News/PRBill Limits Liability at Ag-Related Tourism Events
April 2, 2014
Gannett Wisconsin Media
Wisconsin’s tourism industry could see more events held on farms if a bill passes in the state Senate before they adjourn Tuesday providing farmers with immunity from civil liability.
Assembly Bill 746 would limit liability during agricultural tourism activities, like farm tours and breakfasts. Posted signs would warn visitors of the inherent risks posed by land, farm activity and animals.
Chilton farmer Dave Meuer got the ball rolling on the bill when he was dropped by his insurance company last year. “We were with them for five years and had no accidents. They said we had too many people coming through our farm. We found another insurance company, but are paying two to three times more.”
Between 20,000 and 25,000 people visit Meuer Farm in Chilton every year. It has a corn maze, dinners on the farm , strawberry picking, maple syrup classes and school field trips.
Meuer wants to get his insurance rates down and protect himself and other farmers from “frivolous lawsuits,” he said. “Someone could decide to run through your alfalfa field and trip on stubble and break an arm and sue you.” He gathered information from similar laws in 23 other states and gave it to the Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association. They forwarded it to lawmakers.
The owners of Mulberry Lane Farm in Sherwood applaud Meuer’s efforts. They get between 20,000 and 30,000 visitors a year for farm tours and farm weddings. While they’ve never been sued, they had a scare once in their nine years of business when a child was kicked by a cow. The child wasn’t seriously harmed, but was sent for medical attention.
“Safety is our No. 1 concern,” said Mulberry co-owner Bonnie Keyes. “This bill will give us added protection in the unlikely event someone is injured while visiting our farm. It would help relieve anxiety because, as a farm owner, you could be sued because of today’s culture.”
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