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News / Northwest

Court tosses Right to Farm challenge

Oregon Supreme Court doesn't address issue in Lane County, Ore., lawsuit

The Columbian
Published: November 17, 2013, 4:00pm

SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Court of Appeals has rejected a constitutional challenge to Oregon’s Right to Farm law, but parties to the case say the question hasn’t been resolved.

The law protects farmers and foresters from lawsuits over common industry practices, The Capital Press agricultural publication reported. The laws are common in states across the country.

The Oregon case decided last week arose in Lane County, where seven neighbors objected to their neighbor’s use of pesticides and chemicals, claiming the substances drifted onto their properties.

They said allowing the “Right to Farm” defense in lawsuits prevented them from gaining relief from the harm they suffered, despite a state constitutional provision guaranteeing Oregonians the possibility of a remedy for injuries done them.

The Court of Appeals didn’t decide that question. It ruled on narrower grounds that the connection between a ruling the law is unconstitutional and relief for the plaintiffs was too speculative for it to rule.

“They didn’t address the underlying theory the plaintiffs brought forward. They didn’t touch that issue at all,” said Tim Bernasek, attorney for the Oregon Farm Bureau.

David Force, attorney for the plaintiffs, said the harm his clients have suffered isn’t speculative, since herbicides have repeatedly intruded on their property and water. He said a constitutional challenge to the Right to Farm law could be resurrected if his clients sue over pesticide spraying.

Lead plantiff Gary Hale wouldn’t comment on possible litigation against his neighbor and said he hasn’t decided whether to take the constitutional question to the Oregon Supreme Court.