After her 18-year-old son Landon died in a grain bin accident last August, Michele Gran said she needed to "make a noise."
She called and e-mailed anyone she thought could make a difference, from newspapers to the White House. On Tuesday, she stood next to DFL Gov. Tim Walz and state legislators as they announced a proposal for new funding for farm safety measures.
"I'm glad my noise was heard. Our son's death cannot be in vain, something good has to come out of this," said Gran, who lives in St Peter. "I'm a mama on a mission."
Walz is proposing $250,000 to establish a cost-share or reimbursement program for farmers who invest in grain bin safety equipment and to relaunch a grant program that reimburses farmers who retrofit their tractors to help prevent rollovers. The funding would also be used for public outreach about farm safety issues.
At least 10 people have died in farming-related accidents in the state since last June. In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found farmers make up 2% of the state's workforce but account for more than 30% of workplace fatalities. A 2015 Star Tribune investigation found that state and federal budget cuts had slashed farm training and safety programs, even as farm machines have become more powerful and more dangerous.
Bills moving through the House and Senate would spend $500,000 on grain bin safety and $250,000 for farmer education.
"I'd like to prevent this from happening to the next family," said Sen. Nick Frentz, D-North Mankato, the author of the bill, who dubbed it Landon's Law, after Gran's son.
They're part of a package of bills moving through the Legislature to address farm safety, including one that would help develop technology to make it easier to shut down sweep augers, like the one that caught Landon's foot and trapped him in a neighbor's grain bin.
Gran said she hopes these proposals spark a conversation in other states where farm safety is an issue. "I don't want to stop here in Minnesota," she said. "I want Minnesota to be the leader."
Briana Bierschbach • 651-925-5042