House Bill 1348 would provide agritourism businesses with operating protections
By Diego Flammini
A farm organization has voiced its support for a piece of legislation designed to help businesses operating within the agritourism sector.
House Bill 1348, the Agritourism Activity Protection Act, would protect Pennsylvania agritourism businesses from lawsuits that stem from situations outside of the owners’ control.
“Without limits on civil liability for agritourism, farms are risking their futures when they invite the public onto their property,” Rick Ebert, president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, said during a press conference on Wednesday.
Agritourism businesses can have difficulty finding insurance coverage or will need to pay high premiums because of potential liability.
“We believe this legislation is a key piece in helping the economic recovery for agriculture,” Ebert said.
Agritourism operators will be required to post clear warnings that state any potential risks and inform the public that they won’t be held responsible for any injury or death.
Exceptions include if the operator purposefully causes injury or damage, is negligent or fails to warn against any risks.
Industry reps enjoy opening businesses to the public to connect with consumers and to earn extra income.
Chet Mozloom, the executive director of the Lands at Hillside Farms in Shavertown, Pa., usually welcomes guests to the 412-acre educational dairy farm for tours and events at Christmas.
But they’ve cancelled the holiday festival this year. In part because of the pandemic, but also because of fears of potential lawsuits.
“The way things are going, in general, there’s an acceleration of lawsuits and it makes us feel unsafe,” he told The Citizens’ Voice. “It’s definitely a stressful thing. It makes you contract and reduce what you want to share with the general public even though you want to.”
Pennsylvania ranks 12th in the country in the number of agritourism businesses. And that number has decreased over time.
In 2012, 729 farms in the state welcomed visitors for on-farm activities. Five years later, that number fell to 711, the 2017 Census of Agriculture said.
That year, however, agritourism sales in the state totaled $27 million, up from $24.7 million in 2012. The average farm generated $38,261 in revenue.