TRENTON, N.J. – The Assembly Agriculture Committee today released legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Ron Dancer, allowing farmers to recover reasonable costs and attorney fees incurred while defending against a false complaint by neighbors.
Over the years, residential development has encroached more and more into traditionally rural areas in close proximity to farms, which has led to an increase in nuisance lawsuits over farming operations, including such conditions as noise 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.”
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.
Dancer’s bill (A3619) would allow 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 them back.
Farmers are finding it increasingly difficult 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.