Carroll County is in a sorry state when the county's farmers find themselves in need of a right-to-farm ordinance. Given the experience of Herdis and Richard Moser -- dairy farmers who were slapped with a nuisance suit by a neighbor due to dust kicked up by their tractors and milk trucks -- it is understandable that the county's agricultural community wants legal protection so it can till the land and raise animals without the threat of lawsuits.
Since the county was first settled, farming has been Carroll's economic mainstay. While less than 10 percent of Carroll's population consists of full-time farmers, agriculture is still the largest economic activity in the county, generating some $100 million in gross sales annually.
As the number of non-farmers increases, complaints about normal farming activity have also climbed. Newcomers gripe about slow-moving farm machinery, the odor of manure being spread on fields, dust from plowing and noise from harvesting.
These annoyances are the reality of a farm community, just as boat whistles and the clanking of cranes and heavy machinery are the reality of living near Baltimore's working wharves.
Farmers need to be protected against nuisance suits as long as they engage in good farming practices. People living next to a farm can expect to catch an occasional whiff of manure because the county's density of animals is among the highest in the nation. Farmers who dispose of their manure in approved methods shouldn't have to worry about ending up in court. Those farmers who don't should be subjected to sanctions.
Much of the problem stems from expectations. People moving from suburban areas where agriculture consists of backyard gardens don't understand farming. They move into their homes located next to waves of corn, alfalfa or soybeans and expect to see lush fields whenever they look out their windows. They are shocked when the farmers plow, spray and harvest.
Aside from drafting a right-to-farm ordinance, the county Agricultural Commission and Farm Bureau are assembling a pamphlet that would be distributed to prospective home buyers.
They also want to open up communications between farmers and their neighbors. These actions will contribute greatly to ensuring that farming continues to be an economic mainstay of Carroll County.