What the Florida “Agritourism” Statutes Do — And Do Not, Do: Part II

This is a continuation of a three part series. Check out part one here.

Being Zoned Agriculturally Does Not Mean You Fall Under the Agritourism Statutes

This is a different way of stating the above. It is a common misconception that property zoned agricultural (A, A-1, etc.)  or rural (R, AR, OR, etc.) automatically conveys agritourism rights to the owner. It does not.

As I said above, the Agritourism Statutes only apply to properties with the ag tax classification. The ag classification and zoning are two separate things. While it’s true that the way your property is zoned can be helpful for being able to use it a certain way, the ag tax classification does not automatically attach to the property just because of the zoning. The county property appraiser and your local zoning office likely neither work in the same place nor communicate to each other on these issues, so don’t get them confused.

No matter how obvious your farming operation is or how many ag-related zoning designations the property has, you still have to apply to your county’s property appraiser office to qualify for the ag classification. That being said, your local zoning code may provide for some agritourism-like benefits for type of zoning designation you have. For example, Hernando County allows for a winery or distillery as a special exception under Section IV(6)(a)(3) of its Code. That means if you follow the County’s procedures for applying for a special exception, pay fees, and potentially build a parking lot, you’re able to have a commercial operation on ag property, much like you would under the Agritourism Statutes. But, you will not be exempt from the Building Code or fall under the liability safe-haven of the Right to Farm Act like other property owners with the ag tax exemption.

The Agritourism Statute Does Not Make You Immune from Liability

Even if you qualify for some of the protections under the Agritourism Statutes, you are not immune from liability. Folks often think they are protected from a lawsuit because of Fla. Stat. 570.88, which states that agritourism operators are not liable for injuries resulting from the “inherent risks” of the agritourism activities. But that doesn’t mean the injured party can’t sue you. They just have to show that you either: 1) failed to post appropriate signage under Fla. Stat. 570.89, 2) injured them as result of something outside of the “inherent risk” of the agritourism activity (like falling when entering the bathroom); or 3) even if they were injured as part of an “inherent risk” of the activity, you were reckless in how that area was maintained or the activity conducted. Again, this is why it’s so important for farmers operating agribusinesses “on the side” to approach these activities with the same caution as their day-to-day business—consider having an attorney draft releases of liability for the activity, review signage compliance, and assist with preparing safety plans specific to the activity being conducted.

Similarly, the Florida Right to Farm Act, Fla. Stat. 823.14, does not make you immune from a nuisance claim even if you fall under the Agritourism Statutes. The extent of the noise, smell, or vibrations, among other issues, are all questions of fact that may subject to agritourism operator and the employees to being shut down under a successful nuisance claim. For more details on this Act, check out my blog post here.

Tune in for Part III, the final segment of this series, discussing Florida Building Code and local government regulation.

Questions about the Agritourism Statutes? Let’s chat. Contact us at contact@groveslaw.ag to schedule a consultation.

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Kara Groves

After earning her law degree from University of Florida Levin College of Law and working as a tort defense litigator, Kara is settling down and bought some acreage out in Mount Dora. She has returned to her sustainable, regulatory background to help farmers and locally-focused businesses innovate and capitalize on direct-to-consumer movements across the state. In her off time, Kara is an avid gardener and cook. You’ll often find her in downtown Mount Dora adding to her plant collection or taking client meetings in the local brewery and marketplace.

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