Supporting farm safety and consumer protections

Published 7:01 am Saturday, February 22, 2020

By Dan Sparks

State Senator, District 27

During my time in the Minnesota Senate, I have always recognized the importance of farm safety. Agriculture is one of the most important industries in the state, but it is also an industry that can be dangerous. Since June 2019, 10 people have died in farming-related accidents, and even more are injured in preventable accidents each year. One issue that we are especially focused on preventing is grain bin accidents.

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I want to thank Gov. Walz for shining a spotlight on this issue, by proclaiming February 16 through 22 “Grain Bin Safety Week” in Minnesota. His proclamation called for industry leaders and agricultural professionals to work toward reducing these deaths through education, awareness of hazards, and adoption of safe working practices. Thankfully, we are also taking steps at the Legislature to highlight these risks and help prevent future accidents.

On Thursday, the Senate Agriculture Policy Committee heard a bill that would help promote not only grain bin safety, but other farm safety initiatives as well. I’m proud to be a co-author of SF 3007, which would provide more funding for farm safety grant programs in Minnesota. These grants would help farmers pay for installing safety equipment in their grain bins. It would also farmers and Minnesota schools pay for rollover protection equipment for their tractors.

Farm safety grants have been a successful resource for our farmers in the past, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to get more funding for this program this year. While we have to wait for the February forecast to give us an update on the state of our budget, if our modest surplus remains, I’m hopeful we can dedicate some of the money to this program.

As the ranking minority member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I’m also focused on ensuring Minnesotans have strong consumer protections in place. We heard a bill this week to prevent the financial exploitation of seniors and vulnerable adults by adding new protections for them. It permits financial service providers to notify the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center (MAARC) and other third parties when there is suspicion of financial exploitation.

Financial exploitation of seniors and vulnerable adults has been growing in Minnesota in recent years as scammers and the technology they use are improving. It’s on us at the Legislature to make sure we are putting forward policies that protect our seniors and vulnerable adults, and that they are able to live with dignity and without fear of being scammed.

Both of these bills had strong bipartisan support in committee and moved forward. Though we have divided government, my colleagues and I are focused on policies that are good for all Minnesotans. I look forward to seeing these bills continue forward and hopefully get signed into law this year.