U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced that following his push, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has agreed to administratively provide funding for the work being done nationwide, including the Northeast Center For Occupational Safety And Health For Agriculture, Forestry And Fishing (NEC), on the national tractor rollover protection systems (ROPS) rebate program through the end of FY2019.
Schumer, who has long advocated for the ROPS program, said today’s announcement is welcomed news for thousands of Upstate farmers. Schumer lauded the CDC for funding the ROPS program and said it is a vital program, considering that farm-related deaths are up to 800 percent higher than many other major industries, with tractor overturns being their most frequent cause at a rate of 96 cases per year.
“ROPS is a critical and cost-effective rebate program that provides important information to farmers across the country on how to find and install the right rollover bar for their machinery. The CDC’s decision to provide funding administratively for this lifesaving program is a great first step, but I won’t rest until I know for certain it will still be fully operational for years to come.
"I vow to continue working with the CDC to ensure our agricultural community has every available resource to succeed,” Senator Schumer said.
The ROPS program facilitates rebates in states with state-based funding to farmers to cover approximately 70 percent of the cost for a farmer to install a ROPS roll bar retrofit kit on their tractor. According to Schumer, the original grant funding for this important program was slated to expire in September, but following a major push by Schumer, the program will be funded for at least another year.
“Keeping family farmers and farm workers who operate dangerous machinery safe must be a major priority, especially in Upstate New York, where the agricultural community is our lifeblood. That is why I laud the CDC for restoring funding for this critical farm safety program,” Schumer added. “The work done by organizations like the NEC is exactly the type of work the federal government should be investing in: it’s cost-effective, informed by real industry experts, and helps save farmers’ lives every day.
"Funding this program means that Upstate New York Farmers will have continued access to valuable critical resources including a 1-800 safety hotline number and on the ground experts in rural communities to help farmers access the ROPS Rebate Program, which helps them correctly install rollover bars on their tractors just in case the tractor flips over.
"I’m proud of the role I played in helping secure funding for the ROPS program to plow forward and will be doing everything possible to make sure this program, which puts farmers first, is protected for years to come.”
According to NEC Director, Julie Sorensen, Ph.D., the program has also been considerably cost effective with recent economic assessments pointing to a $5 million savings in NY State due to deaths and injuries averted through the program.
“Before this program, many NY farmers had neither the money nor the time to invest in these crucial lifesaving devices and unfortunately their only viable solution prior to the ROPS program was to routinely put their lives at risk hoping this wouldn’t be their day to die on the job," Sorensen said. "Senator Schumer’s advocacy sends a clear message to farmers -- you are important and valued members of the New York community.”
Schumer said the agricultural community is the lifeblood of Upstate New York, and that protecting the well-being and safety of farmers must be a major priority. In response to the hazardous environment of working on a farm, the Northeast Center For Occupational Safety And Health For Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing launched an effort to create the life-saving ROPS Rebate Program, which covers approximately 70 percent of the cost for a farmer to install a ROPS rollbar kit on their tractor.
In most cases, this means farmers only pay $500 or less for this life-saving equipment that can otherwise cost up to $1,200. NEC also provides information to farmers throughout the country on how to find and install the right rollover bar. Since its inception in 2006, the NEC reports that more than 2,150 tractors have been retrofitted with protective structures in seven states, with more than 1,500 of those retrofits occurring in New York State alone.
Farmers throughout the country benefit from the hotline and administrative support that is provided through CDC funding. Furthermore, Schumer said, participants in New York reported 221 close calls and 19 serious incidents in which death or injury was likely without the protective ROPS structures.
Schumer said now that the CDC has agreed to administratively fund the program, critical outreach and infrastructure surrounding the ROPS program can continue and grow. Schumer lauded the CDC and vowed to do everything possible to ensure that the CDC administratively funds the program now and in the future so that the inroads the ROPS program has made can continue beyond 2020.