In a measure that passed with broad support, the Idaho House of Representatives passed a bill altering the state’s right to farm laws. In particular, the measure would shield farms and farmers from lawsuits related to their agricultural activities or expansions. Idaho agriculture is a powerful force in the state and a major part of the local economy. In recent years, however, Idaho has experienced growing urbanization, as residents have moved into rural parts of the state.
This urbanization has led to tension between farmers and non-farmers. Farmers and agricultural lobbyists, the key supporters of the bill, argue that current laws allowed for so-called nuisance suits, allowing residents could sue farmers and ranchers for dust pollution, odors, noise violations, and other unpleasant byproducts of agricultural production in the state. The bill shields farmers and ranchers from these suits and protects them from being declared nuisances if they comply with state agricultural practices and regulations.
Opposing this bill, however, is a coalition of rural non-farmers and small farmers. Groups like Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment argue that this bill is written too broadly and removes environmental protections. Small farmers also argue that this bill protects large-scale agribusinesses at the expense of smaller, local farms. Dean Dimond, a small cattle rancher, worries that this bill will allow large businesses to set up next to his property without his input. The bill, he worries, doesn’t do enough to protect small farmers. State Democrats also oppose the bill, arguing that it removes local control from agricultural decisions and tends to concentrate power in the hands of major corporate farms at the expense of smaller, local farms.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer