Gov. Paul LePage yesterday signed a bill that aims to reduce liability for agricultural operations that host activities for the public. The measure could help bring insurance relief to farmers, beekeepers, sugar house operators and others who hold agritourism activities.
LD 1605, "An Act to Promote Agricultural Activity in Maine by Limiting the Liability for Agritourism Activities," provides limited liability protection for landowners who post signs stating that visitors accept the inherent risks of the activity, according to a press release from the House Republican Office. The bill is similar to statutes in place for skiing and horseback riding, and 23 other states have enacted laws to address agritourism.
According to bill sponsor Rep. Aaron Libby, R-Waterboro, the law provides farmers "with assurance that they have some protection from a major lawsuit due to a farm-related accident." It will help reduce claims, decrease their premiums and make more insurance options available.
He also said many farmers don't know they need additional insurance to cover agritourism events. "Most farm and ranch insurance policies are intended to cover risks associated with everyday farming exposure," he said in the release.
Agritourism accounts for 50% of income for small farms that make $50,000 to $249,000 a year, according to data from LePage's office. A survey of farms found that nearly 25% participated in various agricultural promotional events, including Maine's Open Farm Day, Maine Maple Sunday and the Great Maine Apple Day.