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Don't sacrifice child ag safety for 'likes' and 'shares'

Sharing on social media has increased during the coronavirus pandemic as we try to stay connected while spending more time at home. For farm families, photos and videos of children in the home environment can include hazardous work and play situations.

“The images we share can, unintentionally, perpetuate unsafe farm practices,” said Scott Heiberger, communications manager with the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety, Marshfield Clinic Research Institute. “Photos and videos are often used as attention-getters, but sometimes ‘cute’ is unsafe.”

About every three days, a child dies in an agriculture-related incident, and each day, at least 33 children are injured.

Images of children performing work that is unsafe for their age and ability level, often involving machinery and large animals, have been common this spring on social media. And it’s not just working children who are exposed to hazards. Of all children injured on farms, more than half are not engaged in work at the time of the injury; they are merely in the worksite. And of those non-working youth, most are younger than 10.

“It’s probably no surprise, then, that many of the unsafe situations we’re seeing on social media involve very young children,” Heiberger said. “One photo showed two little boys climbing on the lift arm of a skid-steer. Another photo showed five small children and the caption, ‘How many kids can you fit on a combine tire? LOL.’

“If we show the agricultural worksite as a playground, we’re asking for trouble.”

Following the old adage that “a picture is worth 1,000 words,” the Childhood Agricultural Safety Network created Media Guidelines for Agricultural Safety, a list of do’s and don’ts aimed at keeping children safe and not perpetuating dangerous farm practices. The guidelines, also available in Spanish and French, were updated recently to include social media. Examples include:

• Don’t show individuals riding on wagons, in the back of pickup trucks or as extra riders on tractors or ATVs.

• Don’t show children riding on adults’ laps on ATVs, or lawn tractors/riding mowers.

• Don’t show children in proximity to large animals unless appropriate barriers are evident.

• Do show children doing age-appropriate chores under adult supervision and wearing protective equipment.

The guidelines were originally introduced in 2010 with feedback from media professionals as well as communicators from CASN member organizations.

“Following these guidelines can help each of us be confident that we are doing our part for farm safety,” Heiberger said.

The National Children’s Center is the national leader in developing and sharing knowledge and intervention strategies for childhood agriculture safety and health. Among its resources are:

• Cultivate Safety website provides easy access to agricultural safety information and resources for farmers, ranchers, supervisors and media. The website includes sections on Work, Play, Accidents, Parents, Online Tools and a Resource Library with access to hundreds of free safety and health resources.

• The Childhood Agricultural Safety Network is a coalition of organizations that work together to help keep children safe on the farm. These organizations represent the agricultural community, child injury prevention, minority-serving associations and related industry organizations.

• Creating Safe Play Areas on Farms provides the first comprehensive guide for designing and building an outdoor safe play area on a farm.

• Integrating Safety into Agritourism provides checklists, virtual walkthroughs and other resources that help farm owners keep visitors safe.

Enrollment deadline for ARC, PLC programs nearing

Ag producers who have not yet enrolled in the Agriculture Risk Coverage or Price Loss Coverage programs for 2020 must do so by June 30. Although program elections for the 2020 crop year remain the same as elections made for 2019, all producers need to contact their local USDA Farm Service Agency office to sign a 2020 enrollment contract.

“The Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs are critical safety-net programs for farmers, helping producers weather market distortions resulting from natural disasters, trade disruptions and, this year, a pandemic,” said FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce.

More than 1.4 million ARC and PLC contracts have been signed for the 2020 crop year. This represents 89% of expected enrollment. FSA will send reminder postcards to producers who, according to agency records, have not yet submitted signed contracts for ARC or PLC for the 2020 crop year.

Producers who do not complete enrollment by close of business local time on June 30 will not be enrolled in ARC or PLC for the 2020 crop year and will be ineligible to receive a payment should one trigger for an eligible crop.

ARC and PLC contracts can be mailed or emailed to producers for signature depending on producer preference. Signed contracts can be mailed or emailed back to FSA or arrangements can be made in advance with FSA to drop off signed contracts at the FSA county office; call ahead for local drop off and other options available for submitting signed contracts electronically.

For more information on ARC and PLC including web-based decision tools, visit farmers.gov/arc-plc.