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Looking on as Gov. LePage signs the agritourism bill are, from left to right, Rep. Dean Cray; Commissioner Walt Whitcomb of the Department of Agriculture; Rep. Aaron Libby; Rep. Wayne Parry; Rep. Jeff McCabe; Jon Olson, of the Maine Farm Bureau; Rep. Jeff Timberlake; Keith Harris, proprietor of Pumpkin Valley Farm; and Clark Granger, a Christmas tree farmer.
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For Immediate Release

Date: 04/09/12

Governor signs Rep. Libby's agritourism bill

AUGUSTA - Flanked by members of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee, Governor LePage today signed into law 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, 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 activities as skiing and horseback riding.

"This new law 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 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 noted. "Most farm and ranch insurance policies are intended to cover risks associated with everyday farming exposure."

The new 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 explained. "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." ###

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