By Marc Kovac, Wooster Daily Record
A lawmaker from northwestern Ohio has introduced legislation to protect farmers who offer hay and trail rides or allow visitors to pick apples or vegetables from civil suits stemming from injuries.
HB 80, offered by Rep. Tony Burkley (R-Payne), is comparable to legislation offered last session in the House and Senate and is a companion bill to SB 75 this session.
Among other provisions, the HB 80 would block counties and townships from adopting zoning regulations that prohibit agri- tourism activities. The latter would be defined in state law as "an educational, entertainment, historical, cultural or recreational activity, including you-pick operations or farm markets, conducted on a farm that allows or invites members of the general public to observe, participate in or enjoy that activity," according to an analysis of the bill by the state's Legislative Service Commission.
The legislation also would provide some immunity from liability in civil actions if visitors are injured via the surface of the land, the actions of domestic animals or other dangers associated with a working farm.
Farmers would have to post warning signs noting the risks and informing visitors of the new law. "Each letter of the notice must be in black and be a minimum of 1 inch in height," according to LSC.
"The goal of this legislation is to help protect Ohio's farmers who seek to educate the public about our No. 1 industry without fear of unjustified litigation," Burkley said in testimony submitted to the House's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, where the bill had its first hearing.