Right-to-farm Law Gets Boost from Indiana Courts

Concept behind the law upheld by judges.

Published on: Jan 26, 2009

Indiana has had a right-to-farm law on the books for many years. The concept is to give existing operations protection from nuisance suits, and guarantee them the right to continue their operation so they can stay profitable, even if suburban neighbors move in around them and don't appreciate the noise, smell or dust.

Katrina Hall, an Indiana Farm Bureau legislative specialist, generally specializing in tax-related issues, reports that the Indiana Court of Appeals recently issues an important ruling in regard sot the Right-to-Farm law. Hall reports that it was the court's first actual opportunity to review the current right-to-farm law.

The court 'upheld the application of the law as an affirmative defense in a nuisance case.' In layman's terms, that means that the court agreed with a lower court's decision. In that decision, the judge ruled that the farm operation was protected by the right-to-farm law already on the books. The case in question was entitle Lindsey v. DeGroot.

Upholding the original ruling means that the neighbors have no legal right or basis to compel normal, non-negligent farm operations to stop their operation on the grounds that they're a nuisance to the neighbors.

Right-to-farm laws received considerable press in the early 1990's. Many were strengthened across the country at that time. The majority of states have some version of a right-to-farm law. However, they vary widely in scope and how they're enforced. Other states have endured far more court challenges than Indiana. The laws were originally passed so that farmers who suddenly became surrounded by neighbors that bought 20 to 20 acres in the country for a house and garden could be assured that as long as they maintained their operation properly, and didn't violate state regulations or environmental laws, they could continue operating. Various states have different interpretations as to whether right to farm legislation also addresses if an existing operation can expand.

Farm Bureau watched the case closely, since the outcome was important to its voting members, Hall notes. The Indiana Agricultural Law Foundation , affiliated with Indiana Farm Bureau, filed an amicus curi brief in this precedent setting case. Basically, that means it filed a brief on behalf of the farmer in the suit.

The Indiana Law Foundation's main purpose is to assist in possible precedent-setting cases where the individual farmer mired down in the case might not have enough money to carry it through, Hall notes.