Farmer shadow

Wapello County farmer Bruce Klyn watches the rain from his garage Thursday afternoon in July of 2014.

OTTUMWA — For most farmers, the calendar can take precedent over many things, including being 100 percent healthy during the year.

While aches and pains normally take a back seat in the spring to making sure crops are in the ground, the ongoing threat of the coronavirus will have an impact on the attention farmers and farm workers pay to their health this planting season.

The Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (CS-CASH) at the University of Nebraska Medical Center is providing guidance on the prevention and spread of COVID-19 while working in agriculture and when returning home from work.

“Those of us in agriculture tend to want to be tough and get on with it,” said Jim Lowe, DVM, director of the College of Veterinary Medicine I-Learning Center at the University of Illinois. “This isn’t the time to be the tough guy.”

Since hospitals are currently overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients and medical provider resources are already strained, all farm and ranch workers will benefit from taking extra precautions to avoid work-related injury or illness. Workers are being asked to carefully follow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines on prevention of COVID-19, as well as the instructions and recommendations from state and local government officials, medical providers, extension resources and other trusted sources. Whatever the task that is being undertaken, farmers and ranchers are being asked to remain aware of and practice safety principles.

Farmers and ranchers are also being asked to take their time to create a written business plan that outlines how an operation will go forward in case someone becomes ill and unable to function in their job. Plans should also be reviewed by everyone who is involved in daily activities. Steps should also be taken to ensure that the plan could and will be implemented, if necessary.

The Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health recommends reviewing an operation’s daily activities and seek ways to avoid person-to-person contact. Any tasks that require personal interaction but aren’t necessary for day-to-day operations should be postponed in order to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

Besides taking steps to avoid injuries, farmers are being asked to take any signs of illness seriously. Anyone with a fever or a cough may have COVID-19. Most people with mild illness are able to recover at home.

Those that are sick should keep track of their symptoms. Emergency warning signs for the coronavirus includes trouble breathing, signaling the need for immediate medical attention.

Farmers and ranchers should stay in touch with their doctors and call before seeking medical care. Other emergency warning signs for the coronavirus include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse and bluish lips or face.

Consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

“The last couple years has created a greater sense of urgency to take advantage of weather that cooperates,” Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said. “I know folks are really pushing hard to get work done when they can. We’re thinking about a lot of things right now. There’s a lot on the minds of everyone in the farming community, but I would ask everyone from suppliers to farmers to slow down. Even if you’ve done something 1,000 times each year every year, it’s important to keep safety on your mind now more than ever.”

If you call 911, inform the operator that you have or believe you might have COVID-19. If possible, put on a face mask before medical help arrives. More details are available at

“At the end of the day, let’s all get home safely from the field,” Naig said.

Scott Jackson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

Scott Jackson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.


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