The measure, a request from farmers, protects them from people who move into rural communities and then file complaints or lawsuits.
It will restrict certain types of civil lawsuits based on farming activities, require plaintiffs to prove noncompliance with state or federal requirements, and limit who may file nuisance lawsuits against farmers. For negligence, trespassing, personal injury and strict liability lawsuits, as well as nuisance suits, plaintiffs must provide clear and convincing evidence the farming activity does not comply with state and federal environmental laws, regulations or best management practices.
Nuisance suits will also be restricted to plaintiffs located within a half-mile of the activity or structure targeted in the suit. Plaintiffs that sue over activities deemed legal could be asked to pay the defendant farm’s attorney fees.
The bill includes an expansive definition of nuisance — “reasonable use and enjoyment of land” — including noise, smoke, odors, dust, fumes, particle emissions or vibration.
Steve Singleton, owner of Singleton and Sons Farm which grows potatoes in Hastings, thanked the Governor for his support of the legislation.
“Now we can focus on work that matters for the farm and for our community,” he said. “My sons will be able to continue the legacy of our family-owned operation without the threat of costly and detrimental nuisance lawsuits.”
Michael K. Brown, a fifth-generation farmer and the owner/manager of Brown’s Produce Farms in Quincy said, “I appreciate the Legislature and the Governor for making sure there will be a sixth-generation of Browns able to farm in Gadsden County, Florida, just like the five generations before them.”
On behalf of all Florida farmers, Nancy Stephens, chair of the Florida Ag Coalition added, “with this law in place we can preserve Florida’s natural landscape, the natural resources and wildlife that depend on it, and slow the conversion of farm and ranch land to other nonfood producing uses, while providing long-term sustainability of our food supply.”
Florida Agritourism Association executive director Lena Juarez added, “on behalf of the members of Florida Agritourism Association, we thank Governor DeSantis for his support of SB 88, Farming Operations. Agritourism provides visitors to Florida’s farms and ranches a place to play and helps farmers diversify their income. Of the 47,000 farms across our state, most are small farms and agritourism adds value to every acre.”
According to John Hoblick, president of the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, “strengthening Florida’s Right to Farm law will minimize nuisance lawsuits, enabling farmers to focus on the mission of providing food and remaining in business.”
“Across the state, more than 47, 000 farms produce the food that feeds the world and remain committed to growing the food we need survive,” he said.
The bill is set to become law July 1st.