By Al Henderson
Seed Site Manager, Grinnell, Iowa
Some people spend their careers in an office. I’ve spent most of mine in a field. For the past 30 years, I’ve managed our corn seed production site in Grinnell, Iowa. That means every summer, I’m out in the field as our crews walk the rows to detassel corn plants.
For those not familiar with hybrid corn, detasseling is a critical step as we work to make the highest quality corn hybrids for our farmers. It’s as simple as pulling the tassels out of the top of corn plants, and Monsanto typically uses seasonal contractors for this work.
Over the years, working on a detasseling crew has become a tradition for many across the heartland. Trust me: It’s hard work. But it’s also a great way to learn about agriculture and earn a little extra money.
As a site manager, I can tell you that the safety of our seasonal crews is at the heart of everything we do. Our commitment to field safety starts with the safety training every seasonal employee completes before beginning work. We also document our safety protocols in a handbook given to every seasonal worker.
While seasonal crews are in the field, experienced Monsanto employees are on hand to ensure worker safety, including our full-time site nurse, seed technicians and seed quality supervisor, along each crew’s field labor contractor and Monsanto supervisor. Our safety protocols include taking regular breaks for rest and water, keeping a close eye on the temperature, and making sure we take very careful precautions with pesticides and other chemicals.
Recently, there have been some questions about a crop duster who flew over a commercial field in the vicinity of one of our seed production fields. I’d like to take a minute to address these concerns.
At no time did the plane spray Monsanto’s seed production field. After Monsanto personnel made the determination that our seed production field was not sprayed, they decided that it was safe to return to work. Work would not have resumed if we had not determined that is was safe to return to the field. And, if any workers had been exposed, we would have taken immediate steps to offer care and treatment, including decontamination on site and transporting them to a local hospital.
We’re reaching out to these workers and their parents and guardians to provide information about our safety practices and to answer their questions – because truly nothing is more important to us than the safety of all of our employees.