Executive Summary
"A Right To Farm and Ranch Policy"

Prepared for: The Board of Larimer County Commissioners
By: Community Information Manager Deni La Rue, August, 1998
Approved By: Agricultural Advisory Board - Right To Farm & Ranch Executive Committee

In July 1998 the Agricultural Advisory Board, a county-appointed citizen volunteer groups, created and adopted a Right To Farm and Ranch Resolution/policy for Larimer County. The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) considers adoption of this resolution on September 2, 1998. The Agricultural Advisory Board (AAB) would like the BOCC to determine that it is desirable and beneficial to the citizens of Larimer County to establish and adopt by resolution a Right to Farm and Ranch Policy involving the elements of protection of agricultural operations; education of property owners and visitors; and resolution of disputes. The AAB believes such a policy would serve and promote the public health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Larimer County.

Reasons Behind Resolution:

Larimer County is changing. Population increases affect many things including development in areas that have remained rural for decades. When non-agricultural residents move into traditionally agricultural areas conflict can occur. Larimer County has a viable economic and cultural agricultural history. When agricultural operators ad residents, non-agricultural residents, and visitors collide the economic viability of agricultural operations may become threatened.

Examples of Conflicts Include:

  • harassment of livestock
  • free roaming dogs threatening livestock
  • trespass by humans & livestock
  • livestock on roadways
  • gates left open
  • fence construction and maintenance
  • maintenance of ditches across private property
  • storm water management
  • burning of ditches
  • complaints about noise, dust and odor
  • disposal of dead animals
  • weeds, pest control, and chemical applications

In developing the Right to Farm and Ranch Policy (RTFR), the Agricultural Advisory Board:

  • Believes it is important to protect agricultural operators from complaints concerning operations that are legal and responsible.
  • Believes it is important to educate the public and non-agricultural residents and visitors to Larimer County about the existence, validity, and importance of the County's agricultural operations and activities.
  • Believes it is important that the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) provides a forum for the informal and non- binding resolution of disputes between agricultural operators and non-agricultural residents and visitors to Larimer County.

Upon adoption of the RTFR Policy, the Agricultural Advisory is asking the BOCC to attempt to:

  • Conserve, enhance, and encourage ranching, farming, and all manner of agricultural activities and operations within and throughout Larimer County where appropriate.
  • To minimize potential conflicts between agricultural and nonagricultural users of land in the County.
  • To educate new rural residents and long-time agricultural operators alike to their rights, responsibilities, and obligations relating to agricultural activities.
  • To integrate planning efforts to provide for the retention of traditional and important agricultural lands in agricultural production as well as the opportunity for reasonable residential and other development.

Upon Adoption of the RTFR policy the BOCC agrees that:

  • It is the policy of the Board of County Commissioners of Larimer County that ranching, farming, and all manner of agricultural activities and operations within and throughout Larimer County are integral elements of and necessary for the continued vitality of the County's history, economy, landscape, open space, lifestyle, and culture.
  • Given their importance to Larimer County, Northern Colorado, and the State, agricultural lands and operations are worthy of recognition and protection.
  • Because, by law, Colorado is a "Right-to-Farm" State, residents and visitors must be prepared to accept the activities, sights, sounds, and smells of Larimer County's agricultural operations as a normal and necessary aspect of living in a County with a strong rural character and a healthy agricultural sector.
  • People with urban expectations may perceive agricultural activities, sights, sounds, and smells as inconvenient, an eyesore, or unpleasant, however, State law and County policy provide that ranching, farming, or other agricultural activities and operations within Larimer County shall not be considered to be nuisances so long as operated in conformance with the law and in a non-negligent manner.
  • Residents and visitors must be prepared to encounter noises, odors, lights, mud, dust, smoke, chemicals, machinery and livestock on public roads, storage and disposal of manure, and the application of chemical fertilizers, soil amendments, herbicides, and pesticides, by spraying and other mechanisms.
  • All landowners, whether agricultural business, farm, ranch or residence, have obligations under State law and County regulation. For example they must maintain fences and adhere to open range laws which say livestock must be fenced out.
  • Irrigators have the right to maintain irrigation ditches through established easements that transports water for their use. Irrigation ditches are not to be used for the dumping of refuse.
  • Landowners are responsible for controlling weeds, keeping pets under control, using property in accordance with zoning, maintaining the environmental resources of the property wisely.
  • Residents and visitors are encouraged to learn about these rights and responsibilities and act as good neighbors and citizens of Larimer County.
  • The Board of County Commissioners shall establish a dispute resolution procedure with mediators to informally resolve conflicts that may arise between landowners or residents relating to agricultural operations or activities. When rural residents cannot come to an agreement or understanding about fences, ditches, livestock, or other agricultural issues, this may be the forum used to resolve disputes. Mediators must be knowledgeable, solution oriented, and at least one such mediator in each dispute must be directly involved in agriculture or an agricultural producer must serve in an advisory role to the trained mediator.

The Board, with the primary assistance of the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Larimer County Office and through the use of County Staff as needed, shall support efforts to educate and inform the public of the Right to Farm and Ranch Policy by developing a public education and information campaign. Children and adults are exposed to different hazards in rural areas than they are in urban or suburban setting. Those hazards may come from farm equipment, ponds and irrigation ditches, electrical power for pumps/center pivot operations and electrical fences, traffic, use of agricultural chemicals, weeds such as sand burs and puncture vines that cause mechanical injury, territorial farm dogs, and livestock. Controlling children's activities is important, not only for their safety, but also for the protection of the farmer's livelihood. Open irrigation waters are essential to agriculture and have legal rights of ways that must not be obstructed. Open ditch operations often result in seepage and spills of storm waters in unpredictable locations and times.

The BOCC also agrees to:

  1. Notify land owners in unincorporated portions of Larimer County about the RTFR policy by distributing the RTFR policy and executive summary in all possible manners that the budget allows.
  2. Provide landowner education material when a building permit is issued for new construction in unincorporated areas of the county.
  3. Initiate amendments to the County subdivision regulations to provide that notification of the RTFR policy and executive summary shall be made at the time of any subdivision or related land use approval and a note to that effect shall appear on any Plat outside municipalities' growth areas.
  4. Encourage title companies and real estate brokers countywide to voluntarily disclose the RTFR policy and/or executive summary to purchasers of real property in the County. The BOCC will also schedule presentations to the Board of Realtors and other professional organizations to explain the RTFR policy and distribute copies of the policy.
  5. Utilize existing, and develop needed, intergovernmental agreements with the cities, towns and other governmental agencies in the county to assure the effectiveness of this resolution throughout the county.