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Local News

April 6, 2013

Farm safety program fights huge funding cut

FLY CREEK — The New York Center for Agricultural and Occupational Health, an arm of Bassett Healthcare Network, is in danger of losing $2 million in federal funding — more than half its annual budget — as the result of proposed cuts in government research programs.

Thirty people work at the research center in Fly Creek, tracking occupational injuries and promoting methods and equipment for reducing risks for people employed in farming, forestry and fishing, said Dr. John J. May, the center’s director.

The potential loss of  funding from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health would represent nearly two-thirds of its total funding, including state support, he said.

“If the funding is cut, we could lose two thirds of our staff,” May told The Daily Star from inside the center, which serves residents of 12 Northeastern states.

Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, is helping the center and others like it fight the attempt to cut their funding. Gibson and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt.,  are urging the House Appropriations Committee to restore the money, arguing that it helps save lives and prevent workers from getting maimed, injured or killed on the job.

May said, for example, that the center has been administering a program that helps farmers acquire roll bars for their tractors that, if installed, can greatly reduce the risk of serious injury or death in the event of a rollover accident.

The physician said the the safety equipment is “unquestionably life-saving.”

The center helps to arrange the purchase, and once the equipment is installed on a tractor, it sends a rebate check to the farmer within two weeks, he said.

The tractor safety rebate program, which has been running for about five years, is now recognized as a national model for preventing life-threatening injuries on farms, May said.

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