The Senate Committee on Judiciary, chaired by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) today passed Senate Bill 88, Farming Operations, by State Senator Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford). The bill expands protections available under Florida’s Right to Farm Act.
“We frequently update our laws to recognize changes in other industries, and I want to make sure our hardworking Florida farmers aren’t left behind. The Senate is committed to preserving Florida’s farms, legacy businesses that contribute to our nation’s food supply and billions of dollars to our state’s economy,” said Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby), a lifelong farmer.
“Farms that conform to generally accepted agricultural and management practices should not face frivolous or nuisance lawsuits,” said Senator Brodeur. “By modernizing the Right to Farm Act, we are striking the correct balance between residential development and critical farm work and agritourism activities.”
Florida’s Right to Farm Act was originally passed in 1979. SB 88 expands and modernizes protections currently available under the Act to protect farmers from lawsuits based on their routine farming and agricultural activities.
The bill prevents a plaintiff from recasting a lawsuit as a negligence suit or another type of suit as a means of circumventing the legal protections for farming in the Right to Farm Act, and requires a plaintiff to prove by clear and convincing evidence that a farming activity does not comply with state and federal environmental laws, regulations, or best management practices.
The legislation also limits plaintiffs who may bring a nuisance lawsuit based on a farming activity to those located within one-half mile of the activity and limits damage awards to the market value of any property harmed by the nuisance. Unsuccessful plaintiffs would be required to pay the defendant farm’s attorney fees and costs in the limited circumstances that the lawsuit was based on a farming activity complying with environmental laws and agricultural management practices. Additionally, the bill adds agritourism to the definition of farm operation.