Agriculture Discussion board: Plan ahead for harvest season | Business


At a recent meeting of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA), I was fortunate enough to catch up with the good people from the Pipeline Ag Safety Alliance. They are a partner with NACAA and always share the most up-to-date information and resources on safety around utilities on farms.

One of the messages that I really appreciated from this year’s conference was the discussion around excavation on farms. Although we talk about 811 and calling MISS DIG, the safety message covers much more than “digging.” The list of excavating activities covers things that happen regularly on farms including fence building, drain tiling, terracing, grading, contouring, ripping, deep tilling, building or repairing roads, tree or stump removal, deep soil sampling, clearing, grading, ditch cleaning , augering, burying livestock and more.

With harvest season upon us, these activities pick up even more. Days are getting shorter and workers are putting in longer hours. The busier we all get the more likely it is for any of us to make mistakes, so now is the perfect time to remind ourselves how important it is to follow safe excavation practices.

The location of buried utilities can change over time. It is essential for farmers to share that information with any seasonal workers that are operating heavy equipment and always contact 811. Most farm work is planned at least a few days in advance and there are some steps farmers can take to ensure the safety of everyone’s families , workers and land:

  • Take the time to survey the work area with anyone operating equipment: note the location of overhead lines, point out pipelines and cable markers with the approximate location of buried facilities and identify all above ground facilities like valves, regulator stations, farm taps and utility boxes .
  • Landowners or leaseholders should never assume they know the depth of pipelines. Erosion, contouring, ditching or other factors can affect pipeline depth.
  • Call 811 or visit to identify your state One Call center and submit a digital ticket whenever any excavation project is planned.

Calling 811 or submitting an online ticket before starting any excavating project is the first step in the safe digging process. Here is what happens next:

  • When a call is received or a one call ticket is submitted and the area of ​​work is noted, the local one call center, using mapping technology, will identify all buried utilities registered with the center. As an important note: Private facilities, like electric or gas lines feeding out buildings, are not registered with the call center and will NOT be located. Private facility locators must be contacted.
  • An email will go out to the utility operator and any utility within a set distance of the work area. Individual state laws vary, but typically utilities get marked within two or three business days. In Michigan, no matter how big or small the project or how deep you are digging, the law requires you to provide advance notice of at least three full business days to MISS DIG 811 by calling 811 or going online at
  • When the locate technician arrives after being dispatched, he/she will use equipment designed to locate utilities and will identify a gas line, for example, with yellow paint and flags.
  • Technicians will also arrive and locate water lines, telecommunication cables and any other buried utilities. These techs will use orange flags and paint for the communications cables, blue for water and red for electric.
  • After waiting the full three business days (excluding weekends and holidays), work can begin, but first you must confirm the status of your request and make sure all utilities have responded with markings or have determined no utilities are in the work area.
  • Hand dig when digging within 4 feet of paint or flags.
  • Dig with care.

Whether you’re digging a hole, clearing a ditch or installing field tile, the goal of NACAA and the Pipeline Ag Safety Alliance would be for you to be able to perform that task in a safe manner. A manner that allows you and your workers to return safely to their families each day.

A special thanks to the Pipeline Ag Safety Alliance for sharing content for this week’s Traverse City Record-Eagle Ag Forum.

Stan Moore is a farm business management education with the MSU Extension.

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