As the days fly by, the ag community across the state is starting to plan for spring activities. Whether it’s putting up new fence lines, planning major construction projects, or deep ripping fields, now is a good time to remember that safety is key, particularly when it comes to moving soil.

Underground utilities are buried everywhere, and it can be nearly impossible to locate them. The Common Ground Alliance association reports that a utility line is damaged every six minutes, damaging anything from gas, electric, sewage lines and more. Not only are these damages costly, but they disrupt service and can cause serious harm or death to those digging.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of work is happening on a farm or ranch — safety always needs to come first,” said Carlyle Currier, vice president of Colorado Farm Bureau. “The 811 Call Before You Dig system is a way for farmers and ranchers to understand what’s beneath them when they are doing major construction and excavation work.”

Colorado’s farmers and ranchers work their land every day. It’s important to note that the 811 Call Before You Dig system is not meant to prevent farmers and ranchers from conducting their farm operations in a normal and practical way. Regular maintenance and normal agriculture operations like tillage and replacing fencelines, do not require a call to 811. However, any larger or deeper excavation should be carefully planned and include an 811 call.

“Working in agriculture is unlike any other industry,” said Currier. “Working the land on a daily basis, farmers and ranchers know their land in a way many other landowners don’t. We appreciate the 811 system for helping us know what’s under the earth that we can’t see. The system helps us do our work better and maintains the safety for ourselves and the public.”

When an 811 call is made, underground utilities in the area are required to mark the location of the facilities in the area identified by the call within two days. 811 locates can also be done on an emergency basis when the need arises.

In addition to safety in the field, policymakers and a broad group of stakeholders are working to improve state statutes, bolster the 811 system and protect public safety. Colorado Farm Bureau has worked with legislators and many of these stakeholders to craft legislation that improves the 811 system. The result, S.B. 167, will advance public safety but also account for the unique nature of farm and ranch work.  CFB would like to thank Sens. Scott and Donovan for their leadership on the measure.

Under the legislation, normal agricultural operations like tillage, replacing existing fencelines and other minor regular maintenance do not require a call to 811. However, major excavation work, such as building construction, does. It is important to recognize the importance of safety when doing and planning any kind of excavation and it is encouraged that everyone call 811 before digging.