Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB) is urging the state General Assembly to adopt legislation that would offer commonsense legal protections for farms that invite the public onto their property for “agritourism” activities such as corn mazes, pick-your-own produce, hay rides and more.
During a news conference, PFB voiced support for House Bill 1348, which would grant farms that offer agritourism activities reasonable protection from lawsuits that arise from circumstances beyond their control. At the same time, farmers would still need to take steps to ensure guest safety.
“Agritourism is a win-win for farmers who want to diversify their businesses and for community members who want to connect with local farms through fun activities,” PFB President Rick Ebert said.
“But the threat of frivolous lawsuits is a significant barrier for farmers who want to begin or continue inviting the public onto their farms. Farms are natural environments and despite farmers’ best efforts to ensure guest safety, it is impossible to eliminate every hazard. House Bill 1348 would give reasonable protection and peace of mind to farmers who are offering agritourism in a safe manner.”
To receive the protections offered by House Bill 1348, farms would have to warn visitors of potential risks by either having them sign a waiver or printing a disclaimer on a ticket or other material that’s given to visitors. 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.
House Bill 1348 has already been approved by the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and may be considered by the full chamber this month. If passed by the House, the bill would need to be passed by the state Senate and signed by Gov. Tom Wolf to become law. PFB is urging the General Assembly to pass the legislation this fall, before the 2019-2020 session ends and progress on outstanding legislation must start over.
Limiting civil liability for agritourism has been a longtime priority for Pennsylvania farmers and is not related to COVID-19, although the pandemic has underscored the importance of farms being able to diversify.