Tags: ROPS, Safety, Agriculture, Farming, Tractor

Jan. 25, 2024

CONTACT: Scott Heiberger

CONTACT: Melissa Ploeckelman

Wisconsin ROPS Rebate Program re-launched

Oneida County farmer glad he made the call

The Wisconsin ROPS Rebate Program has announced new funding and a new reimbursement scheme limiting farmers’ out-of-pocket expenses to $500, no matter the total cost of purchasing, shipping and installing a rollover protective structure.

The rebate program is run by the National Farm Medicine Center at Marshfield Clinic Research Institute and is made possible through generous philanthropic support from the Auction of Champions. More than 340 ROPS have been installed through the program since its inception in 2013.

“We’re pleased to announce a recent increase in donor funding, which will enable us to start working through our wait list,” said Casper Bendixsen, Ph.D., director of the National Farm Medicine Center.

Oneida County farmer John Engel, 58, started the New Year by retrofitting his John Deere 3020 through the program. Engel will pay just $472 out-of-pocket (after a rebate of $1,101, or 70 percent of the total cost).

The JD 3020 was Engel’s only tractor (out of six) without rollover protection, which gnawed at him.

“Due to the nature of our work, it’s not unusual to take a person who has never driven a tractor before, and set them on this particular tractor to maybe rake straw or something, because the 3020 doesn’t require a huge amount of skill to operate,” Engel said.

He said he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if a hired person or family member suffered a rollover-related injury while driving this tractor.

“The first tractor I owned was a Farmall B (built in the 1940s) and my daughter, who was probably 14 at the time, liked to drive it,” Engel said. “Well one day she popped a wheelie with it and that scared me. At that point I said, hmm, I personally might take that risk but I am not going to put somebody else on a tractor that doesn’t have that rollover protection and a seat belt, because one doesn’t do any good without the other. I got rid of that tractor.”

Tractor overturns are the leading cause of farm-related deaths in the U.S. That’s why it’s so important that each tractor have a ROPS. A ROPS, when used with a seatbelt, is 99 percent effective in preventing injury or death in the event of an overturn.

More than half the tractors in Wisconsin do not have this protection. ROPS did not become standard on U.S.-manufactured tractors until 1985.

Riesterer & Schnell in Antigo performed Engel’s retrofit. “They got me in really fast and did a nice job on the installation,” he said. “They made it very easy.”

Engel grew up in Leon, Wis., near Sparta, in the hilly region of the state known as the Driftless Area. He did a lot of farm work as a youth. “My grandmother was pretty good at volunteering me to help neighboring farmers.”

Engel, trained as a chemist, has made a career in the paper industry, first with the Rhinelander paper mill and for the past decade with Loparex, a North Carolina-based paper and film-coating company. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1988 from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and a Ph.D. in 1993 from Iowa State University.

But farming is in his blood. He returned to farming more than 13 years ago. Today, with his partner, Rodney Kuczmarski, they farm about 600 acres of row crops near Rhinelander, primarily small grains such as oats, barley and rye, with soybeans and corn rotated in.

Engel said in some ways his operation, Engel’s Buckwood Acres, LLC, feels like a CSA (community-supported agriculture), growing particular grains to sell to area horse and livestock owners. “And we’ll trade barley to the guy down the road who raises heritage pigs in exchange for some of his pork. That way we get to taste our own hard work.”

The 3020 is at the heart of a lot of the work, being used to run a grain auger, pull wagons and rake straw.

“We make a lot of bales, three to four thousand a year,” Engel said. “Baling straw is my favorite thing to do. It’s a big reason why I got back into farming. The weather is good when you bale and you’re working with real good people and so it’s those fond memories I find attractive.”

From now on, those memories will be made a little safer, thanks to the ROPS.

Wisconsin tractor owners can register for the program via the hotline, 1-877-767-7748 (1-877-ROPSR4U), or the Web site, www.ropsr4u.com.


John Deere 3020 belonging to Oneida County farmer John Engel with a newly-installed rollover protective structure (ROPS). The Wisconsin ROPS Rebate Program will cover 70 percent of the cost. Riesterer & Schnell in Antigo did the work. (Photo provided by John Engel.)

3020 with new ROPS (.jpg)

Oneida County farmer John Engel sits atop his John Deere 3020, retrofitted with a rollover protective structure through the Wisconsin ROPS Rebate Program. The rebate will cover 70 percent of the total cost. Riesterer & Schnell in Antigo performed Engel’s retrofit. (Photo provided by John Engel.)

John on 3020 with new ROPS (.jpg)