The state House is again on track to consider granting commonsense legal protection to farms that invite the public onto their property for agritourism activities.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Barb Gleim of Cumberland County, would provide agritourism operations limited immunity from lawsuits over factors beyond their control. Civil liability reform for agritourism is a longtime priority for Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, which worked closely with Gleim to develop the proposal based on similar laws already on the books in neighboring states.
Agritourism gives many farms an opportunity to tap into growing consumer interest in local agriculture as a way to diversify their operations and remain viable for the future. But the threat of frivolous lawsuits remains a significant barrier for farmers that want to invite the public onto their property.
The bill would give agritourism operations immunity from lawsuits where no one is at fault as long as they notify visitors of the inherent risks of being on a farm, such as uneven ground, unpredictable animals, and weather-related issues. Farmers would still be responsible for making reasonable efforts to ensure guest safety and could still be held responsible in cases of extreme negligence or failing to address obvious safety hazards.
The measure passed the state House last fall with a bipartisan, 120-81 vote. It cleared the Senate after being amended into a separate bill related to COVID-19 but was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf. Wolf cited concerns about the COVID-19 measure as the reason for his veto and did not signal any objection to the agritourism bill.