Wisconsin may set aside US$250,000 per year to increase equipment safety
By Diego Flammini
Wisconsin legislators hope a bill designed to provide rebates to producers who install rollover protection systems (ROPS) on tractors will be more inclined to invest in the safety equipment.
Senate Bill 35 calls for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to provide up to US$250,000 in grants per year specifically for rollover protection. The bill passed a bi-partisan vote in April and will head to the full State Senate for further consideration.
If passed, the bill would act as a cost share. The government would cover up to 30 percent up to a total cost of US$1,670 with the individual or organization paying the remaining 70 percent. If the cost exceeds US$1,670, the individual or organization will be responsible for these extra charges.
Wisconsin’s ag, forestry, fishing and hunting industries accounted for 24 of the state’s workplace fatalities in 2017, up from 20 the year before, the U.S. Department of Labor says. Of those 24 deaths, 12 occurred during crop production.
Safety is the primary concern but the bill comes at a time of low producer income, said Rep. Tony Kurtz, who co-sponsored the bill.
“The ag community is hurting in general, and there are a lot of older tractors out there that don’t have any rollover protection,” he told Farms.com. “The goal of this bill is to put aside some money to help retrofit some of those older tractors, especially at a time when more and more farmers are strapped for cash.”
The bill could also help younger farmers as they enter the industry.
Rep. Tony Kurtz
Several beginning farmers choose older equipment because it’s cost-effective, Kurtz said. But those pieces of equipment might not have rollover protection.
“I was talking to some younger farmers about some of the challenges of getting into farming and they mentioned the cost,” he said. “We know they’re going to buy older equipment because it’s cheaper, so if we can provide some grant money to help them make their tractors safer with rollover protection, then we should do that.”
Kurtz also approaches this bill from a personal perspective.
The quick thinking of a neighbor helped Kurtz survive a tractor rollover as a teenager.
“We were using an old John Deere tricycle-type tractor to pull up a large log out of a ravine,” he said. “I was inexperienced, and luckily the gentleman I was with realized we were starting to go over and had the wherewithal to push me off.”
Now the owner of a 200-acre grain farm, several of Kurtz’s tractors have rollover protection, he said.
Charles & Hudson/Flickr photo