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What Is the Right to Farm?

The right to farm is the right to farm free from concerns over lawsuits. This right allows farmers to do what they naturally should be able to do: farm and be less concerned with annoying neighbors. 

When and Why Did Right to Farm Come about?  

Right-to farm laws were mostly enacted in the 1980s.  These laws came about because many farmers were forced to shut down operations because of huge nuisance lawsuits filed by former city dwellers that moved to the country, encroached on farm owners, and then decided they didn't like the smell or look of where they had just moved. 

What Are the Various Types of Right-to-Farm Laws Available Around the Country? 

  • No nuisance presumption states: In these states, the government identifies certain farm areas as presumptively no nuisance areas. That is, as these areas have been farming areas for ages, the state presumes that any farming done on that land is not a nuisance to anyone.  As long as the farming is conducted in a reasonable manner, a nuisance suit against that farming operation will not stand.  
  • Listed annoyance states: Some states simply categorize specific annoyance as being either a legal nuisance or not a legal nuisance. In many states annoyances such odor, noise, and dust are listed as annoyances which may not be the subject of a nuisance suit. 
  • Operational change rules: Many states do not allow significant changes in the type of operations being conducted by a farmer. In many states, for example, farming operations are not permitted to undergo a substantial change in size.  
  • Arbitration states: Many states statutorily permit or demand that farmers and nuisance plaintiffs undergo binding or non-binding arbitration to resolve their issues.

If I am a Farmer. What Do I Need to Do to Avoid a Nuisance Suit?

Right-to farm laws give farmers freedom to do what they want. The one caveat to this is that the farmer simply must farm in a reasonable manner to be protected by the right-to-farm laws. 

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Most farmers and suburbanites alike are not aware of right-to farm laws.  If you are facing a nuisance suit from a new neighbor, and you have been farming an area for years you may have a right to defend against the suit. Contacting a local property attorney is a wise first step to figuring out what your rights are and how to defend against a nuisance suit

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 11-13-2013 11:16 AM PST

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