Very little grain is getting planted in Ontario this spring, as farmers struggle with wet fields that are keeping them from conducting that first essential step in crop production, getting seed in the ground.
But that doesn’t mean the grain sector is at a standstill. In fact, every day in Ontario, somewhere a farmer is selling grain.
Typically, that grain is carried over from last fall, stored by farmers with the hope of getting a better price for it when the market isn’t saturated.
Or maybe it’s the result of a contract between a farmer and a buyer who wanted it later than sooner.
In any case, that grain is likely to be stored in a bin then delivered in a transport truck. And emptying that bin or truck can be hazardous, even deadly.
The problem is with a phenomenon called grain entrapment. It’s the leading cause of death in grain storage.
Here’s what happens. Farmers enter grain bins or transport trucks to break up congested grain that’s stalled for some reason when it’s being unloaded. Give it a kick or a poke, keep it moving.
But when they enter those enclosures, they are open to getting sucked into a funnel of grain flowing out of the bin or truck.
That funnel is deceivingly powerful – and dangerous. The Agricultural Health and Safety Network says the pull of the grain can cause an individual to become covered to their knees within three to four seconds or completely engulfed within 20 seconds.
And, it adds, unless the flow of grain can be stopped very quickly, within a very short period it’s unlikely that anyone will be strong enough to pull an engulfed individual out. Special equipment is needed to extract anyone caught in a funnel.
As grain production increases, so will storage and handling. The situation isn’t going away. So farm safety programs across Canada aim to make grain handling safer, teaching farmers safe methods for unloading their crops.
One program, BeGrainSafe, delivers life-saving grain safety awareness through preventative education, firefighter rescue training and on-site workplace training in rural communities across Canada. BeGrainSafe has three major components: a website, tabletop displays and the heart of the program, the BeGrainSafe mobile demonstration and training unit.
It requires resources to get that unit into the farm community where it can do the most good. The agricultural sector provides those resources in support of farmers. Last year, sponsors helped the BeGrainSafe program reach more than 300,000 individuals and train over 200 firefighters in grain rescue procedures.
Last week, Guelph’s Dean Anderson, strategic advisor for agricultural initiatives for Workplace Safety and Prevention Services, accepted a $37,000 cheque on behalf of the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association from crop protection company FMC Canada.
FMC made the donation during ribbon-cutting ceremonies at its new Canadian headquarters in Mississauga.
“Workplace safety is a core value for all of us at FMC,” says Katrina Schmidt, marketing manager at FMC Canada. “BeGrainSafe will help our customers gain the preventative education and life-saving training to keep themselves, their families and employees safe.”
FMC has had a commercial presence in Canada for more than 15 years. It experienced its most significant large-scale growth after acquiring select technologies and assets from DuPont Crop Protection in late 2017.
As a result, FMC Canada nearly doubled the size of its workforce and now employs more than 60 people across the country.
“Long-term, we want to be a trusted partner to more farmers across the country and cultivate stronger relationships with channel partners,” says Darren Dillenbeck, country manager for FMC Canada.
Supporting farmers’ needs with programs like BeGrainSafe helps instill that trust.