ATLANTA – Legislation making it harder for property owners to file nuisance lawsuits against farms gained final passage in the General Assembly Monday.
On the last day of this year’s legislative session, the Georgia House of Representatives passed the Freedom to Farm Act 106-60, agreeing to a substitute version of the bill the state Senate passed last week.
House Bill 1150 will give neighbors bothered by bad smells, dust or noise emanating from a farm two years to file a nuisance suit, up from just one year under the original House bill. After that, any farm operating legally will be protected.
As the bill went through the General Assembly, supporters argued farmers need the certainty legal protection against nuisance suits would give before they invest the huge sums needed to operate a farm.
Opponents said a current state law enacted during the 1980s gives farmers more legal protection than the new legislation.
They said the current law protects existing property owners when new neighbors move in, whether they’re homeowners or other agricultural operations. On the other hand, House Bill 1150 gives existing farmers only get two years of protection from nuisances that might arise from a new farm operation.
The final version of the bill also includes a carve-out for confined animal-feeding operations (CAFOs) including large hog farms and chicken operations. Under the bill, if any existing farm adds a CAFO, the two-year statute of limitations for nuisance lawsuits is restarted.
The legislation now moves to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature,
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.