The suburbs of my city have grown, and new housing is being developed near farms that have existed for generations. Can local government place restrictions on farms due to noise, pollution or smells?

The suburbs of my city have grown, and new housing is being developed near farms that have existed for generations. Can local government place restrictions on farms due to noise, pollution or smells?

All fifty states have right-to-farm statutes. These laws are meant to protect farmers from nuisance lawsuits filed by an individual who moves to an area where a farming operation exists, or in some cases where a farm has existed substantially unchanged for some time, and who files a lawsuit to stop the farming operation. 

However, there are some limitations to the protections provided by right-to-farm statutes. Some states condition nuisance protection on a farm's compliance with state and federal laws and if the operation follows good agricultural practice. These limitations fall into at least one of the following categories.

  • Compliance with State and Federal Laws: The farming operation must be compliant with the applicable state and federal laws, otherwise the right-to-farm nuisance suit protection does not apply.
  • Following Good Agricultural Practice: Various states’ right-to-farm laws are only applicable to farms that follow good agricultural practices. Some states may legally define “good agricultural practices;” other states have provisions that generally require the farming operation to comply with good agricultural practices as required by industry customs.
  • Public Health and Safety: If the farming operation has an adverse effect on public health and safety, the operation may be considered a nuisance.