Legislation to enact commonsense legal protections for agritourism—one of Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s top legislative priorities for close to a decade—has reached the finish line.
With a final vote to approve minor changes made in the Senate, the state House sent House Bill 101 to Gov. Tom Wolf for consideration. PFB worked closely with state Rep. Barb Gleim to introduce the legislation.
The bill’s passage is a major victory for Pennsylvania agriculture and PFB’s grassroots advocacy. Farmers have sought for years secure civil liability limits for agritourism to help family farms remain viable through a changing farm economy and connect with their communities around family fun and local food.
“This commonsense legal reform will help Pennsylvania’s family farms preserve their futures so they can continue to grow their rural communities and enhance our state’s agricultural heritage,” PFB President Rick Ebert said. “The agricultural economy is changing, and farms need to innovate to stay viable. Here in Pennsylvania, many are doing just that by offering agritourism experiences to a public that is growing more and more interested in local food.”
The measure would offer commonsense legal protection to farms that invite the public onto their property for agritourism activities, such as corn mazes, pick-your-own produce, hayrides, and similar attractions. Specifically, the bill would grant farms that offer agritourism activities reasonable protection from lawsuits that arise from circumstances beyond their control and in which no party is at fault as long as they warn visitors of the inherent risks of being on a farm, such as uneven ground, weather, and unpredictable animals.
“House Bill 101 addresses a key barrier for farms that want to offer agritourism: the threat of frivolous lawsuits,” Ebert said. “Farmers prioritize safety; but farms are natural environments and it’s impossible to eliminate every hazard. This reform will enable Pennsylvania farm families to safety invite the public to experience agriculture without having to risk their farms’ futures or pay cost-prohibitive insurance premiums.”
At the same time, farmers would still need to take reasonable steps to ensure guest safety. The measure would not give farms a free pass from ensuring guest safety and farms could still be held accountable if they fail to fix or warn patrons of obvious and dangerous safety risks.
The bill is modeled off similar laws already on the books in at least 20 other states, including New York and Ohio.
“PFB thanks the General Assembly for taking this important step to strengthen Pennsylvania agriculture and urges Gov. Wolf to act quickly to sign this reform into law,” Ebert continued. “We are especially grateful to Rep. Barb Gleim, who introduced and championed this legislation, as well as the Republican and Democratic chairs of the House and Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs committees who prioritized and helped build bipartisan support for this issue.”