By Tiffany Dowell Lashmet October 05, 2015 | 5:00 am EDT
Beginning in the 1970s, state legislatures recognized (the problem of urban areas encroaching on farmlands and residents filing lawsuits against an existing farm) threatened not only individual operations, but also the nation’s food supply. In response, legislatures in all 50 states passed statutes, known as Right to Farm laws, designed to protect an agricultural operation facing a nuisance lawsuit if certain conditions are met.
Right to Farm statutes provide an affirmative defense in the event a farm is sued for nuisance. It does not prevent a lawsuit from being filed, but does allow a party to whom the statute applies to successfully seek its dismissal.
Specific provisions vary greatly by state. It is critical for dairy operators to be familiar with their state’s Right to Farm statute. Consider these points when reviewing your state’s Right to Farm statute.
To whom does the statute apply?
Most Right to Farm statutes define agricultural operations to which the statute applies.
What claims does the statute bar?
All Right to Farm statues offer protection from nuisance suits, but it’s important to understand whether the statute also applies to trespass suits.
Does the statute require compliance with generally accepted practices?
Some statutes, including those in Michigan and New York, offer protection to farmers who comply with generally accepted agricultural practices.
Is there a “time in operation” requirement?
Many statutes establish a time period the agricultural operation must be in existence before the statutory defense is available.
How does the statute address changes in operation?
Producers must know how changes to their operation – changes in technology or new agricultural activities – will impact their Right to Farm protection.
Does the statute allow for attorney fees?
Even if successful, defending a lawsuit is expensive.
What are the limitations?
Right to Farm laws are not absolute.
This article is not a substitute for the advice of a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.
Tiffany Dowell Lashmet is an ag law specialist with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension. Contact her via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org