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Got visitors coming? Cover your farm liability risks

Signage on a post directs farm visitors to hay rides, tickets, cut flowers and more
SIGNS EVERYWHERE: Clear signage never leaves guessing and inadvertent wandering to visitors.
Ultimate farm safety test: Where and when might a 2-year-old be at risk?

Most of us don’t think about safety issues until it's too late. Then the thinking shifts to, "I wish I had…"

To help you think preventive and plan ahead, take a look at New York Department of Agriculture and Markets’ new Safety in Agricultural Tourism guide. It’s just in time for upcoming season of farm and winery tours, farm markets, cideries, equine operations and u-pick operations.

The guide clarifies responsibilities of agri-tourism and equine business operators and their visitors under the Safety in Agricultural Tourism Act signed into New York law last year. Its best management practices will help evaluate possible risks and enhance your liability protection regardless of where you farm. It addresses events and activities conducted for educational or recreational purposes, and those benefiting your farm through the sale, marketing, production, harvesting or use of the farm’s products.

It can also help create effective, informative signs. The document also describes the public’s responsibilities when visiting these agri-tourism locations.

What’s inside the guide
Major requirements include, but are not limited to:

• Warning signs posted in conspicuous locations on the potential risks of the on-farm activities and the responsibilities of visitors.

• Warning signs should be easy to read and clearly identify risks as specifically as possible. With multiple on-farm activities, more than one sign may be needed.

• Off-limit areas that are clearly identified to visitors with signage stating, for example, “Employees Only,” or “No Visitors.”

• Adequate employee training that includes preparing them to guide and instruct the public, as well as effectively communicating the risks and responsibilities of visitors.

• Visitor responsibility signage is required to be posted under this law at every point of sale or place of ticket distribution.

• Be sure signage is used that conforms with your state’s laws. Signs found on the web or developed for other states may not meet your state’s requirements.

"New York Farm Bureau advocated for these necessary reforms to hopefully provide some relief to excessive costs of liability insurance for equine facilities, u-pick it operations and Christmas tree farms," says David Fisher, Farm Bureau president. "It's also important for the general public to understand there are inherent risks to stepping foot on a farm." That means visitors must be informed.

Check out more suggestions inside the guide. Maybe even conduct the ultimate farm safety test: Where and when might a two-year-old be at risk?

Information provided by New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets

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