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Be mindful of agriculture’s safety, stress risks

At the beginning of May 2024, most producers in the trade area MFA covers were looking for relief from the dry weather we have experienced over the past two years. Fast forward three weeks from that point, and we were ready to welcome a small break from the rain to complete planting and begin the haying season.

Those of us in agriculture know that timing can significantly affect potential crop yields and the quality of hay and pasture for livestock. To that end, both MFA and the producers we serve continue to invest in technology that drives efficiencies and mitigates risks in growing a crop or raising an animal. It makes a difference.

But technology can’t compensate for all the challenges we face. Falling commodity values, high input prices and inflationary pressures on operating costs continue to stress the bottom line for everyone in agriculture. Safety nets provided by the “extended” 2018 Farm Bill need adjustments, which are currently being held up in political gamesmanship.

Farming (and I include retail agriculture) is recognized as an industry with some of the highest safety risks. That’s not a surprise to anyone in this business. We don’t need statistics to tell us.

“From a safety standpoint, technology continues to reduce risk, but it still takes people to get
the job done.”

Minor cuts and bruises from working livestock or repairing equipment are considered part of the job. We accept that wear and tear. Sometimes these minor things get called “near misses” as they could have turned out to be much worse—and luckily weren’t.

Unfortunately, some accidents come at an unacceptable price. On May 17, Team MFA lost one of its teammates to a work-related accident. I’m sure some of our readers have endured situations with similar consequences. For me, it was the toughest day I’ve had in my MFA career.

My call to action for everyone is to be mindful of both the physical risks and the stress-related risks of farming.

Last summer, the MFA Foundation made a four-year commitment to help University of Missouri Extension’s efforts to support rural communities in need of mental health assistance. MU’s Psychological Services Clinic offers up to five free teletherapy sessions for farmers, ranchers and members of their immediate families. You can learn more about these services online at muext.us/PSCFarmRanch or by contacting the clinic at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 573-882-4677.

From a safety standpoint, technology continues to reduce risk, but it still takes people to get the job done. I believe safety is a team effort—together, we can be better. We have to look after each other.

My father was a carpenter for much of his working life. As he tried to teach me some of the skills of the trade, there’s one thing I’ll always remember: “Measure twice, cut once.”

Let’s all make time for the deliberate focus it takes to follow that advice. Affordable food, fuel and fiber are dependent on the health of those who raise it.

Read more of the June/July 2024 Today's Farmer Magazine HERE.

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