Along with many other states, Florida adopted right-to-farm legislation curtailing the rights of neighboring landowners to bring nuisance suits to prohibit certain farming operations. The Florida Right to Farm Act also limits local governments from imposing regulations on farming operations that are stricter than those imposed by various agencies of the state of Florida, including the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The purpose for the legislation was not only to protect existing farms from nuisance suits that had the potential to deter or prohibit farming operations, but also to preserve farmland. As stated in the legislative preamble of the Act, “Agricultural lands constitute unique and irreplaceable resources of statewide importance.”
The Act, however, does not allow a farmer to use agricultural practices that cause an unreasonable degradation to the surrounding land. Nevertheless, the Act does protect a farm that has been in operation for a year or more since it established its operations, and was not then a nuisance, but only if the farm operation engages in a generally accepted agriculture and management practices. The Act seeks to assure that existing farms can operate in peace, as long as its operations are typical for such farms. Even then there are exceptions for farming operations that pose threats to human health and welfare because of the discharge of dangerous or particularly offensive waste materials.
The Act is an important piece of legislation that impacts many farming operations, particularly farms whose operation involves husbandry practices that may adversely affect their neighbors. Legislation often attempts to balance the interests of all concerned. Florida’s Right to Farm Act is no exception.
column by DOUGLAS A. LOCKWOOD III
BIO: A Winter Haven native, Doug received his B.S. degree in 1975 from Duke University and his law degree in 1979 from Stetson University. Doug currently practices in the Winter Haven office of Peterson & Myers, P.A.