Press-Republican

Columns

April 28, 2013

It's important to share the roads with farm operators

If you have taken a drive through the county lately, you will have noticed that farmers everywhere have been taking advantage of the spring weather.

Large trucks and tractors are increasingly being used by farmers to spread manure and till the fields in preparation for planting. As the size and scale of local farms has increased, the equipment needed to do the work in a timely manner has also increased in size and capacity.

As these large machines travel the road, it is even more important than ever for farmers and motorists to take care to avoid disasters.

In the past 60 years, farms have transitioned from horses and small gasoline tractors to immense four-wheel-drive articulated tractors that can do many times the work producing more crops in less time, using fewer inputs than ever before.

In the 1940s, my father grew up on a local dairy farm and remembers using horses to mow and rake hay, pull wagons and do routine chores. Much of the powered equipment such as hay balers and corn choppers were not pulled into the field, but remained stationary, with the crops being brought to the machine for processing.

Gradually over the following decades, farm machinery evolved into what we see today. And while old tractors and machinery can be maintained and many continue to be used even today, there have been many improvements made that have made most old tractors obsolete.

Farm safety has been a concern for many years. Agriculture in the United States is one of the most hazardous industries, only surpassed by mining and construction.

Older tractors and farm machinery had few or no provisions for safety. Often tall and narrow, older tractors had a higher center of gravity and were more likely to tip or flip over. Today’s tractors routinely come equipped with rollover protection, seatbelts, hazard lights and many other safety features.

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