Ohio lawmakers have passed Senate Bill 75, assuring landowners that land currently used for traditional agricultural purposes can also be used for agritourism. SB 75 expressly prohibits authorities from prohibiting agritourism through zoning, and requires the application of current agricultural use valuation to land utilized for agritourism for property tax purposes. It also establishes immunity under some circumstances in a civil action for agritourism providers.
One of the SB 75’s primary sponsors, Sen. Shannon Jones, is bullish on Ohio’s robust agriculture industry. In a July 14, 2014, press release, she announced her first effort to protect agritourism, Senate Bill 334, explaining that agriculture-based industry is the top sector in Ohio and accounts for more than $105 billion of economic activity annually. SB334 failed because the Senate did not take action.
Apple, pumpkin, and strawberry picking, farm-based hayrides, and corn mazes are all examples of agritourism. More broadly, the Ohio Farm Bureau defines agritourism as “any enterprise that welcomes visitors to take part in activities on the farm.” Thus, petting zoos and bed-and-breakfasts are also part of the industry.
SB 75’s bill analysis lays out exactly what the legislation covers. In summary, the measure:
- States that an agritourism provider generally is immune from liability in a civil action for any harm a participant sustains during an agritourism activity if the participant is harmed as a result of a risk inherent in an agritourism activity.
- Specifies circumstances when an agritourism provider is not immune from liability in a civil action.
- Requires an agritourism provider to post and maintain signs that contain a specified warning notice.
- Generally states that county and township zoning laws confer no authority to prohibit the use of any land for agritourism, but allow a board of county commissioners or a board of township trustees to regulate certain factors pertaining to agritourism, such as the size of parking areas and egress or ingress.
- Specifies that the existence of agritourism on a tract, lot, or parcel of land that otherwise meets the definition of "land devoted exclusively to agricultural use" does not disqualify that tract, lot, or parcel from valuation under the statutes that govern current agricultural use valuation of real property.
SB 75 passed the Senate last November, and the House on May 4, 2016. Assuming Gov. John Kasich signs it, the new law will take effect Aug. 16, 2016.