Landowner Liability



Land ownership is a part of the American ethos that brings with it many benefits and a multitude of potential liabilities. Agricultural landowners’ liability may be exacerbated by urbanization as farming operations become surrounded by urban areas and as urban dwellers pursue more outdoor recreational activities. This overview focuses on the major areas for potential landowner liability resulting from the mere ownership of agricultural land. However, state laws vary in their treatment of landowner liability and careful study of each jurisdiction’s law is necessary to avoid pitfalls. Read the full overview.

Note: Recently added resources are posted at the top of the applicable sections.

Major Statutes

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 9601-9675
Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 11001-11050
Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), 7 U.S.C. §§ 136-136y
Federal Water Pollution and Control Act (a/k/a Clean Water Act), 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251-1389
Federal Air Pollution and Control Act (a/k/a Clean Air Act), 42 U.S.C. §§ 7401-7675
Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531-1544
The Occupational Safety and Health Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 651-678
Migrant and Seasonal Worker Protection Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1801-1872
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219
Compilation of StatesRight-To-Farm Statutes
Compilation of StatesRecreational Use Statutes
Compilation of StatesAgritourism Statutes
Compilation of StatesEquine Activity Statutes
Compilation of States’ “Fence LawStatutes


Clean Air Act State Operating Permit Requirements, 40 C.F.R. Part 70
Clean Air Act Federal Operating Permit Requirements, 40 C.F.R. Part 71
Clean Water Act EPA Administered NPDES Permit Programs, 40 C.F.R. Part 122
Clean Water Act State Administered NPDES Permit Programs, 40 C.F.R. Part 123
FIFRA Worker Protection Standard, 40 C.F.R. Part 170
National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan, 40 C.F.R. Part 300
Designation, Reportable Quantities, and Notification, 40 C.F.R. Part 302
Innocent Landowners, Standards for Conducting All Appropriate Inquiry, 40 C.F.R. Part 312
Emergency Planning and Notification, 40 C.F.R. Part 355
Hazardous Chemical Reporting: Community Right-to-Know, 40 C.F.R. Part 370
Migrant and Seasonal Worker Protection, 29 C.F.R. Part 500
FLSA Exemptions Applicable to Agriculture, 29 C.F.R. Part 780
Occupational Safety and Health Standards for Agriculture, 29 C.F.R. Part 1928
Federal Register Rules Open for Comment

Case Law

Case Law Index for Landowner Liability

Center Research Publications

States’ Noxious Weed Statutes (Hall and Hivick, last updated 2021)
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (“UAV”) Laws: Typical Provisions (Earich and R. Rumley, last updated 2020)
Equine Activity Statutes (Rollins and E. Rumley, last updated 2019)
Forms and Filing Information: Business Organizations (2019, updated 2023)
Issue Brief: Smithfield Foods and Right to Farm in North Carolina (R. Rumley, 2018)
UAVs and the Law (R. Rumley)
States’ “Fence LawStatutes (R. Rumley)
Agricultural Contracting (R. Rumley)
Wind Energy Leasing Handbook Workbook (Ferrell and R. Rumley, 2012)
Using Alternative Enterprises and Recreational Development to Bolster Farm Income Workbook (R. Rumley & Tullos, 2012)
Managing Legal Risk for Alternative Uses of Forestland (R. Rumley, Hatch, Walkingstick, E. Rumley, McPeake)
Recreational Access to Private Lands: Liability Problems and Solutions (Copeland, 1998)
StatesRight-To-Farm Statutes (Springsteen, 2009)
Environmental Law: Federal Laws That Affect Agriculture PowerPoint Presentation (Springsteen, 2009)
Legal Risk Management: Protecting Your Farm and Family PowerPoint Presentation (Mirus, 2009)
Agricultural Contracts and the Leasing of Land PowerPoint Presentation (R. Rumley, 2009)
StatesAgritourism Statutes (last updated 4/7/2023)
StatesRecreational Use Statutes (Springsteen & Rumley, 2007; last updated 9/7/2023)
Governments and Unconstitutional Takings: When Do Right-To-Farm Laws Go Too Far? (Centner, 2007)
Clarifying NPDES Requirements for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (Centner, 2007)
Planting the Seeds for a New Industry in Arkansas: Agritourism (Pittman, 2006)
Nuisance Immunity Provided by Iowas Right-to-Farm Statute (Dzur, 2004)
FarmersGuide to GMOs (Moeller & Sligh, 2005)
Legal Liability Issues in Agricultural Biotechnology (Kershen, 2002)
The Constitutionality of Partition Fence Statutes in the Midwest (Molloy & Reid, 2004)
Recreational Use of Private Lands: Associated Legal Issues and Concerns (McEowen, 2003)
How the Concept of Navigability May Determine Rights of Landowners on Streams (Looney, 2002)

Agricultural Law Bibliography

Introduction   |   Keyword Search   |   Browse Categories

Legal publications on Landowner Liability:

Hunting, Recreation and Wildlife
Leases, Landlord-Tenant
Public Lands
Rural Development
Torts, Insurance

Reference Resources

Environmental Protection Agency

Major Environmental Laws
Summary: Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act
Summary: Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act
Summary: Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act
Summary: Endangered Species Act
Summary: Occupational Safety and Health Act
Cleanup Enforcement: Landowner Liability Protections
Policy Toward Owners of Property Containing Contaminated Aquifers Memorandum

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The Endangered Species Program
Endangered Species: For Landowners
Landowner Information
Our Endangered Species Program and How It Works with Landowners
Habitat Conservation Plans

Other Federal Resources

Department of Labor


Five Strands: A Landowner’s Guide to Fence Law in Texas (Lashmet et. al., 2022)
Landowner Liability Protections: Texas Recreational Use Statute, Agritourism Act, and Farm Animal Liability Act (Lashmet, 2016)
Landowner’s Liability for Land Users and Statutory Protection for Landowners (Riley, 2001)
Farmers’ Liability for Their Animals (U. MO-Columbia, revised June 2020)
Summary of Federal Laws Affecting Agricultural Employers (Econ. Res. Serv., 2000)
The South Carolina Recreational Use Statute: An Analysis, Comparison, and Critique (Envtl. Advoc. Seminar, 2005)
New Recreational Use Act Rules for Illinois Landowner Liability: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back (Endres & Uchtmann, 2005)
Rural Landowner Liability for Recreational Injuries: Myths, Perceptions, and Realities (Wright, et. al., 2002)
Landowner Liability: Minimizing Risk for Farms and Agri-tourism Operations (Endres & Armstrong)

Additional Resources

A Place in the Sun: Solar Leases in Texas (Wetsel, Allen & Lederle, 2018)
A Landowner’s Guide to Duty of Care (Ag Week, 2017)
Building on the Business Concept and Incorporating the Wildlife Lease as Your Profit Tool (Tullos, 2012)
Understanding Agricultural Liability (Penn. St. Ext., 2011)
Landowner Liability Posts (Ag & Food Law Blog)
Indiana Farm Fence Laws (Purdue U., 2004)
Landowner Liability and Recreational Access (U. MD. Extension)


What’s Up with WOTUS: An Overview of “Waters of the United States” and Why it Matters to Agriculture (Rollins, 2023)
Considering Carbon: A Farmer’s Guide to Carbon Contracts (Carpenter, 2022)
Fence Laws: Corralling Legal Issues and Livestock (Lashmet and R. Rumley, 2022)
Hunting Leases and Liability: What Should the Landowner and Hunter Look for in a Lease? (R. Rumley, 2022)
Considering Carbon: Understanding the Legalities of Soil Carbon Sequestration Contracts (Janzen, 2022)
In the Weeds: Legal Approaches to Dealing with Noxious Weeds on Farmland (Hall and Dr. Loux, 2021)
High-Capacity Wells: A Survey of Groundwater Withdrawal Rights and Regulations (Reid, 2021)
Stuck in the Swamp: Swampbuster Basics (Rollins, 2021)
The Evolution of Agritourism: Current Legal Issues & Future Trends (Hall et. al., 2020)
Landowner Liability: How to Protect Your Operation (R. Rumley, 2020)
Practical Considerations for Hunting Leases (R. Rumley, 2019)
Property Rights, Right of Ways, and Eminent Domain (High, 2019)
Farms and Fun: Reducing Liability Risk for Agritourism (Hall and Barrett, 2019)
The Endangered Species Act and Agricultural Operations (Janasie, 2018)
Solar Leasing for Agricultural Lands (Dr. Ferrell, 2018)
From Farm Fields to the Courthouse: Legal Issues Surrounding Pesticide Use (Lashmet and R. Rumley, 2017)
Agritourism, Zoonotic Diseases and Legal Liability (Hall and Klumb, 2017)
Leasing Agricultural Land for Grazing, Hunting or Livestock (Dowell et. al., 2016)
CWA, 404 & WOTUS: Navigating Wetlands Issues in Agriculture (Mattox, 2016)
Agricultural Labor Law 101: The Basics of Federal Governance (High, 2016)
Induced Seismicity in Shale Development: Overview and Current Legal Issues (Pifer, 2015)
Federal Regulation of Shale Oil and Gas Development – Current Topics (Pifer, 2015)
Animal Welfare Standards and Commercial Aquaculture Operations (Otts, 2015)
Basics of the Endangered Species Act (E. Rumley, 2015)
State and Federal Legal Developments in Agricultural Nutrient Management (Hall, 2015)