NC Commissioner Troxler: National Farm Safety Week and Suicide Prevention Week

National Farm Safety Week Sept.17-23 reminds us that farming remains one of the most dangerous occupations. It also is a good reminder to be patient on the roadways when you encounter farm equipment and it reminds our farmers to follow all safety protocols with equipment and on the farm. No shortcut is worth the risk to your health.   

  • This is National Farm Safety and Health Week and Suicide Prevention Week, which reminds us that farming is a dangerous and stressful job.
  • According the North Carolina Agromedicine Institute, there have been 16 on-farm deaths since the fall of 2022.
  • They have included natural, self-inflicted or machinery-related accidents among farmers, farmworkers and a teenager.
  • I have read about far too many farming accidents myself.
  • A propane tank explosion on a farm in Nash County that killed a 25-year-old man;  
    • a farmworker killed in a forklift accident;
    • a 76-year-old killed when the skid steer we was operating slid into a lagoon;
    • a teen killed in Watauga County when the tractor he was operating slid down a hill and overturned.
  • And that is just a few examples. Things can happen very quickly, especially with heavy equipment involved.
  • When I think of farm safety, there are things that farmers can do and there are things that we as residents can do.
  • As a farmer myself, I understand the temptation to take shortcuts that bypass the safety function of your equipment.
  • Stopping equipment to pull out something that has gotten stuck takes time and it often feels like time you do not have, whether you are planting, tending to a field or harvesting.
  • But, safety measures are there to keep you safe. I encourage farmers to pay attention to those and do not work around them.
  • As residents, I cannot stress enough to please be patient on the road when you encounter farm equipment.  
  • I can assure you farmers don’t WANT to drive farm equipment down the road, but they HAVE to in order to get to one of their fields.
  • Traffic accidents involving farm equipment also happen way too often, and we will likely see more equipment on the road with ongoing harvests.
  • Even one death, is one too many.
  • Farmer mental health is another area that maybe doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Farming is stressful job, even in the good years.
  • So many factors outside your control determine your success. And the risk involved with the high price of equipment and inputs, volatility of markets and weather only add to the stress.
  • We cannot lose sight of the fact that people who work in agriculture are its most valuable commodity.
  • We are fortunate in North Carolina to have resources focused on farmer and farmworker safety and health, including the N.C. Agromedicine Institute.
  • The institute is there to help connect farmers with peer-to-peer mental health resources, whether they are dealing with grief from loss, job stress or other concerns.  
  • The institute is also working on a new project with NC Cooperative Extension to help farms plan for transitions so they are prepared when there is a death of a family member and someone else must take on the responsibility for the farm.
  • The N.C. Agromedicine Institute can assist folks with training, resources and services to address safety, health and behavioral health.
  • A few examples include respiratory protection, grain bin safety training, Fit to Farm health screenings, and the N.C. Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network.
  • Farmers can reach the Agromedicine Institute at 252-744-1008 or can call the N.C. Farm Help Line at 844-325-3276.
  • We need all our farmers and farmworkers. Please reach out to access these resources for your farm and workers.