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Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center renewal announced

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    Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center renewal announced

    Over $9.2 million in federal funding to focus on worker health, safety projects in animal agriculture

The Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH), serving Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, is one of 12 centers selected by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to receive funding for a five-year cycle beginning Oct. 1. The announcement marks the third consecutive cycle that UMASH has been successful in its competitive bid for funding. 

“NIOSH Ag Centers work collaboratively on national efforts and events,” says Jennifer Lincoln, NIOSH Associate Director for the Office of Agriculture Safety and Health, “while at the same time, each Center specializes in the distinct agricultural, forestry, and fishing industries and worker safety and health needs of their region.”

“The overarching goal of our Center is to improve the health and safety of agricultural owners, producers, and workers relevant to the Upper Midwest, the country, and the world,” says UMASH Director Jeff Bender, DVM. “The central theme of UMASH is to promote a One Health approach that emphasizes the interconnections between human, animal, and plant health and the health of the environment for addressing the changing health and safety conditions for the people that feed us all.”

UMASH is a collaboration of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, National Farm Medicine Center of the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, Migrant Clinicians Network, and the Minnesota Department of Health. UMASH uses its unique multidisciplinary expertise to focus on agricultural worker health and safety issues, especially those related to animal agriculture production. 

During the upcoming funding cycle, UMASH will continue to expand its network, craft impactful prevention messaging, translate evidence to programming and resources, and address emerging and re-emerging issues—all to support the health and safety of agricultural communities in the Upper Midwest. Additionally, UMASH researchers will work to understand and improve factors related to agricultural safety and health, including:

  • Identifying individual and contextual determinants underpinning farmers' help-seeking behaviors and their role in shaping mental health outcomes (Florence Becot, PI)
  • Rural firefighters delivering ag safety and health (RF-DASH) - next steps (Casper Bendixsen, PI)
  • The influence of on-farm exposures and biosecurity practices on the skin and nasal microbiomes of U.S. swine workers (Noelle Noyes, PI)
  • Factors influencing transmission of airborne viruses and bacteria in animal agriculture (Peter Raynor, PI)

UMASH Outreach Director and Center Coordinator, Megan Schossow, commented, “To address some complex challenges in agricultural health and safety, we’ve brought together a diverse team of experts. We have folks from sociology, veterinary medicine, anthropology, environmental health, agronomy, public health, education, and more. By learning from each other and working closely with our agricultural community, we believe we’ll continue to positively impact this critical workforce.”

Despite steady declines in fatalities in the agriculture, forestry, and fishing (AgFF) sector over the past 30 years, in 2020, AgFF workers experienced the highest fatal injury rate at 21.5 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers, compared to a rate of 3.4 deaths per 100,000 workers for all U.S. industries. 

The NIOSH Ag Centers were established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/NIOSH in 1990 by a cooperative agreement to conduct research, education, and prevention projects to address the nation’s pressing AgFF health and safety problems. The newly-funded UMASH Center will advance critical work to improve the health of this critical workforce.