Yes, you read it right: our roundup of agricultural law questions includes a question on popcorn--not one we often hear. Below is our answer to it and several other legal questions we’ve recently received in the Farm Office.
A farm lease landlord didn’t notify a tenant of the intent to terminate a verbal farm lease before the new September 1 deadline. What are the consequences if the landlord now tries to enter into a new lease agreement with another tenant operator?
Ohio’s new “statutory termination law” requires a landlord to provide written notice of termination of a verbal farmland lease by September 1 of the year the lease is effective. The law is designed to prevent a tenant from losing land late in the leasing cycle, after the tenant has made commitments and investment in the land. The new law now establishes September 1 as the deadline for a valid termination, unless a lease provides otherwise. If a landowner terminates after September 1, the consequences are that a tenant could either try to force continuation of the lease for another lease period or seek damages for the late termination. Those damages could include reimbursement for work already completed, such as fall tillage, nutrient applications, and cover crops; reimbursement for input costs such as seed and fertilizer that tenant cannot use or return; and lost profits from the tenant's loss of the crop. Find our law bulletin on the new statutory termination date for farm leases on the Farm Office website.
A farmer plans to build a barn and grain bins close to the property line of a neighbor. Does the neighbor have a legal right to stop the farmer from building so close to the boundary?
No, probably not. Because the neighbor lives in a rural area, Ohio’s “agricultural exemption” from local zoning regulations applies to the situation. The agricultural exemption law states that except in limited circumstances, agricultural land uses and structures used for agriculture, like barns, are not subject to township or county zoning regulations and building permit requirements. If this township has building setback requirements in its zoning resolution, for instance, the farmer is not subject to the regulations and can build the barn closer to the property line than the setback provisions require and farmer is not required to obtain a zoning or building permit for the barn. One exception is that if the farmer’s land is less than five acres and is one of at least 15 lots that are next to or across from one another, the agricultural exemption would not apply to the farmer's land. Find the agricultural exemption from zoning in Ohio Revised Code 519.21.
In replacing a line fence, a landowner entered a neighbor’s property and cleared 10 feet from the fence of all brush and trees, even though the neighbor warned the landowner not to do so. Did the landowner have a right to cut and remove the neighbor’s trees and vegetation?
No. Ohio law in Ohio Revised Code 971.08 does allow a person to enter up to 10 feet of an adjacent neighbor’s property for the purpose of building or maintaining a line fence, but it is only a right of entry for the purpose of working on the fence. It allows a person to access the neighbor's property without fear of legal action for trespass. But the law does not allow a person to remove trees or vegetation within the 15 foot area. In fact, the law specifically states that a person will be liable for any damages caused by the entry onto the neighbor’s property, including damages to crops. Additionally, since the neighbor stated that the trees should not be removed and the landowner removed them anyway, the landowner could be subject to another Ohio law for “reckless destruction” of trees and vegetation. That law could make the landowner liable for three times the value of the trees that were removed against the neighbor’s wishes. Find the reckless destruction of vegetation law in Ohio Revised Code 901.51.
Would a milk contamination provision in an insurance policy address milk that could be contaminated as a result of the East Palestine train derailment?
Probably not. Milk contamination coverage provisions in a dairy's insurance policies typically only apply to two situations: unintentional milk contamination by the dairy operator and intentional contamination by a party other than the dairy operator. Contamination resulting from an unintentional pollution incident by a party other than the dairy operator would not fit into either of these situations. But insurance policies vary, so confirming a farm’s actual policy provisions is important when determining insurance coverage.
A grower of popcorn wants to process, bag, and ship popcorn. Does the grower need any type of food license?
No. Popcorn falls under Ohio’s “cottage food law.” Popcorn is on the list of “cottage foods” identified by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) as having lower food safety risk than "potentially hazardous foods." A producer can process and sell a cottage food without obtaining a food license from the ODA or the local health department. However, the producer may only sell the food within Ohio and must properly label the food. Labeling requirements include:
- Name of the food product
- Name and address of the business of the cottage food production operation
- Ingredients of the food product, in descending order of predominance by weight
- Net weight and volume of the food product
- The following statement in ten-point type: "This product is home produced."
Read our law bulletin on Ohio’s Cottage Food Law on the Farm Office website.