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What Are Right-to-Farm Laws?

Agricultural operations often cause dust and odors which could impact neighbors and bring nuisance claims.  All 50 states have a right-to-farm law on the books, providing a nuisance defense for agricultural operations.  This defense varies from state to state, but each state’s law operates to provide a defense in situations when a party is claiming the farm is a nuisance.

What is a nuisance? A nuisance is a condition or situation impacting another person’s use and enjoyment of property. Let’s say, for example, that a grain producer applies nutrients to a field neighboring a residence. The neighbors might not be able to use their property immediately after the producer applies the nutrients due to the smell. This could be a potential nuisance because the neighbors have lost the use and enjoyment of their property.

A right-to-farm law operates to provide a defense to the agricultural operation when facing nuisance lawsuits.  To use the defense, the agricultural operation must meet their state’s statutory requirements, which vary from state to state.  In several states, for example, the farming operation would need to either preexist the non-agricultural uses in the area or at least be in operation for a set period. In many states, the operation must also comply with other federal, state, or even local laws, such as environmental laws or local zoning ordinances.

The right-to-farm law defense can be a powerful tool to protect a farming operation, but an operation needs to qualify for the defense.  The National Ag Law Center has compiled all of the state right-to-farm laws: https://nationalaglawcenter.org/state-compilations/right-to-farm/.

Goeringer, Paul. “What Are Right-to-Farm Laws?”. Southern Ag Today 2(15.5). April 8, 2022. Permalink

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