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Rep. Aaron Libby (R-Waterboro)
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For Immediate Release

Date: 04/02/12

House passes bill to benefit agricultural tourism

AUGUSTA - The Maine House of Representatives today passed a measure that could bring insurance relief to farmers, beekeepers, sugar house operators and others who open their property for "agritourism" activities.

The bill, LD 1605, which passed 115-26, provides limited liability protection for landowners who post signs stating that visitors accept the "inherent risks" of the activity. Maine already has similar statutes for such inherently risky activities as skiing and horseback riding. The measure now goes to the Senate.

"This bill will help reduce the burden of insurance on local farmers," said State Rep. Aaron Libby (R-Waterboro), who sponsored the legislation. "In the short term, the farmer will be provided with assurance that they have some protection from a major lawsuit due to a farm-related accident. In the long term, with fewer claims filed, premiums should decrease, there will be less chance of a policy denial and more options will be made available."

Rep. Libby, whose family runs a pick-your-own fruit farm, said at least 23 states have enacted laws to address agritourism. These statutes vary from liability protection for farm operators to tax credits to zoning requirements.

Agritourism has grown rapidly across the state. Some of the most common examples include choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms, maple syrup sugar house tours, pick-your-own fruits and vegetables, animal parks, corn mazes and cider-making operations. All these activities sell locally produced goods while educating the public about the inner workings of a farm.

Rep. Libby said that since agritourism has become popular so quickly, few insurers are familiar with or seem willing to underwrite the operations because the trend is relatively new and demand is still low. "Farmers may not know they need additional insurance," he said. "Most farm and ranch insurance policies are intended to cover risks associated with everyday farming exposure."

LD 1605, if passed into law, won't eliminate the need for farm insurance. "This bill will not stop someone from filing a suit against a farmer if they are injured," Rep. Libby said. "But it does require them to prove their injury was caused by something other than an inherent risk of the activity to be able to recover damages." ###

Contact:
Jay Finegan
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 287-1445