Ohio farmers tell us their legal concerns
What is your biggest legal concern for your farm? That's the question we posed to farmers who visited our Agricultural & Resource Law Program booth at OSU's Farm Science Review this fall. The results of our informal survey are both expected and surprising. We've listed the responses below, beginning with the most common answers.
1. Farm transition and estate planning. It's no surprise that many farmers shared concerns about whether the family would do any estate planning, how to transition the farm business and assets to the next generation, understanding estate tax implications and planning for long-term health care needs. Given the high percentage of farmland and farm wealth that will change hands in the next ten years, we're relieved to know that farm families are thinking about these issues. Readers with these concerns should consider attending OSU Extension's Farm Transition, Estate and Retirement Planning Seminar on December 10, 2013 in New Philadelphia, Ohio; more information is available here.
2. Premises liability. Whether for trespassers, hunters or customers, landowners worry about liability for injuries to people who come onto the farm property. We receive the most speaking requests on this topic, so we expected its popularity.
3. Regulation of farm food sales. The regulation of farm food products came up frequently. There is confusion about the division between state and local authority over cottage foods and home baked goods. Regulations affecting whether a farmer can sell eggs and fresh or frozen meat is also a concern.
4. Oil and gas leases and hydro-fracturing. Common questions on this topic included "will development come my way?", "can I get out of an old oil and gas lease?" and "is hydro-fracturing dangerous?"
5. Water rights. This one caught us off guard because it wasn't related to oil and gas development, as we had guessed. The concern: will there be enough water in Ohio to go around?
6. Current Agricultural Use Valuation. The calculation of agriculture's differential property tax assessment is an ongoing issue for farmers.
7. Neighbor issues. In the words of one farmer, "how do I deal with difficult neighbors?" Many farmers have particular concerns about co-existing with non-farm neighbors.
8. Animal rights activists. Even with the implementation of Ohio's Livestock Care Standards, some farmers worry about being targeted by animal rights activists.