University of Maryland Extension

Understanding Agricultural Liability: Maryland's Right-to-Farm Law

Paul Goeringer & Lori Lynch

Many agricultural areas have seen individuals without farm backgrounds and little understanding of farm operations moving into the neighborhood. Once there, they find noises, insects, farm equipment on the roads, smells and normal characteristics of agricultural and rural life unexpected and objectionable and then they complain. As a response to this, all fifty states have passed some form of “right-to-farm” (RTF) legislation. These RTF laws protect agricultural operations from the nonfarm neighbors by limiting and providing a defense for nuisance actions brought against farms and other agricultural operations. Although there is no uniform RTF law, each state’s law provides the same general protection to agriculture. This protection comes in some form of an affirmative defense: farmers use this defense against private nuisance claims and public nuisance claims involving agricultural operations. The defense works to protect existing farmland from the new entrants into agricultural areas who become upset with normal farming practices. 

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