Stay One Step Ahead Of Legal Challenges

Lauren Alexander

Lauren Alexander

I’m going out on a limb and guessing that as a grower, you have a pretty full plate. Between managing aspects of production, keeping your books straight, and staying up to date with the latest regulatory issues, there’s probably very little time for anything else by the day’s end.

The last thing you should have to deal with on top of the hard work you put in every day, are legal challenges. However, as the regulatory climate in agriculture intensifies, you need to be 100% aware of what risks you’re facing to avoid any potential trouble.

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I had to laugh when I once heard someone refer to the U.S. as the “Litigious States of America,” but as with every joke, there’s an underlying truth.

We are a litigious society, there’s no denying that. According to The Association of Trial Lawyers of America, the annual cost to the U.S. economy for civil lawsuits was $223 billion last year, that is the equivalent of $809 for each American citizen.

There are several different ways you could find yourself facing legal trouble, and lawsuits over food safety, workers’ compensation, risks associated with agritainment, and general negligence are just a few.

Focusing specifically on agritainment, recently a reader posted a comment on a story I wrote about the advantages of U-Pick farming (bit.ly/1sH1zzL), basically to the tune of, “That’s great and all, but forget about it if you don’t want to get sued.” Of course it’s frustrating that something that seems so simple could result in such a headache for you and your operation, but if you take the proper precautions to assure you’re covered, it’s a much less intimidating prospect.

All agritainment options require planning to avoid potential lawsuits. As soon as you let the public onto your premises — for whatever purpose — your liability increases dramatically.

To provide a few examples of the minutiae you need to be mindful of, in a presentation titled “Agritainment Insurance And Risk Management” by Ryan Albers from the Farm Bureau Financial Services, he notes a few of the common losses for farmers in agritainment ventures include loading and unloading falls from hayrides or wagon rides, trips and falls on the ground, collisions, and animal bites. (Go to bit.ly/1sNFUaQ to read more from Albers.)

A little scary, right? Rest assured it doesn’t have to be. If you plan to host any sort of agritainment activity, you can consult your insurance provider regarding coverage for those specific activities. However, be aware that not all traditional farm or ranch insurance policies cover agritainment-related risks, so you have to do your research to find one that does.

For example, AgMax Insurance, which is available in several states, has a customized policy option that covers activities such as hay rides, corn mazes, petting zoos, U-Pick operations, retail operations, and more.

Hopefully this didn’t scare you too much, but if it did, and you find yourself in the insurance office signing papers to get additional coverage, then maybe it’s not such a bad thing.