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Urban Encroachment

What used to be farmland as far as the eye could see now has a skyline of strip malls and townhomes. Does that sound like your view? Despite the efforts to preserve farmland, urban sprawl is gobbling it up. New neighbors might even file nuisance lawsuits to stop nearby farming operations.

Rusty Rumley is a senior staff attorney at the National Agricultural Law Center. He says every state has its own right-to-farm laws, but they vary quite a bit.

"There’s some states that if you’re in land that’s zoned as agricultural, then the right-to-farm protections apply. In other parts of the country, they generally do it on either was the farm in existence before the house that the neighbors are living in, or, they’ll set a finite period of time," says Rumley. "If the farm’s been in existence for two-years, substantially unchanged and no one complains, then after that they’re going to be protected."

If you’re in animal agriculture and becoming surrounded by urbanization, Rumley says it probably won’t be good for your operation’s survival, and you or your children might be forced to sell. However, urban encroachment isn’t always a bad thing. It can increase land values, offer landowners a better return than crop production, and boost marketing opportunities.

"If you’re doing something like agritourism operations, or you’re renting your old farm barn out for weddings or something like that, having the customers located closer to you is a very good thing," he says. "It just really depends on what kind of farming operation you’re going to want to run."

Learn about the right-to-farm laws in your state

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