Monday, July 9, 2012

Commonwealth Court Rejects ACRE and Right to Farm Challenge to Township Ordinance

On June 27, 2012, in an unreported opinion, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court rejected post-trial motions and upheld a ruling that a Montgomery County municipality’s ordinance did not violate the Agriculture, Communities and Rural Environment Act (ACRE) and the Right to Farm Law (RFL). Boswell v. Skippack Twp., No. 389 M.D. 2006. ACRE provides farmers with a process to challenge local ordinances that are believed to be unauthorized due to existing state law, while RFL protects normal agricultural operations from nuisance lawsuits and ordinances. At trial, tree farmers James and Paula Boswell unsuccessfully challenged a Skippack Township ordinance precluding their use of a loud, high-pitched sound device designed to protect crops from deer damage. The Boswells claimed the decision was incorrect because evidence presented at trial proved their use of the sound device was a normal agricultural practice protected under ACRE and RFL.  The Commonwealth Court found no identifiable error in the original determination that use of the sound device was not a normal agricultural practice.  For more information on these agricultural statutes, please visit the Agricultural Law Center's ACRE Resource Area and Pennsylvania Right to Farm Act Resource Area.

Written by M. Sean High, Research Assistant
Penn State Law, Agricultural Law Center

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