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. §§ 1251-1388
Federal Air Pollution and Control Act (a/k/a Clean Air Act), 42 U.S.C. §§ 7401-7671q
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

Forms and Filing Information: Business Organizations (2019)
Issue Brief: Smithfield Foods and Right to Farm in North Carolina (Rumley)
UAVs and the Law (R. Rumley)
States’ “Fence LawStatutes (R. Rumley)
Agricultural Contracting (R. Rumley)
Wind Energy Leasing Handbook Workbook (Ferrell and R. Rumley)
Using Alternative Enterprises and Recreational Development to Bolster Farm Income Workbook (R. Rumley & Tullos)
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 (Rumley, 2009)
StatesAgritourism Statutes
StatesRecreational Use Statutes (Springsteen & Rumley, 2007)
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)
Nuisance Immunity Provided by Iowas Right-to-Farm Statute (Dzur)
FarmersGuide to GMOs (Moeller & Sligh)
Legal Liability Issues in Agricultural Biotechnology (Kershen)
The Constitutionality of Partition Fence Statutes in the Midwest (Molloy & Reid)
Recreational Use of Private Lands: Associated Legal Issues and Concerns (McEowen)
How the Concept of Navigability May Determine Rights of Landowners on Streams (Looney)

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


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
Farmers’ Liability for Their Animals (U. MO-Columbia)
Summary of Federal Laws Affecting Agricultural Employers (Econ. Res. Serv.)
The South Carolina Recreational Use Statute: An Analysis, Comparison, and Critique (Envtl. Advoc. Seminar)
New Recreational Use Act Rules for Illinois Landowner Liability: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back (Endres & Uchtmann)
Rural Landowner Liability for Recreational Injuries: Myths, Perceptions, and Realities (Wright, et al)
Landowner Liability: Minimizing Risk for Farms and Agri-tourism Operations (Endres & Armstrong)

Additional Resources

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