A new law passed by the Alabama Legislature and signed by Gov. Robert Bentley offers protection to farmers who offer agritourism on their farms. Sponsored by State Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, and State Rep. Donnie Chesteen, R-Geneva, the law protects farmers from being sued by an agritourism participant who is injured due to an inherent risk of the agritourism activity.
Third-generation farmer Allie Corcoran of Barbour County owns a produce farm near Eufaula that includes a U-Pick operation. At a public hearing about the bill earlier this year, Corcoran said she doesn’t want anyone to get hurt visiting her farm, but farmers should not be liable for accidents.“With the threat of being sued removed, our business would grow,” she said. “We will have a sense of security allowing us to invest in activities to make our farm the best experience possible.”The new law applies to U-Pick farms, as well as farmers’ markets, livestock shows, historic agriculture displays and farming and ranching activities.Perry County farmer Cooper Holmes also testified at the hearing.
“We could lose everything if someone were to trip and fall on their own account and sue us, claiming it was our fault,” said Holmes, whose family hosts an annual historic farm day on their land.
Farmers may not be held liable if an agritourism participant is injured due to the condition of the land or water; the behavior of wild or domesticated animals, including bees; the dangers of structures or equipment used in everyday farming operations; or the failure of the participant to follow directions, obey warnings or use reasonable caution.The law does have exceptions built in. A farmer could be liable for failing to post proper warning signs; failing to properly train staff; failing to care for sick animals or failing to make participants aware of hazardous conditions beyond the typical dangers of a farm.Agritourism attractions must have a warning sign posted in a visible location, such as the entrance or near a cash register. The letters must be in black ink and at least 1-inch tall. The law stipulates required wording.“We are pleased to offer the warning signs to Alabama Farmers Federation members,” Alabama Farmers FederationCommunications Director Jeff Helms said. “Agritourism attractions allow farmers to share their knowledge and experience with people who may have never set foot on a farm. We encourage farmers to share their stories and hope this legislation will allow that to happen.The law goes into effect in August. A limited number of signs will be available through the Alabama Farmers Federation by contacting Mac Higginbotham at MHigginbotham@alfafarmers.org.