Farmland in the United States is increasingly in the hands of corporations and agribusiness, and a new state law will give farm owners a legal defense if their livestock is damaged by human-caused environmental harm.
The state Farm Service Agency has launched a pilot program to determine whether farm operators should be protected from liability when a crop is damaged or killed by a human cause, according to a news release.
The pilot program will help the agency identify and assess potential issues that crop farmers and ranchers may encounter during the operation of their farms.
The agency plans to issue a final rule in the first half of 2019 that would provide farmers and other land owners with a broad legal defense to crop damage and plant destruction.
Under the new law, a person may be able to defend themselves if a crop has been damaged by a person they know, but not when the damage is caused by a “negligent” person or other entity.
The person may also be able bring a case to claim damages from the “neglected” person, if they have an “exhaustion” or “discharge” of the property from an act that they are aware of, and the person who caused the damage has not been identified, according the release.
The law, which will be enforced by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, also applies to the operation or possession of livestock and to certain noncommercial livestock operations, including livestock feedlots, slaughterhouses, or feedlady establishments.
The new law is the result of a partnership between the Farm Service and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), which has been working to ensure that farm and livestock operations are properly managed and maintained, the release said.
The program will give farmers and others who are impacted by human activities the ability to protect their property by bringing a lawsuit against the person or entities responsible for the damage, it added.
A number of other states have passed similar laws in recent years, including Minnesota, New York, and Illinois.
The new law will also apply to the production of certain crops.
Farmers, ranchers, and other landowners are already protected under a number of federal and state laws that protect them from certain environmental and health risks, such as pesticides, chemicals, and diseases.
Farmers and rancher groups in several states have said they will continue to fight the new laws.