Agritourism Law Revisions
Agritourism is Increasing in Florida
Did you know the number of Florida farms offering recreational experiences increased dramatically from 2008-2012? According to USDA Census of Agriculture statistics, that number jumped from 281 in 2008 to 724 farms in 2012. Will this trend continue? The 2017 Ag census should help to shed light on that. The census is conducted every five years and takes a year or so to compile before new reports are issued. If you are involved in agritourism make sure you are counted! See more about that here http://polksmallfarms.blogspot.com/2017/04/be-counted-in-2017-census-of-agriculture.html
Recent Changes in Florida Law Support Agritourism
Active farming operations can pose safety risks, especially to those unfamiliar with the farm environment. For many years those interested in hosting the public on their farms were put off by the liability concerns. In 2013, Florida Statute 570.96 established liability protections in order to promote the development of agritourism as a secondary income stream.
In short, if the farm notifies participants that there are inherent risks to participating in the agritourism activity by posting a sign at the entrance and activity site, as well as including warning language in any contracts, then the farm liability is limited in the event of damage, injury or death due to the inherent risks of the activity.
Protect Your Assets
The law does not protect agritourism operators in the event of gross neglect or disregard for safety or in the case of intentional injury. It’s important to note here that the law is not meant to replace liability insurance and has not yet been tested in Florida. Discussions with those involved in developing the specific language of the law have brought forward the idea that, in the case of a court battle, a jury may be the deciding factor as to the interpretation of gross negligence or wanton disregard for safety. Hosting the public still involves the responsibility of forethought regarding potential safety hazards and basic measures to protect people who may be unaware of these hazards.
The 2013 agritourism law contained language to limit the authority of local governments to regulate agritourism activities. The law was revised in 2016 to further define agritourism and address questions regarding these regulatory limitations. Many of the questions were centered on the use of farms for hosting events not clearly related to agriculture, such as weddings.
Check out a new EDIS publication that reviews changes to agritourism law below.