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New York Farm Bureau Joins New York State Agriculture Committee Chairs and State Commissioners to Highlight Importance of Farm Safety

The New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health is a national leader in farm safety programming. Additional state funding is supporting expanded programs, highlighted during National Farm Safety and Health Week

Farm safety is top of mind as harvest season moves into full swing across New York State, and state leaders and members of the agricultural community came together today to spotlight important resources and trainings happening on farms today to improve working conditions for farmers and farmworkers.

The press conference marks National Farm Safety and Health week which has been held annually since 1944 on the third week of September. It recognizes the need to improve workplace conditions and ensure the safety of everyone on the farm.  During today’s press call, Gov. Hochul’s office issued a proclamation recognizing National Farm Safety and Health Week in New York and commended the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health for the proactive work it does to improve safety and health conditions on farms across the state.

Farming can be inherently dangerous work, typically involving large equipment and livestock. A 2021 study indicated that agricultural related fatalities have generally been on the decline, but as the study indicates, “It is important to recognize that while the last decade has seen a general downward trend in agricultural fatality rates, the numbers of 2021 may only be a momentary downtick.” In addition, U.S. Farm injury rates, while difficult to calculate, are high. 2019 estimates show that for every 100,000 full-time workers, 22 workers were injured on the farm while working. The statistics demonstrate why it is imperative that everyone on a farm make safety a priority, year-round. In addition, farm work is also strenuous and stressful, and labor shortages are a daily concern. Farmers’ and farmworkers’ ability to access healthcare and address health concerns can also be limited given long days and healthcare shortages in rural areas.

New York State has invested more than many states in supporting farms in efforts to make the workplace safer and to improve the health of farmers and farmworkers, including assisting them with the expertise, financial support and guidance with removing worksite hazards.

New York State is fortunate to have programs that include the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH) based at Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown. NYCAMH is a national leader in bilingual farm safety programming that provides technical assistance, safety training and broad support for improving health and safety on farms. NY FarmNet provides mental health and financial counseling, and the Cornell Agricultural Workforce Development program provides guidance and training for farm managers and supervisors to support farm employees. Additional support and programs come from other industry groups and Cornell Cooperative Extension programs.

This year, New York State increased investments in health and safety programming to avoid programmatic shutdowns related to NYCAMH’s flat funding for the past 14 years. The increases were the result of Gov. Hochul prioritizing the importance of farm safety funding and the advocacy work from the legislative Agriculture Committee Chairs, Sen. Michelle Hinchey and Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, and the greater agriculture community. Policymakers, organizations, and industry groups are working to expand existing investments and make the funding permanent for health and safety of the essential workers who put food on New Yorkers’ tables.

Dr. Julie Sorensen, New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health’s Director said, “So much has been accomplished over the past few decades and many improvements have been made on NY farms, thanks to the safety training, safety cost-share programs and research dedicated to addressing hazards on farms. We hope to continue to collaborate with farmers and policymakers to find new and innovative ways to ensure worker health and safety and support the sustainability of the agricultural labor workforce.”

Senate Agriculture Chair Michelle Hinchey said, "Farming is one of the world's most vital professions, yet it remains among the most high-risk occupations — an issue that often goes underrecognized. During National Farm Safety and Health Week, I'm proud to join the New York Farm Bureau in amplifying this topic and the pioneering training efforts of the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health. Providing New York farms with the bilingual, comprehensive training services they need is essential to keeping our agricultural workforce healthy and safe and to securing the future of our food supply.”

Assemblymember Donna Lupardo, Chair of Assembly Agriculture Committee said, “New York's farmers work tirelessly producing the food and other products we rely on, yet protecting the health and safety of our farmworkers has not always been top of mind. During National Farm Health and Safety Week, it's important to reflect on how far we've come as a state to establish supportive workplace protocols for these essential workers. Thank you to NYCAMH, NY FarmNet and the New York Farm Bureau who have been major drivers toward a healthier and safer agricultural industry. I'd also like to thank Governor Hochul, Commissioner Ball, Senator Hinchey and our legislative colleagues for their ongoing support and interest.”

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said“During Farm Safety and Health Week, and all year, we are grateful to our essential agricultural workers who work hard to ensure that our families can put fresh, local food on the table. We thank the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health for their continued efforts to educate farmers on health and wellbeing in the workplace and are proud to support their work.  We are also thankful to New York Farm Bureau for their partnership in highlighting these important issues.”

State Health Commissioner James McDonald said, “We are pleased to support the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health in delivering services, resources and education to farmers and agricultural workers. These vital supports help to improve the health and safety of farmers, farm families and farm workers, and thus help provide healthy food to New Yorkers.”

New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, "Agriculture is more than just a multi-billion dollar industry, it nourishes every single household in New York State. Ensuring health and safety on farms remains one of our top priorities, and we thank our many agricultural partners for helping us protect the workers in this vital industry.”

Barbland and White Eagle Farms co-owner Bret Bossard in Fabius and Hamilton, NY said, “We have been actively involved with NYCAMH for more than a decade.  They are an outstanding resource for our farm, as we are always working to further our efforts to provide our team of employees with a safe work environment.  Over the years NYCAMH has assisted us directly with performing safety audits, on-farm safety trainings and demonstrations, and on-farm Covid vaccination clinics.  We are currently working on an exciting pilot program with NYCAMH to provide Health Screening Clinics on the farm.  Continued funding will be crucial as we work through this pilot, as we are already looking to expand options for healthcare follow-ups with telemedicine and have identified areas where future resources around health, wellness and nutrition can also be implemented and expanded upon."

Miller’s Organic Dairy owner Jim Miller from Springfield Center said, “To have NYCAMH here to provide all the services is just imperative. It's helped so many farmers and to fund them is worthwhile for this community. So many farmers and farmworkers have come home to their families because of NYCAMH.”

Lauren Williams, New York Farm Bureau Deputy Director of Public Policy and NYCAMH Board Member said, “National Farm Safety and Health Week serves as a critical reminder for everyone in farming today to review their safety protocols and work to improve year-round conditions in the workplace. We are fortunate to have many organizations like NYCAMH, NY FarmNet, and Cornell Agricultural Workforce Development working to make lives better for farmers and farmworkers alike. New York Farm Bureau looks forward to continued collaboration and advocating for the support that is required to protect our essential workers we all need and depend on every day.”

Click here for recording of today’s press call.