Law of the Land: Ag not a nuisance; it’s a right

Lance Schuster

“What a nuisance!” I overheard the woman say at the grocery store. “Farmer Johnson was out all night baling hay and making noise with his tractor.”

I smiled knowing that Idaho law protects the right of a farmer to operate his farm without the threat of a nuisance lawsuit.

Idaho’s Right to Farm Act states that agricultural operations are not a nuisance so long as those activities were not a nuisance when they first began. People who move into agricultural areas and are annoyed by the sights, and sounds and smells of farming may file nuisance lawsuits. However, the Idaho Legislature has stated that the right to farm is a “natural right” and is recognized as a permitted use throughout the state.

Normally, a landowner has a right to be free of activities that constitute a nuisance and interfere with a landowner’s comfortable enjoyment of his or her property. But, the Legislature has recognized the importance of agriculture to the state and has prohibited anyone from suing and making a claim for nuisance where a farmer is engaged in normal farming practices (no protection is given to the farmer who operates his farming activities in an improper or negligent fashion).

Some activities that are protected by Idaho’s Right to Farm law include:

• plowing, tilling, and preparing soil

• applying pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals

• planting, irrigating, fertilizing and harvesting

• breeding and raising livestock

• processing and packing ag products

• noise, odors, dust, fumes, light and other conditions associated with an ag operation

• selling ag products at a roadside market.

In Idaho, the right to farm is not a nuisance, but a right protected by law.

Lance J. Schuster is an agricultural attorney at Beard St. Clair Gaffney. He and his wife raise kids and cattle on their small farm near Idaho Falls. He can be reached at 208-523-5171 or