“If we can address some of these issues, Farm Bureau members believe we can strengthen this growing community of farmers who seek to share the enjoyment of being on the farm with consumers,” said Brandon Kern, OFBF director of state policy.
Lawmakers have already shown an interest in the issue. In particular, state Rep. Dave Hall of Millersburg came to Farm Bureau with ideas of his own on agritourism. Hall serves as the House Agriculture Natural Resources Committee chairman, and his district consists of an area that holds a lot of potential for agritourism development.
“After talking with farmers throughout my district, I decided to introduce a bill that could reduce some regulatory burdens and help grow agritourism,” said Hall. “When you can help farmers grow their business while they’re teaching consumers where their food is coming from, that’s a win for everyone.”
Recently, Farm Bureau developed model legislation and shared it with legislative leaders in the General Assembly. The reaction has been positive. State Sen. Shannon Jones, a Springboro Republican, has already committed to introducing the Farm Bureau model bill.
“We feel pretty good about the fact that multiple lawmakers have already expressed an interest in seeing something done in this area,” Kern said.
Here is a list of issues OFBF hopes will be addressed in any legislation addressing agritourism:
Clarifying Ohio’s recreational user statute
Ohio’s recreational user statute provides certain immunity to landowners who have made their land available to users for recreational pursuits. A similar statute provides limited immunity protection in the case of “u-pick” or “pick your own” farms. However, some farmers exploring agritourism activities on their farms have expressed fear that these Ohio statutes do not clearly cover the activities they may provide their visitors.
Application of Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV)
Some agritourism entities that are clearly agricultural in nature have difficulty with their CAUV status. CAUV status has been denied to agricultural entities that are also conducting agritourism activities such as trail rides.
These entities are not only preserving farmland (the intention of CAUV) but also providing a reason for people to travel around and through our state for experiences they cannot get in their own area.
Ohio law provides some parameters for the zoning of agricultural land. It is important to update those existing code sections by including agritourism.
Criteria used to evaluate the safety of agritourism rides and attractions such as zip lines and inflatable “bounce houses” are often standards more appropriate for amusement parks. There are more appropriate industry standards that can be used such as those used by camps.