Developing Proactive Legal Strategies Can Help Limit Legal Issues in Your Farm Operation

Written by Ellen Pearson and Paul Goeringer

   

          Agricultural operations work in a different environment than they did even ten years ago.
Operators face ongoing challenges from changes in consumer preferences to increased needs to
meet environmental goals. These changes put more pressure on an operator to skillfully manage
potential legal risks to their operation. Managing legal risks can mean following a well-thought
out process to hire new employees, correctly training new employees, allowing them additional
training to stay current on the most recent chemical application and animal welfare practices, and
developing other proactive strategies to limit legal challenges impacting a farm operation.

            A number of other available strategies will help limit liability associated with owning an agricultural business.  Operations can develop security plans to include installing locks on parts of the farm, setting up security cameras, and other steps.  A list of resources to assist operations with these plans is provided at the end of this fact sheet.  For additional resources, check with groups such as the Animal Agriculture Alliance and other organizations.

Aerial image of Maryland Dairy operation.  Image by Edwin Remsberg

            Understanding how your state’s right-to-farm law operates is also important for managing legal risks.  Right-to-farm laws provide a defense to claims that an agricultural operation is a nuisance.  To learn more about how this law works in Maryland, see Understanding Agricultural Liability: Maryland’s Right-to-Farm Law Can Limit Liability for Maryland Farm, Commercial Fishing, and Seafood Operators (UME, 2017).  For more general information on how to manage other potential legal risks in your operation, see Understanding Agricultural Liability: Legal Risk Management Considerations (UME, 2015).  

            This fact sheet focuses on a farm landowner’s rights when faced with protesters. It will also highlight some hiring and employment issues which can lead to bigger problems if not properly handled.  Finally, we will look at how the farm operation can and should be proactive, and the importance of developing good records to equip the operation for any possible litigation.

Table of Contents

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This work was supported by the Maryland Soybean Board.