
Sorensen pointed out that all types of farms are eligible to receive the funding. “Be it a dairy farm, vegetable farm, fruit farm; we welcome all applications for small farms in New York State. We’re very excited about this program! We hope we receive many applications.”
Dr. May said help is available as needed for folks in filling out applications. “We’ll be happy to help. If people are struggling at all, we’ll be happy to give them a hand with it.”
“We’ve tried to make it minimal paperwork,” remarked Sorensen. “You fill it out, you talk a little bit about what you want to do, and then we’ll have one of our farm safety outreach folks go out on the farm and to review and make sure that what you have in mind is actually the best approach. Then we’ll have farm safety specialists review the application and as long as everything looks good we’ll take it from there.”
“We want to fund as many as we can,” commented Dr. May. “There will certainly be several farms each year.”
Marty Hanehan, of Turning Point Dairy near Saratoga Springs, hosted the NYCAMH conference.
“As you know agriculture is one of the biggest industries in this county and the state — a big economic driver of our county,” commented Hanehan. “Farm safety is a huge thing that NYCAMH has been a big part of helping on this farm.” Hanehan credits NYCAMH training for having had no farm injuries in 2015. “We’ve done farm safety training here for the last few years.”
“If we can demonstrate that farmers are definitely interested, and that the improvements have gone very well, I think we’ll have a good case for reaching out and getting more funding,” Sorensen said.
Types of projects that would qualify for the grant include improved lighting, improved electricity in the barn, installing roll bars on tractors, installing shielding on equipment, animal handling improvements.
May pointed out that farms could design improved movement of cows without banging into handlers.
Funding will be awarded on a “first come, first serve” basis, so get your applications in right away.
“I think it’s a good day in New York State when we can celebrate the growth of an industry and when we can celebrate the great vision and the efforts of an individual like Dr. John May, who has made it front and center in his mind since the 1980’s, and the efforts of NYCAMH that have grown along with it,” remarked Commissioner Ball. “We look forward to working with you and growing safer New York farm agriculture.”
To receive a John May Safety Fund Program application call 800-343-7527 or applications are available online at firstname.lastname@example.org .