Nevada’s Pro-Farmer Right to Farm Law

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Though Nevada is a difficult place to ranch and farm, many rural areas continue to see ranching and farming using the natural resources of dirt, water and sun.  Though Nevada has not seen much of a net increase of population, folks from California and the East Coast continue to move to certain areas which they find beautiful for the open space.

However, many of these folks do not realize they are “coming to the nuisance”.  The reason their new house, and new subdivision, exists is because the local rancher sold that parcel to a developer in order to be able to continue to afford to ranch for a living.  After they move in and the wind changes, they begin to smell the odors from the neighboring ranch, dairy or hog farm.

Nevada, like many states, has codified (made it into law) the farmer’s  right to continue its operations even if the neighbors are offended by it.   When there is a local problem, often the correct legal way to stop it is through a nuisance action in court.  The general definition of an abatable nuisance is “Anything which is injurious to health, or indecent and offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property …  .”  Nevada Revised Statute section 40.140 1(a).

Arguably smelling pig or cattle manure is offensive to the senses.  Most people would probably agree that it is.  The Nevada legislature has provided an exception for agriculture.  It does this by setting up a presumption that an agriculture use (as defined) is not a “nuisance” for legal purposes.

Subsection 2 of the statute provides, “It is presumed:  (a) That an agricultural activity conducted on farmland, consistent with good agricultural practice and established before surrounding nonagricultural activities is reasonable.  Such activity does not constitute a nuisance unless the activity has a substantial adverse effect on the public health or safety.”  Thus, the bar is high.  The aggrieved neighbors have the burden of proving that the effect on public health or safety is substantial.  Bad odor would likely not past the sniff test established here.

But what is a “good agricultural practice”?  “[A]n agricultural activity which does not violate a federal, state or local law, ordinance or regulation”  is presumed to be such a practice.  NRS sec. 40.140, subsec. 2.  Thus, the farmer has met its’ burden of proof if it is not established that there is a violation of law or regulation.  The reverse is not necessarily true, though.  The existence of a violation of law or ordinance does not necessarily equate with nuisance, as the law is written.

Each situation is based on the individual facts of the dispute.  The above is not meant to be legal advice.  For advice on your specific problem, please contact us.

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