Chapter 4: Managing legal risks to grow your urban farm is part of the online publication "From Surviving to Thriving: Strategies for Urban Farm Success.
Legal risk is associated with many of the day-to-day activities of all types of farms. For example, there are legal ramifications for not repaying an operating loan or failing to use appropriate safety precautions when using pesticides. Marketing agricultural products involves contractual commitments, and human issues associated with agriculture also have legal implications, ranging from employer/employee rules and regulations to inheritance laws. Urban farms can be presented with additional legal challenges because they exist in densely populated areas surrounded by private and commercial neighbors unlikely to be familiar with (or possibly simply intolerant of) the sights, sounds, smells and activities of farming, and because they are typically located in areas that were specifically not set up to support agricultural activities.
Offering a horse for lease can be a good option for an owner who is unable to ride or care for their horse due to physical, time, or financial constraints but still wishes to maintain ownership. A lease can be an alternative to selling the horse, a way to cut maintenance costs, or an avenue to ensure the horse remains in work. An equine lease can take many forms, depending on how the lease agreement is constructed. This publication includes information on the factors to consider when preparing or reviewing a written lease agreement, as well as case studies that describe the terms of the leases.
According to the 2007 Census of Ag, Maryland had roughly 5,970 livestock operations and Delaware had roughly 1,372 livestock operations. These livestock operations are asked to co-exist among grain, vegetable, or orchard production, or commercial or residential development. For these livestock producers, a good fence can be one way to be a good neighbor and limit disputes. But who exactly has the duty to build the fence, how costs are allocated, and what standards should a fence be built to?
You can take steps to limit your potential liability by understanding your legal obligation or duty to protect visitors and other third parties from foreseeable harm. You also will need to know to whom you owe the duty and what duty others may owe to you. Steps you can take to limit your liability include obtaining insurance, procuring releases, and providing warnings. You should work with a licensed attorney in your area and your insurance agent to identify the tools that will work best for you.
The publication provides a general overview of previous court decisions related to fencing in agriculture and examples of county ordinances that impact fencing duties. For example, counties potentially have ordinances that impact the maintenance and construction of fences, specify how costs should be split between neighboring landowners, and liens to force non-paying landowners to pay their share of the costs.
This fact sheet can serve as another tool in a farmer’s risk management plans by providing information on how farmers can protect themselves from legal challenges from a nuisance or violation of an environmental permit. The information discussed in this fact sheet will not eliminate threats of lawsuits. Elimination of 100 percent of legal risk is not possible.
All Maryland produce growers have the shared goal of growing safe food for consumers. Despite growers’ best efforts, however, foodborne illness outbreaks happen. When an outbreak occurs and can be traced to the source, it is usually followed by a recall of the product. A recall can result in substantial financial damage to the grower and have ripple effects throughout the industry. Having a recall plan in place lessens the confusion, delay, and financial repercussions which can stem from a recall.
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.
Many farms across Maryland use interns to lighten the overall farm workload and help young people gain practical farming knowledge. Although interns can be a welcome addition to a farm’s workforce, farm employers need to be aware of how to properly compensate interns and the legal consequences of adding them to the payroll.