Iowa Courts Mute Ag's Story

Published on: 14:06PM Apr 17, 2013

The challenge of telling agriculture’s story has gotten a lot harder for farmers in Iowa.  For years, Iowa farmers had been protected from liability by a recreational use statute for injuries on their property unless willfully injuring someone.  An Iowa Supreme Court ruling in February, stemming from an injury to a parent of a child on a school farm visit,  changed that and states that unless the injury occurred under specific circumstances a farmer can be held liable.  What’s an Iowa farmer to do?  Faced with increasing criticisms and questions about food production, many farmers have opened their farms to visitors to help them understand where their food comes from.  Farmers deal with risk on a daily basis but this puts them between a rock and a hard place.  On one hand if they don’t allow visitors they risk losing in the court of public opinion while on the other hand if they do, they risk losing in the legal courts of the state.  Common sense says if you go willingly to a place and are forewarned of possible dangers, then you assume the responsibility if an accident occurs.  For many of us, the last thing on our minds in that situation would be to take someone to court.  Unfortunately in today’s society, legal action is the first thing on some people’s minds.  As we have seen in many other situations, personal responsibility is no longer expected or even encouraged.  Instead we have become a society that blames others for our problems and expects to be rewarded for them.  While this trend is not ag specific, this case alone has many repercussions.  Children lose the opportunity to learn about their food, farmers lose income from recreational activities such as hunting and fishing, lack of deer hunting leads to more deer and damages including vehicle/deer collisions and insurance costs go up, just to name a few.  Perhaps the state legislature will be able to resolve this matter but if not it looks like another case of a society biting the hands that feed it.