NH Law About... Right to Farm

Introduction to... Right to Farm

Posted: March 18, 2016

While there is a "right to farm" in New Hampshire, the phrase "right to farm" isn't found in the statutes.  This is definitely one legal reference question where Google is your friend - as long as you're careful to choose sites that talk about New Hampshire law.  

“Right to farm” is a popular name for the laws in every state that protect farmers and encourage agricultural activity. These laws are also sometimes called "anti-nuisance" laws. The National Agricultural Law Center says that right-to-farm laws "seek to protect qualifying farmers and ranchers from nuisance lawsuits filed by individuals who move into a rural area where normal farming operations exist, and who later use nuisance actions to attempt to stop those ongoing operations." One small section of New Hampshire's RSA 432: Soil Conservation and Farmland Preservation - §32 to §35: “Nuisance Liability of Agricultural Operations” - is the “right to farm” statute for New Hampshire.

RSA 432’s grant of immunity from liability for farmers is an exception to the general common law rule (common law means court cases, not statutes) of possible liability for activities which create nuisances. The general right to sue for public and private nuisance arises from a well-established body of common law which developed over many years in New Hampshire, as well as in every other state in the country.  RSA 432:32 to 432:35 changed this common law in New Hampshire and gave those who work in “agricultural operations” (as defined by RSA 21:34-a) immunity from public or private nuisance suits under certain conditions.  This statute is therefore invalidating the pre-existing New Hampshire common law on nuisance to the extent that it conflicts with this statute.  

This is a good example of why it's important to be complete and thorough when doing legal research. Cases (or statutes, or rules) can be only part of the story. If they're not careful, researchers may end up with incomplete and incorrect information. Starting with a good secondary source (or, reading "about" the law - see the links below) will tell researchers whether they need to look at cases, or statutes, or rules, or all three. 

Researchers should check with local officials to see if there are any local ordinances which may also apply to the issue because RSA 147:1 gives health officers of a town authority to regulate the prevention and removal of nuisances.

For researchers wanting detailed legal analysis, suggestions for the future development of the law, and references to many relevant authorities, see the link to the Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review article cited below. 

Although there are no federal statutes or regulations directly relating to the states’ “right to farm” movement, there are many federal, state and local laws and regulations that could potentially relate to a case under this statute, since RSA 432:34 says that “agricultural operations” are not negligent or improper when they conform to federal, state and local laws.  A researcher might need to locate these authorities to demonstrate compliance with whatever laws apply to the agricultural operation.

The “Read About …” section of this guide refers to resources about the law and will provide context and key terms. “Read the Law …” links to selected laws and should be used as a jumping off point for further research. Please remember that this guide is for information purposes only and is not comprehensive. It is intended as a starting point for research, to illustrate the various sources of the law, and to provide guidance in their use. NH Law About ...  is not a substitute for the services of an attorney. 


Read about... Right to Farm

WEBSITES

New Hampshire Municipal Association."Balancing Agricultural Use with Growth and Development: An Overview of New Hampshire Law" New Hampshire Town and City (June 2010)  GO>

Link verified on: March 18, 2016

New Hampshire Municipal Association. Local Regulation of Agricultural and Horticultural Operations: New Hampshire Town and City (March/April 2015).   GO>

Link verified on: October 3, 2016

New Hampshire Municipal Association. "Is Your Town Farm Friendly? A Checklist for Sustaining Rural Character" (March/April 2015)  GO>

Link verified on: March 18, 2016

New Hampshire Municipal Association. "What is an Agricultural Commission?" New Hampshire Town and City, (March/April, 2015)  GO>

Link verified on: March 18, 2016

New Hampshire. Dept. of Agriculture, Markets & Food. Laws and Rules

Link verified on: March 18, 2016

A partial list of laws and rules pertaining to agriculture in New Hampshire.   GO>


PRINT

Land Use Planning and Zoning / by Peter J. Loughlin (Newark, N.J.: Matthew Bender, LexisNexis 2010) 4th ed.  GO>

Link verified on: May 18, 2017

Neighbor law : fences, trees, boundaries & noise / Attorneys Emily Doskow & Lina Gullen. Berkeley, California : Nolo, 2014.   GO>

Link verified on: March 18, 2016

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Read the law about... Right to Farm

NEW HAMPSHIRE STATUTES

RSA 21:34-a. Farm, Agriculture, Farming  GO>

Link verified on: March 18, 2016

RSA 147. Nuisances; Toilets; Drains; Expectoration; Rubbish and Waste  GO>

Link verified on: March 18, 2016

RSA 432. Soil Conservation and Farmland Preservation  GO>

Link verified on: March 18, 2016

RSA 485. New Hampshire Safe Drinking Water Act  GO>

Link verified on: March 18, 2016

RSA 485-A. Water Pollution and Waste Disposal  GO>

Link verified on: March 18, 2016

Learn About New Hampshire Statutes: New Hampshire statutes are the laws of the State of New Hampshire as enacted by the New Hampshire General Court. GO>
 

NEW HAMPSHIRE CASES

167 N.H. 745 (2015). Forster v. Town of Henniker  GO>

Link verified on: April 1, 2016

Learn About New Hampshire Cases: New Hampshire case law consists of the published opinions of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. GO>
 

FOR MORE HELP ...

National Agricultural Law Center. States' Right-To-Farm Statutes  GO>

Link verified on: October 3, 2016

Terence J. Centner, Governments and Unconstitutional Takings: When do Right-to-Farm Laws Go Too Far?, 33 B.C. Envtl. Aff. L. Rev. 87 2006)

Link verified on: October 3, 2016

State anti-nuisance laws, known as right-to-farm laws, burden neighboring property owners with nuisances. The purpose of the laws is to protect existing investments by offering an affirmative defense. Activities that are not a nuisance when commenced cannot become a nuisance due to changes in land uses by neighbors. While most state laws involve a lawful exercise of the state's police powers, a right-to-farm law may set forth protection against nuisances that is so great that it operates to effect a regulatory taking.   GO>

Wikipedia. Nuisance  GO>

Link verified on: March 18, 2016

New Hampshire Law Library

Link verified on: July 31, 2017

The state's only public law library. Call, email, or visit, we'll be happy to help.   GO>


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