Agritourism offers farmers and ranchers additional income and marketing opportunities for their crops, and it offers non-farmers the opportunity to appreciate and invest in Oregon’s agricultural bounty. Events “related to and supportive of agriculture” including harvest festivals and farm-to-table dinners, direct-market opportunities such as farm stands, beef shares and U-picks, educational activities including farm tours, “how-to” classes and overnight farm stays, to recreational use of natural resources on farmland for fishing, hunting, birding and hiking.
The Evolution of the Bill
After a two-session process, bills SB/HB 341— Limited Liability for Agritourism Providers were signed into law on June 22, 2015. Impetus for the bill grew from the 2012 and 2013 Oregon Agritourism Summits I and II, organized by Melissa Fery - OSU Extension Small Farms program and Scottie Jones - Leaping Lamb Farms and Farm Stay U.S., with partners Kathi Jaworski for Travel Oregon, Mary Stewart - MARStewart Group and a Susan Labozetta, an agritourism consultant from Grants Pass. Bill Cross, the lobbyist for Oregon Destination Marketing Association, wrote and submitted the first version of the bill.
When the bill did not make it out of committee, a legislative workgroup discussed and refined the bill during the summer and fall of 2014. The workgroup included representatives from Oregon Farm Bureau, Friends of Family Farmers, Clackamas County Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Corvallis Visitors Association, Country Financial Insurance, Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon Trial Lawyers, MARStewart Group/Oregon Farm Loop and three agritourism farms: Barb Iverson – Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, Scottie Jones – Leaping Lamb farms and Farm Stay U.S. and John Zielinski – E.Z. Orchards.
During the 2015 legislative session, a revised bill was submitted and moved through meetings with legislators, hearings and work sessions. After an amendment and additional discussions, the Oregon Trial Lawyers softened on their position in opposition and the bill passed both the Senate and House. Oregon becomes the 21ststate with Limited Liability for Agritourism.
How Does Limited Liability Support Agritourism Providers?
It is often difficult for agritourism farms to find liability insurance for activities because of the risks (perceived and real) of inviting the public on to a farm.
SB/HB 341 will assist agritourism providers who post warning notices required by the bill by limiting their liability for injury or death resulting from the agritourism activity and risks inherent to farms and ranches, such as uneven or slippery ground.
Exceptions to Limited Liability under this Law Under the bill, agritourism providers would not be protected from liability for injury or death if:
- Caused by willful or wanton acts or omissions by the agritourism provider;
- Caused intentionally;
- Due to failure to inspect equipment provided to participants;
- Due to failure to inspect property for potential hazards and warn participants;
- Provider fails to post conspicuous warning notices required by the bill;
- Provider fails to obtain proper approvals for the activities.
Oregon’s Similar Law for Equine Activities Oregon’s Equine limited liability law, ORS 30.687 – 67, provides that equine activity sponsors and equine professionals cannot be held liable for injury or death arising from an equine activity (e.g. riding horses) as long as signs are posted and other steps are taken, similar to provisions in SB/HB 341