To help address these issues, state Sens. Shannon Jones and Bob Peterson have introduced an agritourism bill, Senate Bill 334, that is based on model legislation developed by Ohio Farm Bureau. The state legislature is expected to address the bill when it returns to regular session after the November elections.
“It’s vital we have grassroots engagement that encourages lawmakers to pass this legislation,” said Brandon Kern, Ohio Farm Bureau’s director of state policy. “It’s a challenge to find time for political outreach during harvest time. However, I would encourage members to take just few moments to call their legislators and tell them to get this one done,” he said.
Here is a list of agritourism issues OFBF hopes will be addressed by the legislation:
Issue: Clarification of Ohio’s recreational user protections – This 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 “you-pick” or “pick your own” farms. However, some farmers have expressed fear that these Ohio statutes do not clearly cover their agritourism activities. This stifles agritourism and limits the ability of farmers to provide quality experiences for visitors. This also hurts their bottom line as it is often costly to gain insurance coverage for these types of activities — if insurance coverage is even available.
Solution: SB 334 defines agritourism in the law and provides farms engaging in agritourism protections from liability related to the inherent dangers associated with being on a farm.
Issue: Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) application – 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 are providing a reason for people to travel around Ohio for experiences they can’t get in their own area.
Solution: Language in SB 334 clarifies the law to ensure land used for agritourism, which otherwise qualifies for CAUV, continues to qualify for the program.
Issue: Zoning for agritourism – Ohio law provides some parameters for the zoning of agricultural land. It is important to update those existing code sections by including agritourism.
Solution: SB 334 clarifies that already existing limits on local government’s power to zone agricultural land apply to agritourism.
Issue: Criteria for ride inspection – 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.
Solution: SB 334 allows the Ohio Department of Agriculture to develop a set of ride safety standards more appropriate for agritourism.
Photo by Cayce Clifford