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Maryland farm groups applaud ruling that affirmed Right-To-Farm Protections

Georgetown, DE - Delmarva Chicken Association, Maryland Farm Bureau, and Maryland Grain Producers Association applauded an Appellate Court of Maryland ruling that affirmed right-to-farm provisions protecting a Talbot County farm’s ability to use modern nutrient management techniques.


The May 30 ruling, In the Matter of Cheryl Lewis, et al., written by Judge Glenn T. Harrell, Jr., affirmed the principle that Maryland’s right-to-farm law broadly shields farmers and their operations from vexatious lawsuits. Maryland’s right-to-farm law protects farm operations from litigation asserting that the farm is a nuisance or that a farm interferes with others’ use of their property, as long as they are utilizing standard agricultural practices.


In this case, the Circuit Court for Talbot County had previously reversed a Talbot County Agricultural Resolution Board ruling that a particular Talbot County farm was protected by Maryland’s right-to-farm law. The Circuit Court decision had questioned a suspected discrepancy in the law, setting a dangerous precedent that could allow farmers to be sued while following normal agricultural practices. However, Judge Harrell’s May 30 ruling overruled the Circuit Court opinion and found that the Talbot County Agricultural Resolution Board had made the correct decision.


When Maryland’s General Assembly modified the right-to-farm law in 1998, it “contemplated a scenario like the one at issue here: an expanded nutrient management system,” Judge Harrell wrote. “That regulation does not require a particular agricultural operation to exist for one year in order to enjoy liability protection,” he wrote, and so “the expanded use of soil conditioners and Class A biosolids at the Foster Farm was a protected activity.”


The Maryland Farm Bureau, Delmarva Chicken Association, and Maryland Grain Producers Association submitted friend-of-the-court briefs in the appeals process arguing that the right-to-farm law rightfully covered the farm in question.


“As Maryland’s rural regions face increasing pressure from development, it’s crucial to protect farmers’ rights and to keep commonly accepted agricultural practices in their toolboxes,” said Holly Porter, Delmarva Chicken Association's executive director. “Even though this lawsuit did not directly involve a chicken grower, a loss in court would have been detrimental to every farmer and grower in the state. We’re heartened that the Appellate Court of Maryland made this ruling.”


"Maryland introduced a Right-to-Farm (RTF) law in 1981 to shield agricultural activities from complaining nonfarm neighbors by providing a defense for nuisance actions brought against farms and other agricultural operations,” said Maryland Farm Bureau President Jamie Raley. "Maryland Farm Bureau initiated the appeal of the Talbot County case to protect the RTF for our farmer members. We are pleased that the Appellate Court of Maryland upheld the RTF and brought clarity and certainty to the law."

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