Heading into harvest, farmers need to remember safety precautions that can prevent serious or fatal electrical injuries.
Safe Electricity urges farm operators, family members and employees to beware of overhead power lines, to keep farm equipment safely away and to know what to do if accidental contact is made with power lines.
"The No. 1 cause of electrocution on the farm is an auger that hits a power line when being moved," said Bob Aherin, University of Illinois Extension agricultural safety specialist.
Every year, an average 62 farm workers are electrocuted in the United States, and many more are injured, according to Labor Department statistics.
The increasing size of farm equipment, particularly grain tanks on combines that have become higher with extensions, allow operators to come perilously close to overhead power lines over entrances to fields. It is vital to keep equipment safely away -- a minimum 10-foot safety radius around the electric line.
Safe Electricity offers safety tips including:
º Use a spotter when moving tall loads near lines.
º Inspect farm equipment for transport height, and determine clearance with any power lines on the route.
º Make sure everyone knows what to do if accidental contact is made with power lines.
"It's almost always best to stay in the cab, call for help and wait until the electric utility arrives to make sure power to the line is cut off. If the power line is energized and you step outside, your body becomes the path, and electrocution is the result," Aherin said. "Even if a power line is on the ground, there is still the potential for the area nearby to be energized."
In case of fire or imminent risk of fire, the proper action is to jump, not step, with both feet hitting the ground at the same time. Jump clear, without touching the vehicle and ground at the same time, and continue to shuffle or hop to safety keeping both feet together while leaving the area.
More information about electrical safety is available online at SafeElectricity.org.
Corn prices and pork
With this year's corn crop not big enough to meet the entire consumption base, prices will have to be high enough to convince some end users to reduce consumption from current levels, leading to questions about whether pork producers can compete.
"The answer is complex and will depend on many factors including how small the U.S. corn crop is and production in the southern hemisphere," Purdue University economist Chris Hurt said.
The largest competitor for corn in the coming year will be the ethanol industry, with 5.1 billion bushels of mostly mandated usage accounting for 39 percent of the 2011 crop, Hurt said.
Mandated corn use was troublesome to the animal industries when corn was abundant. Now with short corn supplies, the concerns are even greater. Without a reduction in mandates, the cutback in corn usage will primarily be thrust upon the non-fuel sectors represented primarily by the domestic animal sector and corn exports. There has been a general assumption that foreign customers would reduce consumption as prices rise.
Corn prices will have to move to new record highs on a marketing year basis to get animal industries to reduce corn use. "The current estimate is that producers could pay about $6.65 per bushel based on a U.S. average farm price for the 2011-12 marketing year and still meet all other costs," Hurt said.
Pork producers were well aware of this season's corn price uncertainty and have kept expansion plans on hold. Corn and meal prices above current levels could cause the industry to begin to shift toward moderate liquidation.
-- Compiled by Herald-Whig Staff Writer Deborah Gertz Husar.