Whether producing crops, livestock, or other agricultural products, it can be challenging if not impossible for a farmer to completely prevent dust, odors, surface water runoff, noise, and other unintended impacts. Ohio law recognizes these challenges as well as the value of agricultural production by extending legal protections to farmers. The protections are “affirmative defenses” that can shield a farmer from liability if someone files a private civil lawsuit against the farmer because of the unintended impacts of farming. A court will dismiss the lawsuit if the farmer successfully raises and proves an applicable affirmative defense.
Recently, Peggy Kirk Hall, OSU Associate Professor and director of the OSU Extension Agricultural and Resource Law Program, wrote a law bulletin, that summarizes Ohio’s affirmative defenses that relate to production agriculture. The statutes afford legal protections based on the type of activity and the type of resulting harm. For example, one offers protections to farmers who obtain fertilizer application certification training and operate in compliance with an approved nutrient management plan, while another offers nuisance lawsuit protection against neighbors who move to an agricultural area. Each affirmative defense has different requirements a farmer must meet but a common thread among the laws is that a farmer must be a “good farmer” who is in compliance with the law and utilizing generally accepted agricultural practices. It is important for farmers to understand these laws and know how the laws apply to a farm’s production activities.
A copy of that bulletin is available as a pdf file on-line at https://farmoffice.osu.edu/blog-categories/property and on the Wayne Extension web page at http://go.osu.edu/waynefarmmgmt. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the “Ohio Affirmative Defense Laws” heading. For those without internet access I can supply a hard copy. Contact the Wayne County Extension office at 330-264-8722.