Legal Insight. Business Instinct.

Right to farm

It is a common story in Idaho that has been repeated over and over. Developer buys farm ground outside of City. Developer builds subdivision and sells lots. City folk buy lot and build dream home in subdivision with beautiful views of the neighboring farmer’s property.

Not long thereafter the city folk’s home is full of smoke from farmer burning his ditch. City folk are annoyed and shut the window. Then city folk notice a significant increase in the number of flies around the house and the distinct odor of manure. City folk grumble. Lastly, city folk are awakened at 2:00 in the morning by the steady thudding and clanking of farmer’s tractor baling hay. City folk put the pillow over their head and vow to call an attorney in the morning to rid themselves of the nuisance created by their neighbor, the farmer.

What the city folk don’t know, and what Idaho law protects, is the right of the farmer to operate his farm without the threat of a nuisance lawsuit.

The Idaho legislature expanded the protections of Idaho’s Right to Farm Act in 2011. The law states that “[n]o agricultural operation … shall be or become a nuisance, private or public, by any changed conditions in or about the surrounding nonagricultural activities after it has been in operation for more than one (1) year, when the operation, facility or expansion was not a nuisance at the time it began, or was constructed.” Idaho Code § 22-4503.

Normally a landowner could sue a neighboring landowner if the neighbor’s activities constituted a nuisance and interfered with the landowner’s comfortable enjoyment of his or her property. Idaho Code § 52-111. However, the Idaho legislature has recognized the importance of agriculture to the State of Idaho and has prohibited anyone from suing and making a claim for nuisance where a farmer is engaged in normal farming practices (no protection is given to the farmer who operates his farming activities in an improper or negligent fashion).

Activities that are protected by Idaho’s right to farm bill include:

• plowing, tilling, and preparing soil;

• burning fields and ditches as permitted by law;

• applying pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals;

• planting, irrigating, and harvesting;

• breeding, hatching, raising, producing, feeding and keeping livestock;

• processing and packing ag products;

• noise, odors, dust fumes, light and other conditions associated with an ag operation;

• selling ag products at a roadside market.

A farmer or rancher sued for his activities can recover his attorney’s fees and costs for having to defend himself in an action.

In summary, the Right to Farm Act is an important law that protects farmers and ranchers and their agricultural activities.

– Lance J. Schuster is an attorney at Beard St. Clair Gaffney. He and his wife raise cattle and kids on their small farm near Idaho Falls. He can be reached at

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