Representatives from eight federal agencies and the Agricultural Safety and Health Council of America (ASHCA) Board of Directors met at ASHCA’s first-ever Roundtable Forum, Feb. 3, in Washington, D.C., to discuss better ways of aligning federally-funded safety initiatives with real-world agricultural worker issues.

“As agriculture ramps up production to feed the world’s growing population, we want to be working cooperatively with agencies that influence agricultural worksite issues,” said Leon Graves, ASHCA Board Chairman representing Dairy Farmers of America. “This meeting was a great start to opening communication lines with federal program leaders who oversee research, education, training and regulatory enforcement.”

The nearly 30 Roundtable participants included representatives of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Labor, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Migrant and Seasonal Head Start, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  Additionally, the National Academies of Science was represented. ASHCA Board members represented agricultural production from all U.S. regions, different commodities, and agribusinesses such as workers compensation insurance. 

The Roundtable event was responsive to agribusiness leaders’ concerns that federally-funded agricultural safety research and outreach programs are not always in line with day-to-day safety issues experienced by agricultural workers such as those employed in labor intensive crops and livestock operations.

Federal representatives shared their respective agency’s agriculture-related initiatives. ASHCA members provided insights into emerging issues affecting agribusiness.

Joel Sherman explained that his company, Grimmway Farms in Bakersfield, CA, is the nation’s largest producer of carrots, with farms and processing sites in several states.  Among his safety concerns are night shift work (to avoid daytime heat-related illness), transporting workers to and from fields, and the increasing use of drones for crop monitoring.  Sherman noted that safety research and outreach programs on best-management practices would be welcomed.

Brady Miller, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, echoed the need for guidance in improving safety for feedlot workers, knowing that some have no experience handling cattle and may have limited English-language skills.

Efficient, productive and sustainable agriculture relies on the preservation and well-being of its workforce, and this Roundtable event hosted by ASCHA facilitated new and stronger ties toward that end. 

To learn more about ASHCA, and to see its “Be Safe, Be Profitable,” fact sheet, go to ASHCA is a 501 (c)(3) organization founded in 2007 to proactively address ongoing and emerging occupational safety and health issues affecting U.S. agriculture.