Understanding Agricultural Liability: Maryland’s Right-to-Farm Law Can Limit Liability for Maryland Farm, Commercial Fishing, and Seafood Operators

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Many individuals moving into agricultural areas in Maryland have no farm backgrounds and little understanding of agricultural operations. The same is true of commercial fishing and seafood operations in Maryland. Once there, the new residents may find the noises, insects, farm equipment on the roads, smells, and other characteristics of agricultural and commercial seafood life unexpected and objectionable. While neighbors should consider working together and developing open lines of communication to find solutions, in some cases, this cooperative approach may not work. In response, Maryland introduced a Right-to-Farm (RTF) law in 1981. All 50 states have RTF laws which typically shield agricultural activities from complaining nonfarm neighbors by limiting the scope of and providing a defense for nuisance actions brought against farms and other agricultural operations. In 2014, Maryland extended these protections to commercial seafood operations and watermen.