For Immediate Release
AUGUSTA - Legislation to limit the liability of "pick your own" farms in Maine has been cleared by legislative leaders for consideration by the entire Legislature when it convenes in January.
The bill, LR 2516, would protect farm owners who welcome the public, for a small fee, onto their farms to pick apples, berries, vegetables, pumpkins, Christmas trees, and other goods straight from the source.
"These farms are popular family and tourist destinations and many have been forced to close because of the excessive liability that they face," said Rep. Aaron Libby (R-Waterboro), the sponsor of the measure.
Currently, patrons can sue farms if, for example, they trip on uneven ground, are poked in the eye by a tree branch, or are stung by a bee. Such liability makes it difficult for farmers to obtain insurance, prevents some from entering the business, and causes others to discontinue the practice of "pick your own" altogether.
"Farmers, whether constituents or not, tell me their problems and concerns," said Rep. Libby. "This is in the back of every farmer's mind and is a burden that slows down agriculture. Many people are actually buying some of their groceries at these farms, and it's much easier to make a supermarket floor safe than a working farm. It seems only fair to level the playing field for farmers."
The bill would also require that farms post warning signs indicating that the farm is not liable in the event of an injury, while urging customers to use caution in an often-inevitably hazardous environment.
Rep. Libby said he wants to preserve and promote agri-tourism, a growing sector of Maine's economy. "Everybody loves 'pick your own' farms," he said. "They provide healthy recreation for Maine families, draw commercial activity to the state, and offer farmers a way to earn extra money and show everyone what life is like on the farm. This bill is a critical step toward ensuring that they are here for many years to come."
Rep. Libby's measure is titled "An Act To Help Promote Farming in Maine by Limiting the Liability of 'Pick Your Own' Farms." ###
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 287-1445