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 50 years ago, 25 years ago, and even 10 years ago.  Operators face ongoing challenges from changes in consumer preferences to increased needs to meet environmental goals.  This change in the environment puts more pressure on an operator to skillfully manage potential legal risks to their operation.  Managing legal risks can mean following a process to hire new employees, correctly training the new employees, allowing them additional training to stay up-to-date on the most recent chemical application and animal welfare practices, and developing other proactive strategies to limit legal challenges impacting an operation.

            Other strategies also exist to limit liability associated with owning an agricultural operation.  Operations can develop farm security plans to include securing parts of the operations with locks, setting up security cameras, and other steps.  Resources to assist operations with these plans are provided at the end of this fact sheet.  Groups such as the Animal Agriculture Alliance and other organizations may provide additional resources.  You should check with such groups to see if you may access these additional resources.

            Other avenues to consider include understanding how the state’s right-to-farm law operates.  Right-to-farm laws provide a defense to claims that the agricultural operation is a nuisance.  To learn more about how this law works in Maryland, check out Goeringer and Lynch, 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 thoughts on how to manage other potential legal risks in your operation, see Goeringer, Understanding Agricultural Liability: Legal Risk Management Considerations (UME, 2015). 

            This fact sheet will focus on some of the employment issues which can lead to bigger problems if not properly addressed.  It will also highlight a landowner’s rights when faced with protesters on the farm.  Finally, we will look at how the operation should be proactive, and at developing a record to equip the operation for any possible litigation that might come its way.

Aerial image of Maryland Dairy operation.  Image by Edwin Remsberg

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This work was supported by the Maryland Soybean Board.