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PFB Applauds House's Commonsense Agritourism Legal Protections
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 11/19/2020

Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB) is calling Wednesday's passage of House Bill 1348 by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives a major step towards preserving Pennsylvania agriculture and helping farms continue to engage with their communities through fun, on-farm activities.

The bill would offer commonsense legal protection to farms that invite the public onto their property for "agritourism" activities such as corn mazes, pick-your-own produce, hayrides, and similar attractions. Specifically, the measure would grant farms that offer agritourism activities reasonable protection from lawsuits that arise from circumstances beyond their control. At the same time, farmers would still need to take steps to ensure guest safety.

"Today's passage of House Bill 1348 by the House of Representatives shows that Pennsylvanians want their local farms to continue to thrive, grow our state's economy and invite their communities to connect with local agriculture," PFB President Rick Ebert said. "Limiting civil liability for agritourism has been a chief priority of Pennsylvania Farm Bureau for close to a decade. We would like to thank the bipartisan coalition of legislators who supported this important reform, especially Rep. Barb Gleim, a farmer who has hosted agritourism activities herself and who championed this legislation. While we applaud this crucial milestone, we also recognize that our work is not yet done and urge the Senate to quickly pass House Bill 1348 before the end of this legislative session."

Agritourism is an important tool to help farmers preserve their farms for future generations by adding income sources that are not tied to often-volatile markets and commodity prices. At the same time, the public is growing more and more interested in local food and on-farm experiences. But the threat of frivolous lawsuits is a major barrier for farms that want to begin or continue offering agritourism experiences.

House Bill 1348 would protect farms from lawsuits in cases where no party is at fault as long as they warn visitors of potential risks by either having them sign a waiver or printing a disclaimer on a ticket or other material that's given to visitors. The measure would not give farms a free pass from ensuring guest safety and farms could still be held accountable if they fail to fix or warn patrons of obvious and dangerous safety risks.

"Farmers, especially those who engage with the public, make safety a top priority," Ebert continued. "But farms are natural environments and despite farmers' best efforts to ensure guest safety, it is impossible to eliminate every hazard. This commonsense reform would help farmers who are operating agritourism activities in a safe manner continue to invite their communities to experience Pennsylvania agriculture and learn more about how our food is produced."

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