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Vermont AgrAbility Helps Disabled and Suffering Farmers

Tractor damaged from accident

Agriculture consistently ranks as one of the nation's most dangerous occupations. Each year many agricultural workers in Vermont sustain disabling injuries in work-related accidents, non-farm injuries, illness and other chronic health conditions.

The effects of a farm going out of business are felt from the family level to the state level. Farming has about a $4 billion impact on Vermont's economy. So when farms go out of business or do not run efficiently due to operator injury, illness or accident, families are devastated and Vermont suffers.

University of Vermont (UVM) Extension has a couple of programs in place that address this and related issues. The Rebates for Rollover Protective Structures (ROPS) program helps prevent injury by providing a 70 percent rebate (up to $865) for the installation of a ROPS on farm equipment. The Vermont AgrAbility Project provides resources for farm and equipment modifications for farmers with a disability or chronic health condition.

The first step towards keeping a productive farm in business is ensuring safety. Since seven out of ten farms typically are out of business within a year of a tractor rollover, it makes sense for farmers to protect themselves, their family and their business. ROPS are 99 percent effective when used with a seatbelt in preventing rollover deaths and serious injuries.

Farmers with tractors that do not have ROPS installed, should call (877) 767-7748 with the year, make and model of the tractor for help in finding the right ROPS to purchase and for information about the rebate offer, which ends soon.

So, what happens when a farmer or other agricultural worker must live with an injury indefinitely? Vermont AgrAbility is a free, confidential service provided by UVM Extension, promoting success in Vermont agriculture for people with health conditions and their families.

Vermont AgrAbility helps farmers and agricultural workers with chronic health conditions gain more control over their lives, continue to farm successfully and live independently. They are eligible if they have any type of acquired or traumatic disability, physical, cognitive or sensory. AgrAbility addresses many conditions, including, but not limited to, arthritis, spinal cord or back injury, paralysis, amputation, brain injury, visual/hearing problems, respiratory ailments and muscular impairments.

The program offers education, assistance and referrals for financial assistance as well as facilitates farm modifications to accommodate these unique abilities. Its vast network of resources addresses the individual needs of each farmer.

On-site and technical assistance may include helping farmers to restructure work tasks and operations, modify farm equipment and tools, acquire assistive technologies and explore alternative agriculture enterprises. Farmers also will learn how to prevent further injuries or disabling conditions and have a chance to connect with others who have accommodated their own disability.

The Vermont AgrAbility Project operates under a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service in Washington, D.C. Currently, there are 21 USDA-funded State AgrAbility projects plus several affiliates serving other states using other funding sources.

For more information, contact Geoff Whitchurch, Vermont AgrAbility Project Education and Outreach Coordinator, at (802) 888-4972, ext. 403, or (866) 260-5603 (toll-free in Vermont) or by e-mail at vtagrability@uvm.edu.

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