Legislature approves bill to protect farms from nuisance lawsuits

Posted: Sunday, April 22, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- The Legislature has passed a bill aimed at protecting farmers from nuisance lawsuits.

The bill, which passed the House Friday by a vote of 30-9, would protect farms that have been in operation for more than three years from lawsuits filed by neighboring property owners who are bothered by the noises, smells, smoke and other discomforts that may result from farm operations. The Senate had previously approved the bill.

''This bill gets at some fundamental issues of what happens to somebody who has been living with the land and producing from that land when the neighborhood starts to change and people move in around them,'' said Rep. Dyson, R-Eagle River. ''People think they have the right to change what the long-standing landowner has been doing.''

The bill amends state law to say that an agricultural facility is not a private nuisance if the governing body of the local soil and water conservtion district has determined that operations are consistent with the local soil conservation plan.

The bill also requires that real estate disclosure statements for the transfer of property must include information about nearby agricultural operations.

The measure does not release farms from liability resulting from illegal or negligent conduct or flooding caused by agricultural operations.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, voted against the bill, noting that forestry, timber harvesting, manufacturing and processing operations were included under the definition of agricultural operations.

''This bill lends itself to some very wide interpretations and some mischief in the future,'' Kerttula said.

But Rep. John Harris, R-Valdez, said that provision was included to enable farmers to create logs and board from trees cut down to clear land.

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