Farming is a dangerouos occupation - for workers who are in danger of losing arms and legs and for owners whose lack of insurance coverage could mean the loss of their farms.

Recent tragic farm accidents in Idaho and Utah that left two men disabled for life and with no means to pay for medical care, therapy or artificial limbs are strong evidence that Utah laws on insurance coverage need to be changed.In December, a migrant laborer lost both arms at the shoulder and one leg in a farm accident in Idaho. And a few days ago, Juan Arias Duenas had both legs amputated and lost an arm in another farming accident in Milford, Beaver County. The horrible maiming of the two men is only part of the tragedy.

Both were young men with families to support. Neither was covered by Workers' Compensation Fund or other insurance. There is no money for long-term treatment and rehabilitation, and legal battles have only begun to try to reimburse the hospitals for care already given.

Though both states require non-farm employers to pay premiums to the Workers' Compensation Fund for their employees, at the time of the accident Idaho exempted all farm employees, and Utah law exempts farm owners with fewer than five full-time employees from the insurance requirement. That means virtually all farms are exempt.

Farmers maintain that the cost of the insurance is prohibitive, and in many cases they are right.

The Utah Farm Bureau reports that 56 percent of the state's 13,520 farms have cash sales of less than $10,000 annually. With worker compensation costing somewhere between $20,000 and $40,000 a year, many farmers would be put out of business if they had to pay the full cost.

But there must be a workable remedy.

Following the accident in Idaho in December that cost a farm worker three limbs, the Idaho Legislature passed a law requiring farmers to provide insurance coverage for workers. Utah should be able to come up with something similar, at least covering the medical expenses of catastrophic accidents and perhaps making changes in the Workers Compensation Fund to spread the expense to all taxpayers.

Requiring less-expensive catastrophic-care coverage that would kick in when medical costs reach a certain amount would make the insurance more affordable for farm owners but would prevent the terrible losses experienced in the recent accidents.

Changing rules governing the fund so taxpayers share the burden of the cost of catastrophic care is logical because Utah residents end up paying anyway, through higher hospital and insurance fees.

Both victims of the Idaho and Utah accidents have been treated at Utah hospitals. If LDS Hospital and University Hospital are forced to cover the cost of acute care of the two men, they will recoup those losses by raising fees for other patients and insurance costs for everyone.

The owners of the farms are victims, also. The Idaho farm has been owned by the same family for 68 years. It likely will be targeted in a lawsuit to cover the medical-care costs. The owners could lose their farm if the lawsuit is decided in the worker's favor. In any case, they will be burdened emotionally and financially by the court battle, which could take years.

Insurance coverage should provide more than money in the event of an accident. It also should give employers and employees some peace of mind: If a terrible accident occurs, the effects will be lessened.

Exempting one of the most dangerous occupations in the state from workers-compensation coverage just doesn't make sense. Requiring at least catastrophic-care coverage would allow farm owners to buy a little peace of mind.