FILE - In this April 4, 2013, file photo, a central Illinois corn and soybean farmer cultivates his field in preparation for spring planting in Waverly, Ill. Officials say Illinois farmers had the safest season in decades last year, with a dozen farm-related fatalities. The deaths occurred between July 2012 and June 2013. The 12 deaths were the lowest number since the insurance company Country Financial began tracking the figures in 1978. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Heavy rains that delayed planting across much of central Illinois this spring also means a later harvest in some areas, prompting concerns that farmers could push too hard to get crops out of the fields and put themselves at increased risk of injuries or fatalities.
“When harvest time comes, farmers’ main goal is to get it out of the fields and into elevators,” Rochester farmer Larry Beaty said. “Sometimes we push too hard, go too fast and things happen before you know it.”
The warnings come after Illinois experienced its safest harvest season in 35 years last year, with just 12 fatalities, largely due to a drought that meant farmers were spending less time harvesting, driving equipment on roadways and filling grain bins.
The deaths occurred between July 2012 and 2013, and about two-thirds involved roadway collisions, tractor rollovers or pedestrians being run over, according to COUNTRY Financial, which released data during last week’s National Farm Safety and Health Week. There were 38 fatalities in the 2011-2012 season.
University of Illinois professor Bob Aherin, who coordinates the school’s Agriculture Safety and Health Program, said farmers are “antsy” to get into the field.
“We think this year will be a much bigger crop and the risk will be greater,” he said.
Third-generation farmer Ben Ladage said he grew up surrounded by safety training and warnings from his father and grandfather.
“You knew it’s dangerous. The old fellas missing arms and legs were how you knew,” said Ladage, of Auburn. “Modern technology has given us the advantage. It beats our stupidity. The precautions are in place to keep us safe, if we just slow down.”