Explaining the right-to-farm bill

November 28, 1994

In the debate over the proposed right-to-farm ordinance, there is a misconception that the bill will give farmers a license to do whatever they want without fear of lawsuits, penalties or other government sanctions. If anything, the ordinance creates an even-handed framework ensuring that Carroll's farmers follow commonly accepted farming practices.

The ordinance acknowledges that conflicts between farmers and the new suburbanites moving into Carroll are inevitable. Farming creates dust, smells, noise and other disturbances that aren't found in the tracts of less rural parts of Baltimore's expanding suburbia. The current draft takes the point of view that people buying residential homes adjacent to farms must expect a certain amount of unpleasant by-products from agricultural operations, such as the smell of manure, dust from plowing and noise from harvesting machinery.

The right-to-farm ordinance does not supersede existing county, state or federal laws dealing with public health, safety, zoning and licensing. Instead, the proposed ordinance creates parameters that will allow farmers to raise their crops and animals without fear of lawsuits.

The key provision of the right-to-farm ordinance is creation of an agricultural reconciliation committee. The job of this three-person panel will be to resolve disputes arising from agricultural operations. While it can conduct meetings in a very formal manner approaching a legal proceeding, the committee, under the current draft, is encouraged to act as an informal mediator. Rather than drag out the resolution process and allow problems to fester and grow, the intention is to have the committee solve problems as quickly as possible.

The ordinance also calls for sellers of property to include a statement notifying buyers that Carroll has a right-to-farm ordinance. The purpose is to let buyers know that farming is an integral part of the county's economy and that farmers have certain rights.

The current board hopes to adopt this ordinance before the new commissioners take office. Even though it has been five years since the need for the right-to-farm legislation was first acknowledged, it would be in the interest of all Carroll County residents to get this ordinance on the books as quickly as possible.

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