CONTACT: DAVE PEDERSEN
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-8032; fax(319) 335-8034
Release: Oct. 3, 2000
Iowa's Center for Agricultural Safety and Health pays tribute to Iowa
To the Editor:
During this fall's harvest season, we would like to pay tribute to Iowa farm
families and recommit ourselves to improving their safety and health.
Every day Iowa farmers face health and safety risks as they produce food
for our state, our nation and the world. Farmers and their families work in
a job long known to be among the most dangerous occupations. Nearly 50 Iowa
farmers or family members die yearly and an additional 2,300 become injured.
Yet the 350,000 people who live and work on Iowa farms are rarely given credit
for the tremendous contributions they make to the economic and social fabric
of the state. In addition to their $13 billion economic contribution, farm
families form a cornerstone of Iowa's social and cultural values and traditions.
As leaders of major state institutions involved in Iowa's Center for Agricultural
Safety and Health (I-CASH), we recognize the importance of our farm community
and strive to protect its health. We are fortunate to be a part of a consortium
of Iowa institutions (I-CASH) that leads the nation in efforts to curb the
inordinately high rates of farm-related injuries, fatalities and health problems.
Federally supported centers, state agencies and organizations work closely
with private safety organizations, hospitals and agribusinesses in Iowa to
enhance the health of farm families.
I-CASH was created by state legislation in 1990. I-CASH is headquartered
at the University of Iowa and is a cooperative venture with Iowa State University,
the Iowa Department of Public Health, and the Iowa Department of Agriculture
and Land Stewardship. The mission of I-CASH is to reduce illnesses and injuries
among Iowa's farm families and workers by combining and coordinating our state's
public and private resources.
Through its AgriSafe Network, I-CASH has the only network of clinics in
the country providing preventive health and safety services specifically tailored
to the needs of farmers. I-CASH faculty and staff at the University of Iowa
train and certify nurses, physicians and other health care providers in agricultural
medicine. These highly trained and dedicated people operate 24 agricultural
health clinics around Iowa.
In addition, I-CASH is pilot testing a voluntary Certified Safe Farm program
in northwest Iowa, working with Spencer Municipal Hospital, the National Institute
for Occupational Safety and Health, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, the National
Pork Producers Council, the Iowa Pork Producers Association, insurance companies
and others. The goal is to make safety pay off through insurance and other
incentives for farmers who undergo health screenings and education, and whose
operations pass a safety inspection. The program currently has 300 farms enrolled
in the two-year pilot program to test the effectiveness of this concept.
The University of Iowa also houses two important centers focused on health
and injury prevention in the farm population. The Great Plains Center for
Agricultural Health and the Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center study an
array of issues ranging from respiratory disease to the relationship between
mental health and physical injury.
Iowa State University Extension, an I-CASH partner, offers a diversity of
educational and accessible farm safety programs. These programs include tractor
certification for employment, farm safety day camps, in-school safety programs,
training for agricultural chemical applicators, extension hotlines and individual
assistance. These programs and a variety of printed and supporting resources
are made available through the network of the county extension offices and
the dedicated professionals helping to make Iowa farms a safer place to work
The Iowa Department of Public Health operates a surveillance program to
keep track of farm injuries and illnesses. Have we made progress in control
of farm injuries and illness? The data from 1990-2000 shows a decline from
around 70 deaths per year in the first half of the decade to about 40 per
year in the last half of the decade. 1998 was the first year since keeping
records that no child was killed from an occupational farm exposure in Iowa.
We are making significant progress toward our 2010 goal of zero deaths in
farm children from occupational exposures, and a 25 percent reduction in injuries
and deaths in all farmers.
I-CASH is also leading an important program to prevent tractor-related injuries,
the leading cause of death on farms. Iowa State University Extension provides
specialized safety education with tractor certification training, farm safety
day camps, in-school enrichment programs and the visiting professor program
to more than 8,000 Iowa youths each year. A network of county extension education
directors, field specialists and campus staff and faculty support farm safety
through educational programming, local awareness events, radio interviews
and a supply of printed bulletins, fact sheets and training materials.
The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) is located
at Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) in Peosta. The NECAS is a National
Safety Council and NICC partnership to provide training and education nationwide.
The NECAS is currently building a training center to provide hands-on training
in agricultural safety that can be utilized by groups around the country,
including I-CASH, the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health, and other
Iowa is also home to Farm Safety 4 Just Kids (FS4JK), a national, non-profit
organization founded by Marilyn Adams, whose son died in a farm incident in
1986. FS4JK is in its 14th year advocating the prevention of farm-related
childhood injuries, health risks and fatalities. From its small beginnings,
FS4JK has grown into a 3,000-member organization with more than 120 chapters
in the U.S. and Canada.
A new participant in the I-CASH network is Sharing Help Awareness United
Network (SHAUN). SHAUN helps farm families deal with mental health issues
related to injuries, fatalities and farm stress.
This year, farmer safety is more at risk than usual. Farming injuries and
fatalities usually increase during periods of economic stress. It is particularly
important that we use National Farm Safety and Health Week to call attention
to these concerns. We thank Iowa farmers, farm workers, and their families
for working together to reduce the toll of fatalities, injuries and health
problems among Iowa's agricultural population. We reaffirm a collective commitment
in these endeavors.
Please have a safe harvest!
Mary Sue Coleman, President, University of Iowa
Stephen Gleason, Director, Iowa Department of Public Health
Richard C. Seagrave, Interim President, Iowa State University
Patty Judge, Secretary of Agriculture, Iowa Department of Agriculture and
Steve Reynolds, Director, Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health
Craig Zwerling, Director, Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center
Kelley Donham, Director, Iowa's Center for Agricultural Safety and Health
Marilyn Adams, President, Farm Safety 4 Just Kids
Rob Denson, President, Northeast Iowa Community College