Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Update from the Capitol: Is your stable in the business of "Agritourism?" (Hint: answer YES)

A bipartisan bill making its way through the Legislature this session would grant immunity from liability for the inherent risks of "agritourism" activities.

So, what's agritourism?

According to SF 152 (companion House file 216), agritourism means: 

"activity carried out on a farm or ranch that allows organizations or members of the general public, for recreational, entertainment, charitable, or educational purposes, to view, enjoy, or participate in rural activities, including, but not limited to: farming; viticulture; winemaking; ranching; and historical, cultural, farm stay, gleaning, harvest-your-own, or natural activities and attractions. An activity is an agritourism activity whether or not the participant pays to participate in the activity."

I underlined that last sentence because it's important.  Both for-profit and non-profit sponsors of agritourism activities would be immune from liability for accidents, injuries, or death arising from the inherent dangers of agritourism activities—including livestock activities.

Sound familiar?

Under current law, Minn. Stat. § 604A.12 immunizes only nonprofit sponsors of livestock activities.  604A.12 was passed back in 1994.  It is a well written law in which Minnesota officially recognizes the inherent risks of livestock activities.  Those risks are defined here.  But, for political reasons, Minnesota has always applied this immunity only to nonprofits.

On behalf of the Minnesota Horse Council, and with the help of Minnesota's horseman Dan Ramberg who got 604A.12 passed in 1994, I have tried since 2009 to get the word "nonprofit" deleted.  Now is our chance to bring Minnesota in line with at least 45 other states that offer immunity for livestock or equestrian activities, regardless whether their sponsor is a nonprofit.

I have been in contact with the agritourism bill's sponsors in the House and Senate.  Please contact your local Senator and Representative to encourage them to support SF 152 and HF 216... with the additional amendment of Minn. Stat. § 604A.12 to —finally!— eliminate its exclusive applicability to nonprofits.