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Secretary's Column: Following Through to Keep Our Youth Safe on the Farm

Posted by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in Initiatives Conservation
Sep 27, 2013

It’s no secret that agricultural work is tough work – and as America’s farm families know, it can be dangerous.  Last year, agriculture recorded the highest fatal injury rate of any industry, with the rate of on-the-job fatality in agriculture nearly seven times the rate for all U.S. workers.

Adding complexity to this challenge is the unique role that youth play on the farm and ranch.  Many farms and ranches are a family business. This important tradition strengthens American agriculture and instills important life skills for our young people.

Unfortunately, this means that young people also share in the hazards of farm work.  On average, more than 100 youth die each year in farm-related accidents.  Thousands more are injured on the farm or ranch.

Every injury or death on the farm is tragic, and the involvement of a young person makes such accidents particularly difficult to bear.

That’s why the Federal government has sought to help families, farm groups and businesses ensure youth safety on the farm, while still enabling young people to have the important chance to work in agriculture.   Last year, USDA promised to address youth farm safety in innovative, comprehensive ways, working in partnership with folks from around the country.

On September 25, we announced new plans to strengthen that commitment by developing a national training curriculum to reduce agricultural hazards to young workers.

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded $600,000 over two years to Pennsylvania State University, which will work with partner universities and a broad range of agriculture and education organizations to develop this training curriculum. The result will provide a unified approach to national youth farm safety education, as well as a formalized effort to educate rural youth who are working on the farm or ranch. Overall, NIFA has provided nearly $2 million in funding under the Obama Administration to complement the good efforts of America’s farmer, rancher and producer organizations to improve youth farm safety.

In addition to the benefits that these awards will bring for youth on the farm, this is another important reminder of the wide range of efforts NIFA carries out in partnership with Land Grant Universities. Folks across the country are counting on Congress to pass a comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill that gives USDA and university partners across the nation continued tools to strengthen American agriculture.

In the years to come we’re committed to a common-sense approach to youth safety on the farm. The Departments of Agriculture and Labor will continue to coordinate closely with America’s producers and agriculture organizations on this and other farm safety efforts.

This challenge is critically important for our rural young people, and we must work together.  This week’s new effort will further expand USDA’s broad partnerships to improve farm safety. It will ensure that our young people can get the experience they need to keep American agriculture strong and abundant in the years to come, while staying safe and sound in the process.

Category/Topic: Initiatives Conservation