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MADISON - A bill to provide state funding for the Wisconsin farm tractor Rollover Protective Structure (ROPS) Rebate Program passed its first test in the legislature, although supporters will have to wait a bit longer before trying to push it through the full legislative process and into law.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Bob Kulp (R-Stratford) and Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point) in January. The bill passed unanimously through both the Assembly and Senate agricultural committees, but the legislature adjourned before scheduling it for a full vote in either house.

“This program makes Wisconsin farms safer,” Kulp said. “It’s very positive that the bill made it through both committees this year, but we’ll need at least one more big push to get it signed into law. This is something Wisconsin farmers need.”

Wisconsin would join New York and Minnesota as the only states to fund rebates for rollbar retrofits.

“This bill has the potential to help make thousands of Wisconsin tractors safer,” added Senator Testin. “I’m committed to working with Rep. Kulp and the rest of the legislature to see that this bill is enacted next session.”

Testifying on behalf of the bill were farmers from across Wisconsin, an insurance executive and staff from the National Farm Medicine Center (NFMC), part of Marshfield Clinic Research Institute. NFMC started the statewide rebate program in 2013 with philanthropic support from the Auction of Champions. More than 200 rollbars have been installed so far.

But this successful program needs support in order to continue.

“Central Wisconsin donors have been very generous, funding ROPS retrofits in more than 30 Wisconsin counties,” said Farm Center scientist Barbara Marlenga, Ph.D., director of the Wisconsin ROPS Rebate Program. “But additional funding is needed, or we’ll have to shut the program down at a time when so many farmers are struggling financially with low commodity prices.”

“Our next step is to ask the Governor to include the program in the next budget,” Kulp said. 

A ROPS, when used with a seatbelt, is 99 percent effective in preventing injury or death in the event of an overturn. All Wisconsin farmers are eligible.

To register, call 1-877-ROPS-R4U (1-877-767-7748), or go to www.ropsr4u.com and click on “Wisconsin.” The program reimburses up to 70 percent (maximum of $865) toward the total cost of purchasing, shipping and installing individual ROPS.

This 90-second video makes the case to register, telling the realistic story of a teenage operator whose tractor tips over during haying.

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