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New York isn’t Horsing Around Anymore

Do you visit farms for u-pick events and horse lessons? Own and operate agriculture businesses that invite the public onto your land educating them about agriculture? Then this new New York State law may impact you.

Just over a year ago New York signed into law the Safety in Agriculture Tourism Act (“The Act”). The Act is an inherent risk statute which breaks down those risks that are germane to dangerous activities, this includes horseback riding and farm tours. With this unique inherent risk statute, the Act covers all activities that fall under the Act’s definition of agritourism. The Act impacts both the owners and operators by limiting their liability exposure. It, also requires visitors to these farms to take on more responsibility in understanding the inherent risks to the activities they participate in.

What is agritourism? Agritourism are those activities that draw in the public for entertainment and education. The Act includes a list of agritourism; cideries, u-pick, indoor and outdoor equine activities, and even expands to other activities that have the purpose of enjoyment and/or educating the public of farming and farm life. Since the Act is written so broadly, this may even include tree farms and related trails. This would affect a wide range of landowners, not just farmers. However, the definition under the Act is not all inclusive and explicitly excludes equine therapy facilities.

Knowing whether your business is covered under the Act is important, because the Act imposes duties and responsibilities on both owners/operators and visitors of agritourism. While the Act offers business owners and operators limited liability assuming they comply with the Act, it requires the visitors to take more care in understanding the risks associated with the activity. Additionally, these responsibilities owed by visitors are not all inclusive. The operators of tourism are permitted to establish their own policies and rules, assuming these policies and rules conform to the Act. Below is a chart of a few of the listed responsibilities owners, operators, and visitors have under the Act

 

Duties and Responsibilities  

Owners and Operators of Tourism

 

Visitors of Tourism

 

Post and maintain way finding signage Comply with way finding signs
Adequately train employees actively involved in agriculture tourism  

reasonably follow written information or posted visitors rules of conduct, follow verbal or other forms of communicated directions

 

Post conspicuous “Warning to Visitors” naming inherent risks

 

Act reasonably regarding the disclosed risks of the agriculture activity
 

Provide written information containing required texts and graphics provided by Agriculture and Markets

 

Reasonably remain in designated areas
Post duties of visitors (listed in the following column)

 

 

Take reasonable care to prevent reasonably and foreseeable risks to visitors

 

Not willfully remove, deface, alter or otherwise damage signage, warning devices, or safety devices.
Post notice to visitors of the right to a full refund

 

 

 

As you can see the owners and operators have many more responsibilities to uphold compared to the visitors of tourism. It is essential for the owners and operators of tourism to pay special attention to the listed duties to ensure that they are protected by the Act. Without it, they may open themselves to increased liability and insurance premiums. Even though, the Act lessens their exposure to liability, the Act does not completely eliminate liability. Therefore, still requiring them to be adequately insured and take proper precautions.

For these reasons, it is vital for business owners, and even land owners with farm and nature operations to talk to their financial advisors, attorneys, and insurance agents who have experience in agritourism and liability to ensure that they are protected.

By |2018-11-26T11:33:42+00:00November 19th, 2018|The Blog @JGUA|