Funded Pilot Grants

The Great Plains Center offers grant funding to both researchers and community organizations engaged in agricultural safety and health activities.  The objective of this grant program is to serve as an incubator for new agricultural health and safety research, prevention, intervention, outreach, and translation projects that have high likelihood of leading to more comprehensive activities.  Both categories of previously funded grants are available to review below, organized by year.

Academic Pilot Grants

Year 2015–2017

  • Occupational Safety and Health Prevention among Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers in Iowa (A Johannes, University of Iowa, Dept of Occupational and Environmental Health – graduate student).
    In collaboration with Proteus, Inc. (a nonprofit organization that provides healthcare to migrant farmworkers), study investigators examined injuries and illnesses, healthcare-seeking behavior, and use of prevention measures among 70 migrant and seasonal farmworkers. Less than 40% of survey respondents reported receiving information on any common health problem from their doctor, employer, or elsewhere. Participants requested more information on prevention, management, and treatment of these health concerns. These results have been shared with employers and Proteus staff.
  • Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) Simulation and Hearing Protection Device Fit Testing (J Gibbs, M Cheyney, University of Iowa, Dept of Occupational and Environmental Health, R Meschner, S Klemuk, University of Iowa, Dept of Communication Sciences and Disorders/Audiology). This team (a) designed a NIHL simulator for use at outreach events and (b) examined how well hearing protection fits farmers
    (E-A-R fit™ validation test). Fit test data show most farmers achieved better personal attenuation using ‘Push-In’ style ear plugs than with formable foam style ear plugs despite the higher manufacturer-reported Noise Reduction Ratings for formable foam plugs. This study provided preliminary data for additional funding and will lead to a scientific publication and recommendations for changes to hearing conservation recommendations among agricultural workers.
  • Identifying Job Demands and Health Outcomes among Iowa Beginning Farmers (M Ramaswamy, University of Iowa, Dept of Occupational and Environmental Health – graduate student). Study personnel estimated associations between (a) physical and psychosocial demands and (b) general and musculoskeletal health status and acute injury occurrences among 98 beginning farmers. Women and men differed significantly with respect to exposure to certain physical demands. Men reported higher exposure to holding powered equipment with hands (median [IQR]: 3.0[1.9-3.6], men; 2.0 [1.0-3.0], women) as well as using manual tools (median [IQR]: 3.6[3.0-5.0], men; 2.5 [1.0-3.2], women).Participants reported occurrence of musculoskeletal pain over the past 12 months, with 62% reporting pain in the neck/shoulder region, 45% in the elbow/hand/wrist region, and 69% in the low back region.
  • Increasing the Use of Hearing Protection among Young Adult Swine Confinement Workers (J Rudolphi, University of Iowa, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health – graduate student).
    This project examined safe behavior (hearing protection use) and differences between 72 young study adult swine production workers who used smart-phone tracking with and without daily goals for hearing protection use. After completing the baseline survey, all participants were mailed hearing protection kits. Instructions for downloading and using a smartphone app to log behaviors was sent to participants in the two intervention groups. The greatest increase in reported hearing protection use was in the intervention with goal group, who reported a mean use increase of 47%. The intervention without goal group reported a mean increase of 42% and the control group reported a mean increase of 32%.

Year 2014–2015

  • Identifying agricultural behaviors of Iowa’s young farmers (J Rudolphi, University of Iowa, Dept of Occupational and Environmental Health – graduate student). An online survey was completed by 222 young farmers and showed that young female farmers reported safer work practices than young male farmers. In addition, the study found a strong link between workplace policies and safer work practices. A manuscript is in development.
  • Metagenomics and Staphylococcus Aureus Colonization in Livestock Workers (Kates, A. University of Iowa, Dept. of Epidemiology, Iowa City, IA – graduate student). Study investigators are examining the nasal microbiome of 33 non-livestock and 26 livestock workers in order to compare those with aureus colonization to those without S. aureus colonization to identify risk factors for this outcome. All RNA sequencing and spa typing has been completed, and data are currently being analyzed.
  • Year 2013–2014

  • Effect of Elevated Carbon Dioxide on Lung Inflammation in Barn Dust Instilled Mice (D Schneberger, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE). The investigators tested co-exposures of mice to both barn dust extracts and an atmosphere with 5000 ppm CO2. Although no changes were noted with CO2 exposure in the absence of barn dust, the addition of CO2 to barn dust was associated with an increase in inflammatory markers in comparison to barn dust alone.  These results provide evidence that controlling CO2 concentrations in swine barns may prevent respiratory inflammation among swine workers. These results led to an American Thoracic Society presentation, additional funding, and a peer-reviewed publication.
  • Year 2012–2013

  • Determining the mechanisms and outcomes of ATV crashes among high-risk groups in the Great Plains Region (C Jennissen, G Denning, K Harland, University of Iowa, Dept. of Emergency Medicine, Iowa City, IA). This project compiled 1996-2012 Iowa FACE data and nine state press clipping data to identify factors associated with agricultural ATV/UTV crashes. Data were compiled for academic publication and results have led to further funding from the Kohls Foundation (Kohls Cares) for community ATV/UTV safety outreach activities.
  • Genetic variation in endotoxin receptors and their association with COPD phenotypes (T LeVan, J Merchant, & K Kelly, University of Iowa, Dept. of Occupational and Environmental Health, Iowa City, IA). Using stored blood samples of Keokuk County Rural Health Cohort participants, a nested case-control study examined the relationship between COPD and specific single nucleotide polymorphisms. A previously unknown association between COPD and HHIP polymorphisms rs13118928 and rs1542725 was observed. The results have been published in the academic literature.
  • A tractor rollover detection and emergency reporting system (A Bulent Koc, W Downs, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO). Project investigators developed the first rollover detection sensor system with a Bluetooth connection to iPhone/iPad. This technology was shared with the ASABE and resulted in two scholarly publications. Researchers provided demonstrations to more than 1600 individuals at events sponsored by the Cattlemen Association, Pork Producers Association, and the Missouri State Fair. More than 50 media stories covered these events.  One of the academic papers resulting from this project also was awarded “Best Paper” recognition at the 2013 International Society for Agricultural Safety and Health Conference.

Community Pilot Grants

Year 2017–2019

  • Agritourism Safety and Health Best Practices Workshops (H Hoyle, Iowa State University, Ames, IA). Agritourism is growing in the Midwest region. Although adding an agritourism segment to an existing farm may seem appealing, numerous risks arise once these farms open and charge a fee for the public to visit.  For example, one illness or injury linked to an agritourism destination could be catastrophic to not only the injured party and the agritourism destination segment, but to the entire farm, ruining the livelihoods of the owners, their families, and employees of these destinations. With the growing number of agritourism destinations, there are currently no injury or illness prevention activities aimed towards these agritourism destinations. In order to provide effective interventions for the prevention of agriculture injury and illness on agritourism destinations, the Visit Iowa Farms Program will work with the Iowa State Pesticide Safety Education Program and the Center for Food Security and Public Health to coordinate three agritourism destination safety and health best practices workshops across Iowa.
  • Year 2015–2017

    • Grain Bin Safety and Emergency Prevention among Farm Families (D Neenan, B Kruse, National Education Center for Agricultural Safety [NECAS], Peosta, IA; A Becker, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO). NECAS customized existing grain bin engulfment rescue training designed originally for emergency responders for delivery directly to farmers and farm families. The new training incorporated best practices and a unique hands-on engulfment and retrieval simulator. The training was delivered to more than 200 attendees at 12 locations in four states.
    • Safe Farming, Safe Living: CPR Outreach to the Leut (M Gale, Avera St. Benedict Health Center, Parkston, SD). This program presented certification-level educational information and outreach to eight Hutterite colonies (400 individuals) in South Dakota in order to improve health outcomes of farm-related injuries. Content focused on preparing for emergencies (e.g., calls to responders), cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), automated external defibrillator (AED) use, and basic first aid. One hundred twenty six individuals were officially trained in Adult First Aid/CPR/AED (US Red Cross). Farm youth were also trained on how to perform basic first aid and to contact local emergency response personnel. Overall, post survey data demonstrated that colony members felt confident that they could perform CPR, use an AED, and perform first aid in the field.  A YouTube training video about emergency response to a farming incident is currently being prepared.
    • Gove County farm safety and health fairs: ATV safety, emergency response, and educational displays to prevent agricultural injury and fatality in Northwest Kansas (C Nelson, Gove County Medical Center, KS). Study personnel collaborated with multiple stakeholders to design a Farm Safety and Health Fair for farm families in Gove County, Kansas, a rural agricultural community. More than 40 farm children and 35 adults attended the event. The project increased safety awareness about ATV use, handling grain and farm chemicals, and dangers associated with common harvesting activities.  Fifteen children were awarded ATV helmets for participating in training activities. The fair also focused on knowledge of basic first aid/emergency response to help farm families respond quickly and effectively to reduce fatality rates. This training is particularly responsive to the community since, in Western Kansas, a large proportion of farmers live 30 or more miles from a Critical Access Hospital.

    Year 2014–2015

    • Family ATV Safety Training (J Mortensen, North Dakota Farm Bureau, Bismark, ND). Two ATV safety classes were provided in rural North Dakota to 56 farm youth and one or both parents. During the training, parent focus groups identified several solutions for reducing ATV injuries among farm youth.  Notable solutions included monitoring the ATV keys and keeping them out of children’s reach, performing frequent safety checks, and purchasing helmets.  The project also led to a radio PSA on ATV Safety Awareness (
    • Safe Farming, Safe Living: Educational Outreach to the Leut (K Lutjens, Avera St. Benedict Health Center, Parkston, SD). To address the large number of agriculture-related injuries in rural South Dakota, Avera St. Benedict Health Center personnel provided culturally appropriate agricultural safety and health training to ~500 residents of the Dakota Hutterite Colonies. Topics included eye protection, heat/cold illnesses, sun and water safety, large animal safety, PTO/Rollover prevention, and ATV safety. The investigators observed a 51% reduction in agriculture trauma-related incidents after the training, and the Hutterite community requested additional future safety trainings.

    Year 2013–2014

    • Piloting an occupational ATV/UTV safety workshop for Iowa farmers (C Jennissen, G Denning, K Harland, University of Iowa, Department of Emergency Medicine, Iowa City, IA; A Winborn, Greater Johnson County Rural Health and Safety Clinic). This team developed and delivered a workshop on the safe use of ATVs/UTVs in agriculture. Post-workshop surveys found that 44% of attendees stated they were more likely to wear a helmet when using an ATV after attending the workshop.
    • Promoting Harness and Lifeline Use in Grain Bin Entry for Farm and Elevator Workers through Development, Training, and Distribution of Specific Lifeline Installation/Procedures/Use Training Curriculum (R Aherin, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, IL; D Hill, Emergency Services Rescue Training Inc., Penn State University, State College, PA). The investigators developed a safety harness and lifeline use curriculum for grain bin entry and pilot tested it among 25 farmers. Project investigators partnered with grain bin manufacturers and a farmer’s cooperative to retrofit older grain bins. This collaboration has influenced the new ASABE x624 Grain Bin Entry Design Standard.

    Year 2012–2013

    • Using technology to enhance the flexibility, adaptability of training tools for community based training in grain handling safety (J Adkisson, Grain and Feed Association of Illinois, Springfield, IL; R Aherin, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, IL; P Rhomba, Illinois Farm Bureau, Bloomington-Normal, IL). This project built on community partnerships with the development of training tools to promote grain handling safety. Special emphasis was given to designing a visual learning assessment tool to address low literacy participants (e.g., photos and videos).  The materials were assessed by experienced trainers and are now available to the public at The YouTube training videos created with funds allocated to this project have been viewed more than 21,000 times.

    Year 2011–2012

    • Web-based interaction encouraging safe and healthy rural-related behavior (S Burgus, Farm Safety 4 Just Kids, Urbandale, IA; K Funkenbusch, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO). Project personnel conducted a pre- and post-survey of farming youth who participated in an agricultural safety and health blog. Users reported that the blog was a useful tool for discussing health and safety topics with other young farmers.  Participants included farm youth in all nine GPCAH states.  The blog had more than 2,700 views and 141 Facebook shares during a one year period.
    • Using community-based partnerships for grain safety awareness and prevention training across the grain handling spectrum (J Adkisson, Grain and Feed Association of Illinois, Springfield, IL; R Aherin, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, IL; P Rhomba, Illinois Farm Bureau, Bloomington-Normal, IL). The project developed and disseminated grain handling safety messages and trainings (printed, PSAs, wallet cards and decals), and supported the construction of the Grain Handling Safety Coalition website (now one of the most popular grain safety information sources available on the web with sustained funding from over 15 organizational members). Public Service Announcements were aired on 70 Farm Bureau affiliate radio stations and were also disseminated through OSHA QuickTakes. Interviews of participants were incorporated into NPRs grain bin fatality story (Howard Berkes, Buried in Grain, 3/24/2013, see Community trainings reached 517 people (students, farmers, elevator employees, others).
    • Prevention of injury, illness, and fatality due to grain entrapment and exposure (D Neenan, National Education Center for Agricultural Safety, Peosta, IA). This project addressed the ongoing burden of grain entrapment deaths within the region by providing four interactive grain safety and rescue training events to over 350 farmers, grain industry employees, and rural volunteer rescue personnel. As of October 2016, there were nine successful grain bin rescues performed by volunteer emergency response personal who had attended the training.