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Farm safety measures vital as spring planting approaches

Farm safety always grabs headlines at harvest. Safety advocates worry farmers are open to injuries when they’re working late into the night to harvest their crops, especially if bad weather is in the extended forecast and a crop must come off.

However, gearing up for planting season can be similarly trying on farmers.

Harvest suffers if planting is too late. A critical window exists for planting, which determines if plants will grow to reach their greatest potential.

Taking advantage of that window and all it represents, such as anticipated precipitation, temperatures and frost-free days, is vital for a good crop.

Research, intuition and common sense drive planting time decisions. Of course, despite great plans, nature is still unpredictable. And lately, even when farmers use all the tools available for making planting decisions, inconsistencies created by climate change can throw them yet another curve.

This year, pressure will rise appreciably. The Russia-Ukraine war is on everyone’s minds, including those who grow crops. In farmers’ case, they could be backfilling the inevitable void that will result from planting that does not take place in Ukraine, or from harvests that are held back by Russia and maybe other countries concerned about their domestic food supply.

And if one of the reasons you farm is to keep people fed, added pressure could mount to have a successful crop, one that is sustainable and profitable. Yes, people need to eat. But farmers need to make money. And with farmers’ input costs at astronomical levels, crop prices will have to follow suit. 

Increased pressure and stress among producers have been identified by researchers. And with this being Canadian Agricultural Safety Week, the toll being taken by new stresses has been recognized at high levels.

Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal minister of agriculture and agri-food, says Canadian Agricultural Safety Week gives us a chance to remember how important farm safety is to the health and well-being of agricultural producers in Canada.

It invites us to take the time to assess the potential dangers on farms, without forgetting the risks to mental health, too, she says.

“Farms are not only places of work, but also homes and even playgrounds for children,” she says. “While new technologies and advanced equipment make farms more productive, they can bring new risks. An injury sustained on the farm can be devastating – both emotionally and economically – to producers and their families. The dangers are physical as well as mental: work and hours can be exhausting, and sometimes very stressful.”

Bibeau says most injuries are predictable and preventable if producers, farm managers and farm workers know what to look out for and how to avoid on-farm hazards.

But, she adds, “it’s human nature to forget about your well-being and safety when you feel overwhelmed.”

And an overwhelming planting season is certainly in the cards this year.

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