Pennsylvania Right to Farm Laws
Pennsylvania has done a good job of enacting the Right to Farm laws to protect farmers against nuisance claims and local ordinances which seek to restrict farming and agricultural operations. These laws can be invaluable to farmers, and ensure the Pennsylvania agricultural industry thrives.
Right to Farm LawsPennsylvania has a series of Right to Farm Statutes. Under these laws, normal agricultural operations are broadly defined as, inter alia, livestock, livestock products, ranch-raised fur-bearing animals and products, poultry or bee products, forestry or forestry products, or any product raised or produced on farms and intended for human consumption.
Specifically, these laws attempt to protect farming and agriculture--the largest industry in Pennsylvania. The laws shield against local ordinances which would restrict agricultural use and protect farmers from nuisance lawsuits.
PA Right to Farm Case LawIn a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court case, the Court explained how these laws can help protect farmers. The Supreme Court determined that the question of whether a practice was a normal agricultural operation (and thus covered by the Right to Farm laws) was a decision for the Court to make and would not be based on varying local laws and practices. This ensures uniformity across the state, and allows local farmers to know exactly what operations are protected under the Right to Farm laws.
The Court also analyzed the one-year "statute of repose" in the Right to Farm laws. There are three key requirements for the statute of repose to bar a nuisance action. First, the agricultural operation must have been in lawful operation for at least a year. Second, the conditions must have been in existence and not have been substantially changed since the establishment of the operation. Lastly, the conditions are normal agriculture operations, as generally defined in my first paragraph.
However, if the nuisance suit involves a farming operation which has recently grown, the statute bars nuisance actions where a substantially altered or expanded facility has either been in operation for over a year, or had addressed the expanded or altered facility in a nutrient management plan which was approved prior to the commencement of the expanded or altered facility (so long as it remains in compliance with the plan). In general, if a farming condition has existed for a year or more, a nuisance lawsuit may be barred by the Right to Farm laws.
Agricultural, Communities and Rural Environment Act (ACRE)The Agricultural, Communities and Rural Environment Act (ACRE) prohibits municipalities from adopting ordinances that restrict normal agricultural operations, and directs the Attorney General to review any local ordinance upon request of a land owner who is engaged in agricultural operations.
The Right to Farm laws recognize agriculture as a vibrant industry and seek to preserve Pennsylvania's rich agricultural heritage. However, local ordinances that restrict agriculture and nuisance lawsuits involving farming operations are not per se prohibited, and are allowed for the health and safety of the public.