Local farmers fight for protection through state bill

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ROBERTA, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) — Local farmers have their fingers crossed in hopes that House Bill 545 passes. This will allow added protection for farms and their legacies.

Leighton Cooley, a fourth-generation farmer and co-owner of Cooley Farms in Roberta, has been on his farm for years raising livestock and growing hay.

Without House Bill 545 to prevent established farms from being unfairly harassed as nuisances, farms like Cooley’s will be no more.

“It’s our livelihood,” said the farmer. “We want to do whatever we can to protect it. We always want to be good neighbors while we are doing that.”

For years farmers operated on Georgia’s current “right to farm” laws. It is similar to the proposed bill, but with fewer conditions.

“We just want clear, confined guidelines,” said Cooley.

According to the Georgia Farm Bureau, recent cases in other states have demonstrated that Georgia’s laws are no longer adequate.

“Some pretty hefty legal judgments against those farmers and forced a lot of them out of business,” said Jeffrey Harvey with the Georgia Farm Bureau.

The Bureau adds neighbors of a few local farmers in rural areas have sued businesses for millions of dollars.

“It’s very subjective it’s odor, noise, dust, things like that,” explained Harvey.

The president of Georgia Farm Bureau backs both Harvey and Cooley stating the bill should be passed to “protect farmers from frivolous lawsuits that threaten agriculture’s viability.”