Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Protecting Life Down on Colorado's Farms Counties Are Passing Laws to Prevent Former City Folk from Suing Farmers for Noise, Smells

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Protecting Life Down on Colorado's Farms Counties Are Passing Laws to Prevent Former City Folk from Suing Farmers for Noise, Smells

Article excerpt

Before dawn on Saturdays, long before city-dwellers stir from their sleep, farmers set up their bounty in open-air markets around the United States. It is a weekend ritual that delights urban residents, who fill their straw baskets with succulent tomatoes, onions, and sweet corn.

But urbanites' appreciation for farm-fresh goods sometimes diminishes when they transplant themselves to the country. Suddenly, the sounds and smells necessary to produce a ripe melon or quart of milk become an unwelcome reality.

As metropolitan areas nationwide spill into traditional farmland, tensions are rising between those who make their living from the land and newcomers with dreams of peace and pastoral views. From California's fertile San Joaquin Valley to the temperate Carolinas, farmers are increasingly the target of "nuisance" lawsuits from new neighbors. To protect them, local governments are taking the unusual step of enacting tough right-to-farm laws.

In Colorado, where the population has increased by one-fifth since 1990, Larimer County Sept. 2 became the 10th county to establish a Right to Farm and Ranch policy.

"We're saying that agriculture was there first, it's important, and we support it," says county commissioner John Clarke. "If it comes down to a conflict, we're going to take the side of agriculture."

The new policy stipulates that anything that qualifies as part of normal agricultural activity - from noise and dust to slow-moving farm equipment - shall not be considered a nuisance.

"We're hoping this will bring on a better education process," says Bob Hamblen, a cooperative extension agent at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

"People from the city want some elbow room. They see a beautiful site, and they say, 'Man, I want to live there!' " adds Mr. Hamblen, who worked to pass the legislation. "But they don't realize what they're getting into."

Traditionally, rural areas were inhabited almost exclusively by agricultural producers, so raising awareness about the hazards of country life simply wasn't an issue. Indeed, homesteaders often lived under the same roof as their livestock so they wouldn't have to brave the winter elements to tend them. …

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