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. §§ 1251-1387

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 States’ Right-To-Farm Statutes

Compilation of States’ Recreational Use Statutes

Compilation of States’ Agritourism Statutes

Compilation of States’ Equine Activity Statutes

Compilation of States’ “Fence Law” Statutes


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 Law” Statutes (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)

States’ Right-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)

States’ Agritourism Statutes

States’ Recreational 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 Iowa’s Right-to-Farm Statute (Dzur)

Farmers’ Guide to GMO’s (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.)