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Farm Safety During Extreme Drought

Drought conditions bring new and different hazards into play as harvest season continues

More than 340 million acres of crops are experiencing extreme drought across the U.S., including most of the country’s top corn growing states. These conditions can pose major safety challenges during harvest, such as higher fire risks or lodging crops. As agriculture professionals face circumstances out of their control, it’s important to take additional safety measures during a busy harvest season.

“Many farmers across the country are facing impacts to their yields and harvest plans as dusty, dry conditions continue to intensify,” said Brad Liggett, president of Agribusiness at Nationwide, the nation’s No. 1 farm and ranch insurer1. “Proactive planning around these new hazards is important to ensure a safe harvest for you and your equipment and prevent further disruptions.”

During this dry harvest season, Nationwide’s Risk Management specialists encourage agriculture professionals to implement a few extra safety measures to help steer clear of drought-related complications.

1. Ensure fire extinguishers and water caddies are readily available - Areas experiencing drought will typically be left with very dry vegetation in and around the fields. It’s important to make sure fire extinguishers and water caddies are charged and full at the start of the day. If possible, bring extra extinguishers and always keep an eye out for any embers or small fires.

2. Scout lodging crops - Drought stricken crops may have standability issues leading to lodging or bending over at the stems near ground level, making them very difficult to harvest and reducing yield.  Scout your fields carefully to identify harvest priorities and proceed through downed crops carefully.

3. Keep equipment clean - Dry crop residue can lead to extra dust and chaff. Dirty equipment can be dangerous as it leads to visibility and mechanical issues. It may be necessary to stop multiple times a day to ensure windows, reflectors, safety lights, and engine components are clean, clear, and functioning properly.

4. Turn off equipment on breaks - When you leave the combine to inspect field obstacles, plugs, or take breaks, make sure the combine is shifted into park, the head should be lowered to the ground, and the engine is shut off. Avoid leaving any equipment unattended while running – always shut off the engine.

5. Monitor crop quality - Monitor grain quality closely as harvest progresses. Keep an eye out for crops that did not reach physiological maturity, show indications of poor quality, and damage by insects or disease.   

“As grain condition, temperature and moisture content greatly affect grain storability, it’s also critical to keep a close eye on grain condition as it goes into storage bins,” said Liggett. “The industry must remain vigilant about proper grain handling and storage to continue to fend off grain accidents like entrapments and engulfments.”

Nationwide’s Grain Bin Safety efforts
Nationwide began its year-round Grain Bin Safety advocacy and education program in 2014 to combat accidents and equip fire departments with the proper safety resources needed to respond to entrapments.

Through the Nominate Your Fire Department Contest and partnerships with sponsors across the country, Nationwide has awarded life-saving grain rescue tubes and training to 272 fire departments across 31 states, including 65 rescue tubes in 2022. The 2023 Nominate Your Fire Department Contest will open for nominations on January 1, 2022.

At least five workers have been rescued using the equipment and training provided through the program.

For more educational materials or to learn more about Nationwide’s Grain Bin Safety advocacy initiative, visit thinkgrainbinsafety.com.

Nationwide’s Grain Bin Safety advocacy campaign is made possible by the following sponsors:

 CHS, Delaware Farm Bureau, Delaware Soybean Board, Horizon Farm Credit, Indiana Corn Marketing Council, KC Supply, Lutz Agency Inc, Maryland Grain Producers, Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotional Council, Nationwide, NECAS, ProValue Insurance, Scoular, Specialty Risk Insurance, Ashtabula County Farm Bureau, Mark Bruns Agency, AGI SureTrack, Gerber Insurance Agency, Gregerson Salvage Inc, GROWMARK, Jefferson County Farm Bureau, Kelly Jones Insurance Agency LLC, Maryland Soybean Board, Panichelle Insurance, Rugby Insurance Agency, Turtle Plastics, Valley Insurance Agency Alliance LLC, West Side Salvage, ABIS/Assured Partners, Armstrong County Farm Bureau, David Larson Financial and Insurance Services Inc, New York Farm Bureau, Gallagher, Heritage Insurance and Real Estate, Maryland Farm Bureau, Ohio Farm Bureau, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, Pillar Insurance, TGIF Solutions, Colonial Farm Credit, IRMI, NOHR Wortmann Engineering, Sump Saver, Wiley Insurance Agency, St. Mary’s County Farm Bureau, Charles County Farm Bureau, Traer Fire Department

1 Source: A.M. Best Market Share Report 2021