Legislative Update in Pennsylvania

September 2011Newsletters In the Zone

Senate Bill No. 899 proposes to create an act to be known as the “Family Farm Initiative and Enterprise Land Development Act” (Act).

Of the purposes identified for the proposed Act, one is to “[r]elieve farm families who meet the standards established for land improvement and construction and use of buildings and structures supporting agricultural production, agricultural marketing and agritourism enterprises and activities from zoning, land development and construction standards, requirements and restrictions that would otherwise be imposed by local governments.”

One of the interesting parts of the Act is that it would preempt various local ordinances. The proposed Act addresses the issue of preemption by stating the Act and its provisions “are of Statewide concern and occupy the whole field of regulation related to land development, construction and engagement and operation of supporting agricultural structures and facilities related to agricultural marketing and agritourism enterprises.” The Act adds that “[n]o ordinance or regulation of any municipality may prohibit or attempt to regulate any matter relating to land development, construction or operation of supporting agricultural structures or agricultural marketing or agritourism enterprises in a manner that conflicts with this act.”

The proposed definitions found in the Act appear to be broad in nature, as does the Act in general, in fostering agricultural-related enterprises. For example, the term is “agritourism enterprise” is defined as any of the following:

“(1) An enterprise that provides entertainment or education on a farm to tourists and other patrons in the promotion of farming or rural lifestyle or the promotion of agricultural products, including farm enterprises that:

(i) Provide for participation of patrons in farming or harvesting activities.
(ii) Allow patrons to interact with farm or rural animals or allow patrons to interact with agricultural products normally produced on the farm.
(iii) Promote the farm or products produced on the farm through tours, sampling and tasting of products or souvenir sales.
(iv) Provide bed and breakfast accommodations or similar farm lodging to patrons as part of the engagement in farming or harvesting activities or to acquaint patrons with the farm’s agricultural character or aesthetic nature.
(v) Provide pastoral or family dining.
(vi) Provide games, rides and other entertainment activities normally engaged in by farm families or rural communities.
(vii) Engage in activities in conjunction with local seasonal festivals to promote the local availability of agricultural products.

(2) An enterprise in equine activity.
(3) An enterprise in agritainment, as defined in ... the Pennsylvania Farmland and Forest Land Assessment Act of 1974.
(4) Any other enterprise determined to be an agritourism enterprise by the board.”

The Act would also establish a Farm Enterprise Standards Board that would, among other things, “identify supporting agricultural structures and agricultural marketing and agritourism enterprises that will be authorized to be constructed or performed on farms.”

The Act also provides that enterprises meeting minimum standards pursuant to the Farm Enterprise Standards Board and in connection with land development, construction or operation of any supporting agricultural structure or any facility related to an agricultural marketing or agritourism enterprise performed in accordance with the minimum standards established under the Act shall be authorized absolutely, notwithstanding any municipal ordinance, public nuisance or zoning prohibitions to the contrary.

Finally, as would be expected, the Act also provides that it shall be liberally constructed to effectuate its purpose.

For more information, please contact David H. Comer at 610.397.7963 or [email protected].

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