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Keep Your Farm Safe—Call Before You Dig

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
August 19, 2015

Source:  Emily Wilmes, Extension Educator-Livestock
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties

Keep Your Farm Safe—Call Before You Dig
By Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (08/19/15) — Did you know there are over 2.6 million miles of pipeline in the United States today?  Currently, there is over half a million of additional pipeline in planning, permitting, or construction.  The majority of U.S. pipelines are used for gas transmission and hazardous liquids.  With so much pipeline buried around the country, it’s no wonder that a large majority ends up near or on farmland. 

Have you ever heard of calling 811, or the catchphrase, “Call Before You Dig”?  Recently, a survey of farmers with pipelines on their land was conducted, and the results showed that only 18% of those farmers had ever called 811 before digging.  18% is not a lot, especially when you consider how dangerous pipelines can be.  Pipelines carry explosive materials, and if you hit one while digging you could be liable for damages.  Not to mention the risk of injury or even death from hitting a pipeline.  So, why wouldn’t you call 811?

Calling 811 is completely FREE.  When you dial 811, you will be connected to your local One Call Center--in Minnesota, it is the Gopher State One Call Center.  If you have a smartphone, you can download the FREE Gopher State One Call application.  The only information you need is the location of where you will be digging.  The One-Call Center will notify all affected facility operators, and the approximate location of pipelines and cables in the excavation area will be marked within 2-3 days. 

So, what activity constitutes needing to call 811?  There is an exemption from calling for “normal” farming activities, so make sure you know the difference between farming and excavating.  Farming activities include plowing, planting, cultivating, and harvesting at depths of less than 18 inches.  Excavating activities include fence building, tiling, terracing, grading or contouring, deep tilling, soil sampling, tree and stump removal, clearing or grubbing, ditch cleaning, trenching, and augering.   If you are doing any of these excavation projects, you need to Call Before You Dig.

Pipelines allow easy transport of gas and other hazardous liquids, but it’s important that we respect where these pipelines are in order to keep ourselves--and our farms--safe.  As one pipeline safety group puts it, “It took years to make it a farm...and it takes one call to keep it safe.”  When you call 811 before digging, you reduce the chance of causing damage to less than 1%.  Remember to Call Before You Dig--it is completely free and will help keep you safe. 

For additional information about buried pipelines and the free calling center, visit or


Emily Wilmes
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems - Livestock
(320) 255-6169
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