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The Associated Press State & Local Wire

Alaska farmers are lining up in support of legislation seeking to ensure that newcomers to an area cannot sue a neighboring farm because of a distaste for the smell or noise.

The so-called "Right to Farm" bill is sponsored by Rep. John Harris, R-Valdez, who represents Delta Junction.

The legislation, House Bill 82, is a priority of the statewide Farm Bureau. The bill would prevent people who move next to a farm from seeking to declare it a nuisance.

"We need to protect our farms," said Alaska Farm Bureau President Bob Franklin, who operates B-Y Farms between Fairbanks and North Pole.

He said people could move to Delta Junction to work on a national missile defense project and buy property next to a farm. It is quite possible that the new property owner could then decide that the smell was intolerable.

"We're looking at future (land) use," Franklin said.

Harris' bill is modeled on Lower 48 farm laws that have withstood court challenges, said Pete Fellman, a Delta Junction dairy farmer and a legislative aide to Harris.

To meet the legal requirements, Harris wants to add a provision that requires anyone selling land within a mile of an agricultural facility to disclose to the buyer the existence of the operation.

The buyer would have to be warned that pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are legally used in agriculture and that noise and odors could be present.

"This really protects anybody who sells land," Fellman said. "Because there is not only a possibility of the farmer being sued but also the person who sold the land."

Lower 48 legal issues have also focused on how the courts can determine if the farmer in question is a responsible individual who is farming in a safe manner.

Harris' bill requires that to qualify for protection from nuisance lawsuits, farmers must have a soil and water conservation plan - available free through consultation with the state.

"I think most farms have a soil and water conservation plan anyway," Franklin said.

The materials in the AP file were compiled by The Associated Press.: