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New-fashioned Agriculture

Kentuckians
are changing what it means to be a farmer, with financial help
from the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy.

Raising catfish and keeping
honeybees are among the more than 285 projects funded since March
of last year, with the aim of assuring a thriving, future-oriented
agriculture industry in the state.

The funding comes from
Kentucky’s share of the $206 billion lawsuit settlement between
tobacco companies and 46 states in 1998. From that settlement $180
million went into Kentucky’s Agricultural Development Fund to
reduce the impact on tobacco farm income.

Last year the Governor’s
Office, which oversees the funds, awarded more than $46 million
for innovative agriculture projects. The office plans to continue
making grants through the end of this year.

Criteria for choosing projects
to fund includes how much money the applicant will contribute, the
likelihood it will increase farm productivity, and how it fits
into an overall state or county plan. For more information on how
to apply, go to the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board Web
site at www.kyagpolicy.com, or phone (502) 564-4627.

A large share of the projects funded so far involves
programs to improve the livestock industry. Many, however, fund a wide variety
of ideas.

Lifesaving Tractors

If you’re a Kentucky
farmer, odds are one in nine you’ll roll a tractor over in your
lifetime. By doing so, you could become one of about 15 Kentucky
farmers who die each year when their tractors overturn. Even more
die falling off tractors.

These figures are more than
raw statistics to Henry Cole. They represent lives that could have
been saved.

Cole is a professor of
preventive medicine, environmental health, and educational
psychology at the University of Kentucky. He operates out of the
Southeast Center for Agricultural Health and Injury Prevention in
Lexington, which recently received funding to continue research
leading to practical approaches to farm safety.

Cole works to tell Kentucky
farmers about the lifesaving benefits of ROPS, short for Rollover
Protection Structure, a roll-bar type device that keeps the farmer
in what Cole calls a “frame of safety.”

Too few Kentucky farmers have
tractor ROPS and seatbelts, a fact borne out by Kentucky’s
alarming agriculture-related fatality rate, which is regularly
three times the national average.

“Together, ROPS and seat
belts are 98 percent effective in preventing injury and death
during tractor overturns,” Cole says.

Cole and his colleagues
mounted an aggressive public-education campaign to convince
farmers that the $500 to $700 they’d spend getting their tractors
retrofitted with ROPS could be the best investment they ever made.

Cole compares the cost of a
ROPS to the injury or fatality: a UK study found that medical
costs from a severe overturn injury could reach $140,000, and that
tractor overturn fatalities and serious injuries often result in
the loss of the farm.

About half of the tractors on
Kentucky farms were manufactured before 1977, when ROPS and
seatbelts became standard equipment on tractors. So only about 30
percent of the tractors have ROPS and seatbelts. Most tractors
manufactured after the 1960s can be fitted with a commercial ROPS.

While it’s not illegal to make
a homemade ROPS, doing so creates risks, Cole says. High-quality
materials, including special steels, bolts, and high-strength
welds, are required to ensure the structural strength of the ROPS
and the mounts.

For more information on ROPS
and a list of farm-equipment dealers in your area that will
install a certified ROPS, call the Southeast Center, (859)
323-6836.

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