The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn’t investigate farm deaths, like Brandon Mullen’s in Iowa in 2013, because of a fateful decision by Congress more than 40 years ago that has given small farms unique immunity from safety oversight. A Fairwarning.org report.
You’ve read about tanning beds, texting while driving and farm safety in IowaWatch stories this past year. This week’s news quiz brings you up to date as of March 20 on where these matters stand in the Iowa Legislature.
Another record harvest is almost complete. Agriculture is Iowa’s top business, but it’s also the state’s most deadly. “There’s a cultures out there that persists, and the culture is ‘we gotta work and get this job done.’ And that often times takes precedence over doing it in a way that may be safe because you are working against time and weather,” said Kelley Donham, former director of Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, or I-CASH. Existing regulations under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration don’t cover smaller farms, allowing dangerous practices to continue.
IowaWatch reporters Katie Kuntz and Sarah Hadley have won regional Society of Professional Journalists’ (SPJ) regional Mark of Excellence Awards for stories they did in 2013 for IowaWatch.org and news outlets that published their stories. Their awards were announced at a regional meeting April 25-26 in Overland Park, Kan. Additionally, former IowaWatch reporter Katelynn McCollough won first place for breaking news for work she did as a reporter at the Iowa State Daily newspaper, where is has been editor-in-chief this school year. Winning first place in the regional contest makes these journalists eligible for national Mark of Excellence awards, to be announced May 6. These winners were from the SPJ’s Region 7, which comprises Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. IowaWatch provides mentorship to college students in Iowa who want to be journalists and helps in getting their work published by newspapers and news web sites, and exposed through broadcast outlets.
IowaWatch reporters Sarah Hadley, Katie Kuntz and Danielle Wilde have been named winners of Society of Professional Journalists’ (SPJ) regional Mark of Excellence Awards. They will learn if they placed first, second or third when the SPJ makes that announcement at a regional meeting April 25-26 in Overland Park, Kan. First place winners in each of 12 SPJ regions will be eligible for national Mark of Excellence awards, which are to be announced in late April. The awards are given annually for published journalism produced by college students. Hadley, Kuntz and Wilde are students in the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication and volunteer journalists with IowaWatch, a nonprofit news organization.
Support from Iowa lawmakers for stricter farm safety regulation does not exist in the new legislative session. This is despite agriculture being Iowa’s deadliest occupation and limited Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforcement and coverage. No one is pushing for state remedies, or calling for a federal government they distrust to improve farm safety to step in. Moreover, Gov. Terry Branstad says he would not support a new or more aggressive program for agricultural safety. “I think that would be a detriment to agriculture,” Branstad told IowaWatch in an interview at the opening of the session.
WMT Radio’s Bob Bruce interviewed IowaWatch Executive Director-Editor Lyle Muller on Nov. 21 about IowaWatch’s series on farm safety, “In A Matter Of Seconds”. You can listen to a podcast of the interview here:
New technology from drones to tractor rollover detection are aimed at keeping farmers out of dangerous situations. Drones, modified from their current military use, could be flying soon over Iowa corn fields, allowing farmers to check on growth from comfort and safety.
Chris Petersen, of Clear Lake, Iowa, has farmed and raised hogs for years. As a board member of the Iowa Farmers’ Union and Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, I-CASH, he has worked to raise awareness of farm safety issues. He also helps bring a farmer’s perspective to developers of agricultural safety equipment. “You know the simple of it is, I guess, farmers at a certain time of the year have one-track minds. And it’s getting that crop in and getting that crop out.