HB 545: Right to Farm
HB 545 seeks to strengthen and protect farmers from loopholes in our states right to farm laws. This clarification in language helps producers by clearing up language that is vague and could be interpreted in ways detrimental to agriculture.
The GFB Public Policy staff, along with our allied industry partners, have been hard at work at the Capitol to address the many misconceptions that have been floating around the state this week. These groups have been extremely vocal and we need your help contacting legislators to combat this opposition campaign. It is imperative that the state legislature pass this bill in order to protect our state's agricultural interests. Help us debunk some of these misconceptions by sharing this information with your friends and family on social media!
Debunking Myths About HB 545
"This bill has nothing to do with farmers and everything to do with further opening up our state to large corporate poultry and livestock waste lagoon operations (like the mega hog farms that have ravaged North Carolina) and making it easier for them to pollute our air, land and waterways." - Op Ed in Elberton Star & Albany Herald
Polluting "our air, land and waterways" would be an illegal activity. Neither current law nor HB 545 provide any Right to Farm protection to an agriculture operation which is operating illegally. HB 545 does nothing to weaken or alter laws or rules related to environmental protection.
"Under existing nuisance law, long-standing property owners can protect their private properties from disruptive, newly arriving farms as long as they sue within four years of the nuisance starting. But HB 545 substantially restricts this right, standing 35 years of excellent Right to Farm law on its head." - Protect Georgia
Not only does HB 545 allow for nuisances to occur within 2 years of a farm's established date of operation, it also allows an additional 2 years to file suit, for a total of 4 years from when a farm begins operating. HB 545 further protects existing land owners by restarting this clock if a significant change occurs, like transitioning from a row crop farm to livestock.
"Georgia's current 'Right to Farm' Law reasonably protects existing farms from people who move to the nuisance. If the farm is there first, it is protected!" - Georgia Water Coalition Legislative Tracker
Current law does NOT provide Right to Farm protection to existing farms from new neighbors in many situations, as shown by recent Federal Court decisions in North Carolina. These rulings even cite Georgia's law in support of limiting Right to Farm protection.
"[Flint Riverkeeper and Executive Director] also believes the window is too restrictive and said that 'nuisance doesn't manifest itself until the third or fourth year.'" - AJC
A farm's normal operation is not a single occurring event, rather a recurring event every day the farm operates. Therefore each day could constitute a new alleged nuisance, and the 4 year statute of limitations clock begins anew each day, resulting in perpetual vulnerability. That is why HB 545 establishes a reasonable 2 year window of vulnerability, and as long as there is not a significant change to the family farm business, the operation is afforded protection for continuing to operate the same way.
"The revised version of the legislation maintains an unnecessary and unwise course of rewriting existing Right to Farm Law to benefit new industrial ag operations and strip protections from long-time rural property owners." - Georgia Water Coalition Legislative Tracker
HB 545 balances the rights of all property owners. HB 545 provides residents an opportunity to sue new farms and provides new farmers the right to work the land they purchase and lawfully operate. Established landowners are even given a new opportunity to sue if an existing farm undergoes significant change, like cotton to livestock.
"Environmentalists also have concerns that HB 545 could have a negative impact on water quality. Sierra Club lobbyist [representative] said some nuisance complaints have come from neighbors of farmers who say their water sources had been contaminated." - AJC
HB 545 does NOT alter, amend or change any environmental standards or permit requirements. Pollution, contamination, and harmful emissions are an entirely different issue, and unlawful damages like these can be prosecuted.
This bill SOLELY addresses nuisances claimed against farms operating legally.
"The bill pits row crop farmers against livestock centers." - AJC Political Insider
HB 545 eliminates ambiguity in current law and details when Right to Farm protection is afforded to farm operations. Further, it would clearly apply to all farm operations equally. While livestock operations have been the initial target of these suits, weaknesses in the current law threaten legal actions against all types of agriculture and support facilities including livestock, row crop, specialty crops and forestry.
How You Can Help
Georgia Farm Bureau has been working intently with our allied ag groups to ensure the bill adequately accomplishes our goal of protecting farmers from undue nuisance lawsuits. Our most effective lobbying is done on the grassroots level. If you have not already, we highly encourage you to contact your legislators as soon as possible and encourage them to pass HB 545. You can find information on your legislators in the Find Your Legislators tool below or download the full list.
Agriculture is the number one industry in the state of Georgia. Without a strong right to farm law, our farmers could be subjected to frivolous nuisance lawsuits which could upend their operations and bankrupt their families. It is vital that we pass House Bill 545 to preserve the production of food and fiber in our state.
Thank you for your support of Georgia farms!