The Minnesota Senate Agriculture, Housing, and Rural Development Committee held hearings on grain bin and silo safety last week.

Tragic farm accidents involving grain bins have been an ongoing problem in most every agriculturally active state, according to those who spoke at the hearing.

“While there is no perfect answer to avoiding all farm accidents, some of these tragic instances might be more avoidable with more awareness, education, more use of basic safety kits, or developing new technology,” said Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, who represents part of Douglas County.

Some of the proposed bills would help with technology development to make bin and silo shutdowns easier. They would provide universities with educational materials to pursue ongoing research, and aid and educate farmers as they go about their everyday lives.

Another proposal, authored by Westrom, would offer some one-time “seed” money to reimburse farmers for part of the cost of a basic safety kits and training to retrofit their bins or silos. The bill, Westrom said, would ensure more safety features on farms. He added the committee focused on practical, inexpensive ideas and programs that would be voluntary for farmers.

“Highlighting this important topic is a key part of making progress,” Westrom said in a news release.

The bills were presented by Westrom, Sen. Rich Draheim, R-Northfield, and Sen. Nick Frentz, D–North Mankato. There were several testifiers, including Michele Gran and Dale and Cindy Ekdahl of Outstate Data, LLC, of Elbow Lake. Other families testified with their own stories of close calls or tragic loss and implored the committee to encourage greater safety measures and education for necessary farm equipment.

The bills passed out of the Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Policy Committee and will be referred to the Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Finance Committee.