Georgia bill to protect farmers from nuisance suits advances

March 3, 2022 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) — Farmers in Georgia could have greater protection from lawsuits by neighbors over smells, noises or other nuisances under a bill approved by the state House on Thursday.

HB 1150 would prohibit a farm from being deemed a nuisance if it has operated for a year or longer. The House passed it by a vote of 102-62. It now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

Supporters say they want to ensure family farms remain viable and don’t get driven out of business by neighbors who don’t like their practices.

Rep. Robert Dickey, a Republican from Musella who is sponsoring the bill, said farms are facing “urban encroachment.”

“I want to keep our farmers in our tractors and not in our courtroom,” he said.

Opponents say existing law protects farmers from nuisance suits, and the change will only prompt confusion that will drive litigation.

“I fear a rush to the courthouse from this legislation,” said Stacey Evans, a Democrat from Atlanta.

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The bill is backed by the Georgia Farm Bureau. It maintains an exemption for nuisances that are the result of negligent, improper or illegal operations.

Environmentalists and other critics have also raised concerns that the bill could open the way for farmers to make big changes that might hurt the ability of longtime neighbors to enjoy their property. The bill says the one-year operating period to be deemed a nuisance would start anew if a farm were to begin a large animal feeding operation.