TUE AM News: Roadway deaths seen as major concern for state ag industry; State ranks 38th for federal ‘balance of payments’ measure

— The Marshfield Clinic Research Institute is spotlighting roadway deaths as a major safety concern for Wisconsin’s agriculture industry. 

The institute’s National Farm Medicine Center partners with the UW-Madison Division of Extension to produce the Wisconsin Farm Related Fatalities Reports. Six of the 40 ag-related deaths in 2019 and five of the 28 deaths in 2020 were roadway fatalities, according to the latest data released from these reports. 

John Shutske, a professor and ag safety specialist with UW-Madison, says farm fatality numbers “remain alarmingly high” due to various hazards including transportation risks. 

“Many continue to be concerned with the high number of deaths on public roadways,” he said in a statement. “Clearly, as farms get bigger and farmers need to spend more time on the road moving from farm to farm/field to field, we are going to see more and more risk on roadways.”

According to the institute, “seemingly little progress” is being made toward meeting standards for farm equipment lighting and marketing established by industry groups and safety specialists.  

Bryan Weichelt, an associate research scientist with the National Farm Medicine Center, says the main concern is low visibility for “unmarked, under-marked or unlit farm equipment” putting operators and other motorists at risk. 

Shutske says federal law established about five years ago required all farm equipment made after mid-2017 to include enhanced lighting and marking. But that requirement isn’t fully reflected in state-level regulations, he said, which “concerns many of us who work in safety engineering and who try to bridge the interests of farmers and those who manufacture and sell farm equipment.” 

While he says the state has made some “needed upgrades” in recent years to lighting and marking requirements for slow-moving farm equipment, those changes haven’t gone far enough. He argues Wisconsin lags other Midwest states in aligning with standards set by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. 

“We really can do better,” he said. “Simple devices like turn signals on tractors and implements and using lights and flashers any time these machines are operating on roadways is really something that the data shows would save lives.”

See the 2019 report: https://marshfieldresearch.org/Media/Default/NFMC/PDFs/2019%20Farm%20Fatality%20Report.pdf 

See the 2020 report: https://marshfieldresearch.org/Media/Default/NFMC/PDFs/2020%20Farm%20Fatality%20Report.pdf 

— Wisconsin is ranked 38th among U.S. states for a “balance of payments” measure that captures federal taxes versus federal funding, according to a report from the UW-Madison Division of Extension. 

The report, written by economist Steven Deller, draws on an analysis performed by the SUNY Rockefeller Institute of Government. The institute calculates a “State-Federal Government Balance of Payments” measure that shows 42 states had a positive balance in 2019 while eight had a negative balance. 

Deller explains that states with a higher positive balance — such as New Mexico, Mississippi and Alabama — tend to have higher poverty levels, lower federal taxes and more federal support payments. Other states on the upper range such as Virginia have a large military presence. 

Meanwhile, states with a negative balance of payments like Connecticut, New York and California tend to have higher income levels and a lower level of federal support programs. 

Wisconsin, for example, has a positive per capita balance of payment of $1,215. That means for every dollar paid to the federal government in the form of taxes, $1.13 is returned to Wisconsin, according to Deller’s report. 

“Strategies that could be pursued to maximize the Balance of Payment to Wisconsin is to work with individuals and families to ensure that they are taking full advantage of federal support programs,” he wrote. “For example, work with veterans groups to maximize the flow of veterans benefits flowing into the state.” 

He also suggests officials work with businesses to help them “monitor and compete for” federal contract opportunities, and provide resources to help higher education be more competitive for federal research and development funding. 

See the report: https://economicdevelopment.extension.wisc.edu/2022/12/16/state-and-federal-government-balance-of-payments/ 

— The USDA has announced over $650,000 in funding for housing and education infrastructure projects in Wisconsin. 

Julie Lassa, the USDA’s rural development state director for Wisconsin, says the funds are “foundational to a healthy society and Wisconsin’s vibrant rural communities.” These dollars were announced yesterday as part of a $102 million funding package for projects around the country. 

Projects include: 

*Couleecap Inc. using a $69,000 grant to help six low-income households in Crawford, Monroe, Vernon, and La Crosse with home repairs. 

*The Western Dairyland Economic Opportunity Council using a $120,000 grant to repair and improve 10 homes in Clark, Eau Claire, Buffalo, Trempealeau and Jackson counties. 

*Wild Rivers Habitat for Humanity using a $75,000 grant to help with home repairs for low-income homeowners in Washburn, Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Polk, Price, Rusk and Taylor counties. 

*And Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe University getting about $345,000 for renovations to the Bakade Cafe on campus, which offers food services to faculty, staff, students and others in the community. 

See more project details: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2022/u-s-dept-of-agriculture-invests-654710-to-improve-access-to-housing-and-education-infrastructure-for-rural-people-across-wisconsin/ 

See the national announcement: https://www.rd.usda.gov/newsroom/news-release/usda-invests-102-million-create-economic-opportunities-expand-access-water-infrastructure-and 

<br><b><i>Top headlines from the Health Care Report … </b></i> 

— The Wisconsin Office of Children’s Mental Health is calling on policymakers to expand options for affordable housing. 

And Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul is again calling on GOP lawmakers to repeal the state’s 1849 abortion ban, a move that is unlikely as Republican leaders mull whether to add rape and incent as exceptions.

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