Do My Neighbors Have the Right to Farm?

After a lot of debate, you decide to buy or build a home in the country. Surrounded by nature and only a few neighbors, you anticipate living in tranquility. However, before doing anything, you need to know the laws about farming. After all, your ideal situation is to enjoy a life of peace, but what would happen if a neighbor started to farm? You would worry about not only animals getting onto your land but also the potential for foul smells and loud machinery.

Although that might sound farfetched, this scenario often plays out as reality. Therefore, before moving to a countryside haven, understand that in the U.S., all states give farmers the legal right to farm. Thus, they have protection under the law that prevents them from getting sued by unhappy neighbors.

When it comes to common law, one of the oldest on the books is “nuisance laws.” That means that if you buy or build a rural home only for your neighbor to start a farm, you can sue that individual for infringing on your right to enjoy your property. In other words, if noise, animal smells, and other pollutants extend their boundary onto yours, you can file a lawsuit.

However, the laws vary by state, which is why before going to the country, it is in your best interest to speak with an attorney who specializes in farm law. If you already have a country home and a new neighbor moves in and starts to farm, the laws usually are on your side since you are an existing resident.

Take time to investigate and know the laws about farming. A real estate agent who has sold homes in that specific area is your best resource. You can ask the Realtor about people already living nearby or what the farming practices are for the area.

If you live in the country and have experienced issues with a neighbor who farms, you can get help from three sources, including the Department of Agriculture, your state’s commissioner of agriculture, and any country farm agents in the area. In some instances, the state Department of Agriculture or Health Department can assist. However, if you have no luck, lack time, or feel overwhelmed fighting the battle yourself, you can rely on help from a qualified attorney.

At one time, right-to-farm laws were nonexistent, but today, farmers have a fundamental right to farm without getting sued. For that reason, you want to do research ahead of buying or building. As for nuisance laws, many states do not consider every offense as a “nuisance.” That means that dust, noise, smells, and even the use of pesticides might be legal. Even so, rural farmers do not have full reign. Because of that, they have to farm reasonably and legally.

Before moving or getting worked up about an existing neighbor impeding on your rural space, talk to a lawyer. That way, you get the facts and potential legal remedies without a feud developing.

Posted on:
December 10th, 2017

Civil Litigation and Appeals