Proposed Legislative Efforts to Increase Agritourism
A version of these bills passed summer 2016.
5/27/2015 -- A version of this legislation known as House Bill 80 passed 92-0. A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate by S. Jones (R-Springboro) and B. Peterson (R-Washington Court House).
11/19/2014 -- Senate Bill 334 enters its third hearing in Senate Civil Justice Committee today. As previously stated, Senate Bill 334 limits the authority of a board of county commissioners or board of township trustees to prohibit agritourism through zoning, to apply current agricultural use valuation to land used for agritourism for property tax purposes, to establish immunity in a civil action for agritourism providers, and to authorize the Director of Agriculture to adopt rules regarding amusement rides at agritourism locations.
Of those OTA members who responded to our legislative alert regarding this issue, 100% were in favor of supporting this bill. “The agri-tourism bill can help the entire state and helps to honor the farming culture in Ohio,” said one OTA member.
Another stated, “Our county is incredibly rich in Lake Erie and agricultural tourism opportunities. With formalized plans on how to better represent and fund such hugely important areas of our tourism draw, we could increase visitation and spending in the county by offering collaborative efforts and tours that would utilize the entire region. Offering a larger tourism plan, such as an Ohio Lake Erie Initiative would allow us to reach a larger market and become attractive to bigger players in the international tourism industry.”
Previous committee discussions offered mostly support. Andy Lynd, an apple grower from Licking County, urged support for the legislation, saying one of the biggest challenges his farm's agritourism faces is liability insurance. He said the bill would help alleviate some of the risks in the minds of insurers. Jonathan Lohstroh, whose family also owns a farm that engages in seasonal agritourism activities, said the legislation will ensure his family can continue to share its farm with the community. Kari Burkey, who operates KD Guest Ranch in Adamsville, said the legislation "will clarify that agritourism is not a disqualification from (the Current Agricultural Use Value program) when it takes place on land that otherwise qualifies."
Sen. Seitz asked if customers should be notified of the risk and liability. The witness said customers already must sign waivers and are notified of the risk. Ohio Farm Bureau Director of State Policy Brandon Kern said the legislation will resolve a lot of issues farmers face as they seek to develop agritourism opportunities. Mr. Kern said the bill will clarify that zoning isn't applicable when agritourism occurs on the land of an operating farm. He added that it will also help farms obtain adequate liability coverage - not blanket immunity.
The witness urged the committee to consider changes to the bill, including a clarification to the zoning exemption and a provision regarding posted signage of inherent risks, among others. Sen. Eklund asked why the definition of inherent risk is needed when tort law already deals with assumed risks. Mr. Kern said the language tries to pull out some of the underlying inherent dangers of being on a farm.
John Sauter, a member for the Ohio Association of Justice, called the bill "unnecessary" and said no current liability crisis exists to require such legislation. Arguing that the bill's language immunizes any activity that is classified as educational or entertainment, he said immunity like that provided in the bill could make communities less safe. Sen. Kearney said the legislature needs to balance allowing farmers' to operate with businesses with current tort law standards. He asked how the witness would address the practical concerns that exist. Mr. Sauter said he doesn't have the farming background to speak to the liability issue.
Carolyn Towner, of the Ohio Fair Manager's Association and Greater Ohio Showmen's Association, offered support for the legislation, but raised concerns about provisions that would allow the director of agriculture to establish standards for amusement rides at agritourism venues. (SOURCE: Gongwer)