TRENTON, N.J. – Farmers defending their operations against meritless nuisance lawsuits could recover reasonable costs and attorney fees under a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Ron Dancer and advanced by the Assembly today.
As residential development encroaches into traditionally rural areas, neighbors have increasingly filed nuisance lawsuits over farming operations including noises and odors.
“The financial costs of defending against these claims can be very hard on farmers who are already facing tough times,” said Dancer (R-Ocean). “Even if the farmer ultimately wins in court, the litigation process can be very time consuming and very expensive.”
Farmers are struggling to survive, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. The nation lost more than 100,000 farms between 2011 and 2018. More than half of all farmers have lost money every year since 2013.
Dancer’s bill (A3619) allows farmers to apply to a county or state agricultural board for their costs and attorney fees. If the board finds the complaint was made in bad faith, it would then issue an order for the plaintiff to pay those fees.
The established irrebuttable presumption is that commercial farming does not constitute a public or private nuisance under New Jersey’s Right to Farm Act, signed into law in 1983.