Too Much Rain May Equal More Farm Accidents

A recent sharp rise in Kentucky farm accidents might have been caused by heavy rains that left farmers well behind in field work. Accidents in the late spring included three fatalities.

The rains have been so frequent that farmers are working feverishly to put up hay, transplant tobacco, mow pastures, and do other chores, according to Agriculture Commissioner Billy Ray Smith.

"Most farmers are working at a frantic pace right now, and that has led to an increase in farm accidents," Smith said.  "As a farmer myself, I know how overwhelmed producers are feeling right now, but we all must place a greater emphasis on farm safety."

According to the Kentucky Agricultural Statistics Service, soybean farmers had planted only 23 percent of their crop as of last week; normally 52 percent is planted by the end of May.  Burley tobacco growers were also delayed by frequent rains, with 41 percent of the crop in the ground.  That was 20 percent behind the five-year average.

Almost two-thirds of Kentucky's more than 100,000 farmers hold down full-time jobs off the farm, limiting the time they can devote to farming.

"Many farmers work 40 hours or more each week off the farm so that they can do what they truly love best, and that's farm," said Smith.  "Because these farmers have worked a full day away from the farm and they're trying to beat out the impending nightfall, they are tempted to take shortcuts on safety measures, particularly with tractors, hay balers, and other machinery, as well as livestock."

According to the Kentucky Injury and Prevention Center in Lexington, farm deaths in Kentucky have declined over the past few years, peaking in 1995 when 50 farmers lost their lives in accidents.   That number dropped to 15 in 2000.  Twenty-five farm deaths were recorded last year. The Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program has recorded three farm deaths so far this spring.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture employs two experts in farm and home safety who travel the state to conduct educational programs to prevent accidents.  Each year, Dale Dobson and Jason Hodge educate thousands of Kentuckians on farm and home safety, addressing school children, farm organizations, fire and rescue workers, and others.

The Department also encourages farmers and homeowners to personalize a farm and home safety plan that includes local emergency phone numbers, directions to your farm, special health needs of family members, and other information needed quickly in an emergency situation.

The free safety plan can be downloaded from the Internet at, or requested by phone from the Department of Agriculture at (502) 564-4696. 

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