The Legislative Reference Bureau has released a new report on Right-to-Farm laws in Wisconsin. Generally speaking, the “right-to-farm” can be defined as legal protection from nuisance lawsuits brought against agricultural operations. Right-to-farm statutes are designed to prevent the conversion of farmland to non-agricultural uses by insulating farmers and farming operations from nuisance liability. According to the report, urban sprawl and nuisance lawsuits have been serious challenges for farmers. Urban sprawl occurred after WWII when people began moving to rural areas and many of them “did not appreciate the noises, odors, and other factors associated with farming.” Those new rural residents would file nuisance lawsuits against farmers. Many successful farmers who had to cease or modify agricultural activities to reduce the nuisance had to ultimately sell their land because they could no longer make a living. When unsuccessful, farmers often lost their land because of the attorney fees associated with defending the lawsuits.
Wisconsin’s right-to-farm law, Wis. Stat. § 823.08, protects agricultural use of land and encourages local governments to reduce conflicts through zoning. The statute states an agricultural use is not considered a nuisance if the activity is being done on land that was used for agricultural purposes “without substantial interruption” prior to the plaintiff coming to the property being affected by the activity; and the activity does not present a substantial safety or health threat.
Source: Wisconsin Realtors Association
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