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Preparing farms for the April 8 solar eclipse

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By Peggy Hall, OSU-Agricultural & Resource Law Program and Wayne Dellinger, OSU  Extension-Union County. Edited by Mark Badertscher, OSU Extension-Hardin County.

Up to a half-million people could flow into the solar eclipse path that will cross Ohio  on April 8. The potential increase of visitors to Ohio’s rural areas raises unique safety and legal  concerns for farmers and farmland owners.

To prepare for potential impacts of the eclipse on the  agricultural community, OSU’s Agricultural & Resource Law Program and OSU’s Ag Safety Team offer  these five steps farmers and farmland owners can take: secure the farm property; understand  trespass laws; know responsibilities for invited guests; plan ahead for farming activities; and be  prepared to react to an incident.  

Secure the farm property
Farm and farmstead security has been the topic of many discussions as it relates to the upcoming solar eclipse. Depending on traffic congestion and proximity of fields, barn  lots, and homesteads, visiting motorists may just pull off the road wherever they are at the time the  eclipse begins. This could lead to wandering around of uninvited guests both young and old. Farmers  and farmland owners can take several steps to secure the property and prevent access. 

First, walk around the farm with someone who has a fresh set of eyes, such as a relative, a neighbor,  or a non-farm friend. Have them help identify potential dangers that would appear open, interesting,  or attractive to an uninvited guest on the farm. This can be helpful, as we become desensitized to  dangers that we see daily, and we tend to overlook them. Take inventory of all equipment and  equipment locations prior to April 8th. Remove keys and lock cabs for all equipment in a non-secured  building, if possible, or if not possible, remove battery cables off batteries or install a battery  disconnect switch. Special care should be taken with anhydrous ammonia tanks. Do not leave nurse  tanks sitting in fields and remove hoses when not in use.  

Lock all shops and storage buildings, especially areas where pesticides are stored. Secure all ladders  to grain bins, silos, hay lofts, etc. Restrict entry to drives, pits, and lagoons with gates and barricades. Livestock operations should not have high biosecurity concerns since eclipse viewers are likely to be  “low risk visitors” who do not interact with other livestock facilities. But to avoid biosecurity concerns  

and reduce the risk of introductions of new diseases, keep livestock inside and keep barns and gates  locked. Post “No Trespassing” signs at all points of entry to barn yards and fields. Finally, an added  measure to help you in case of an incident or claim is to document what you’ve done by taking notes,  pictures and/or videos of all areas you’ve secured.

Understand Ohio trespass laws
Trespassers can create problems for farmland owners, and It’s  common for landowners to want to protect their property from trespassers. Likewise, landowners  don’t want to live in fear of being liable for harm a trespasser suffers on the property. Even so, Ohio  law places high value on human safety, even if that human is a trespasser. As long as a trespasser isn’t endangering another human, our laws aim to protect the trespasser from serious harm or a death  that could have been avoided. At the same time, Ohio has laws that assign liability to a trespasser who harms private property.  

It’s important for landowners to understand the rights and responsibilities our trespass laws establish.  Here are three important laws that apply to the possibility of trespassers on farms during the solar  eclipse: Ohio law does not allow a landowner to use excessive force against someone simply because  the person is or might be trespassing. Absent a situation of self-defense or defense of another person,  a landowner can be liable for taking willful, wanton, or reckless actions that cause injury or death to a  trespasser. This means a landowner could be liable for reckless acts like setting a hidden trap that  injures a trespasser or shooting at someone who parks on the road and walks onto the farm to watch  the eclipse.  

Ohio law places some responsibility on a landowner to protect a “known trespasser” from a “known  peril” on the property. If a landowner knows a trespasser is or could be in a position of peril from a  dangerous condition the landowner knew about and the landowner does not take ordinary care to  protect the trespasser, the landowner could be liable for the trespasser’s death or injuries. The steps  described above to secure the property become especially important, because such steps show that a  landowner is taking ordinary care to reduce known perils and dangerous conditions on the farm that  could kill or injure a trespasser who would likely be unaware of the dangers. But note, taking  “ordinary care” doesn’t require a landowner to prevent any potential injury to a trespasser and  doesn’t establish automatic liability if there is harm. It requires taking reasonable steps to warn or  keep a known trespasser away from a known danger. 

Ohio has several laws that can provide compensation to a landowner who suffers property harm from  a trespasser, such as civil trespass, criminal trespass, and reckless destruction of vegetation. We  describe these laws in our law bulletin “Intentional Harm to Farm Property” in the Farm Office  Property Law Library at Armed with an  understanding of Ohio trespass laws, there are steps a farmland owner can take to address the  potential of trespassers on the farm, such as: Be proactive and post warnings or notices of potential  dangers and perils on the property. Install barriers around dangerous conditions where possible, or  complete elimination of the dangers when possible is ideal.  

Deter trespassers by posting “No Trespassing” signs and “Warning” signs on property boundaries. Do  not set any type of trap that could cause intentional harm to a trespasser. Do not pursue or attack a  trespasser or hold a trespasser against their will unless the person has committed a felony, such as  murder. Do not use excessive or deadly force against a trespasser who is not endangering a person. If  the situation warrants, call law enforcement rather than escalating a trespassing situation. Be aware  that law enforcement response times may be slower than normal due to the increased population  and traffic in the area. Read more about Ohio trespass laws in our bulletin on “Do’s and Don’ts of  Dealing with Trespassers on the Farm” on the Farm Office Property Law Library at

Know responsibilities for invited guests. If a farmland owner is considering inviting guests onto the  farm to view the eclipse, participate in eclipse events, or camp or stay overnight on the farm, there  are three major areas that raise legal and safety concerns. Those are liability, insurance, and licensing  and permits. We explain the basis for these concerns below. 

Ohio law places a duty on landowners to protect invited social guests from known dangers  on the property that can harm them. That duty increases when a guest is paying the landowner for  access to the farm, such as in a customer situation. In that case, a landowner must take additional  steps to seek out any “hidden” dangers that could harm guests, then take steps to eliminate them or  warn guests about the hidden dangerous conditions. But note that Ohio has “immunity laws” that can  apply to certain types of guests.  

The Recreational User Statute grants immunity from liability for guests who have permission to  engage in recreational activities on farmland but who do not provide a payment to the landowner. Farms that are “agritourism operations” can also receive immunity from liability for harm an  agritourism visitor suffers from the inherent risks of engaging in agriculturally related agritourism  activities, such as feeding livestock, picking produce, or riding on a hay wagon. That immunity only  extends to agritourism activities, however, and eclipse activities might not qualify as agritourism  activities. Read more about these laws on the Premises Law Library at library/premises-liability-law/  

Insurance is an excellent tool for reducing the risk of liability for injuries to property  visitors. But it’s important to first determine whether a farm policy provides coverage for the types of  visitors a farmland owner wants to invite onto the farm. Many farm policies do not cover fee-based  customers and activities such as agritourism, farm stays, bed and breakfasts, farm markets, and food  sales. In these cases, an additional endorsement is necessary, or a farmland owner may need to  obtain a separate policy to cover the guest activities. Read more about farm insurance and activities  that might not be covered by a farm policy in the Premises Law Library at

Licenses and permits
Hosting activities such as farm stays and food sales may require a landowner to  obtain a license or permit. First, local zoning regulations could apply to these activities, either  allowing, prohibiting, or placing conditions on certain activities such as festivals and camping. Second,  there can be food safety concerns with preparing and selling certain types of foods, and a license  from the local health department may be necessary. Some foods, such as “cottage foods,” don’t  require a license but do require specific labeling. Selling farm goods such as meat and eggs can  require licenses from both the local health department and the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Food  trucks must obtain a health department license. Advance timing is necessary to obtain the  appropriate licenses and permits. For more information on selling foods on the farm, visit the Food  Law Library at  

If considering inviting social or paying guests, selling food, or hosting an eclipse event, here are  several steps farmland owners can take to address safety and liability concerns. Deal with dangerous  conditions: The steps described in “secure the farm property,” above, should address many  dangerous conditions on a farm property. But if the intent is to invite visitors to specific areas, an  additional assessment is necessary. Thoroughly inspect the area for conditions that could harm someone, and either eliminate, block off, or provide warnings about the conditions. Document all  actions taken. 

Utilize immunity laws if possible. Review the requirements for the Recreational User’s Statute and  Agritourism Law to determine whether those laws apply to the guests invited onto the property. Also  be aware that charging a fee disqualifies a landowner from receiving immunity from liability under the  Recreational User’s Statute. 

Check in with the insurance agent. Determine whether planned activities are covered under the  liability provisions of the farm insurance policy and if not, obtain appropriate coverage. Full disclosure  is necessary to ensure coverage, so be sure to explain all potential activities. 

Determine if licenses and permits are required. Check local zoning and talk with the local health  department to verify whether a license or permit is necessary. If there is not time to obtain a license  or permit, determine how to revise plans for activities that do not require licenses or permits. 

Ensure that invited vendors are properly licensed. If the strategy is to invite food vendors onto the  property for an eclipse event, ensure that a vendor holds the appropriate license, such as a Retail  Food Establishment license or a Food Service Operation license from the vendor’s local health  department. 

Plan ahead for farming activities. Many agencies are suggesting that people (not just in rural or farm  scenarios) prepare as if a winter storm is coming. Cell phone use may be affected, travel is likely to be  affected, and some services such as deliveries and repair technicians are likely to be delayed. The  actual impact of the event is yet unknown to specific areas and farms but will be determined by  weather forecasts and travel patterns of visitors.  

This “eclipse storm” will probably occur during a critical period for spring farming activities. Overnight  travel by spectators to peak viewing areas is likely to take place several days over the weekend of  April 6-7. Those staying over the weekend and those doing day trips to peak viewing areas are likely  to be trying to leave peak areas right after the event is complete on April 8. If weather and field  conditions are favorable, farm field work could be occurring during these time periods. Farming  activities could be delayed, and farmers could be forced to deal with interferences from increased  populations and travel activities on rural roads. 

Proper pre-planning can lessen stress and make “riding the storm” more efficient and less  interruptive of farming activities. Here are some steps to consider: Take time now to perform routine  maintenance on equipment and lessen the possibility of breakdowns that will need repaired when  conditions are less than favorable. Inventories of feed, bedding, medications, etc. should be taken at  least a week ahead of the eclipse. Extra supplies should be planned for the days around the event  when travel and deliveries may be delayed. 

It is important to remember that farmers may be sharing the roads with motorists who are unfamiliar  with large agricultural equipment. Make sure all lights and reflective material are clean and  functioning. Use of escort vehicles in both the front and rear are recommended to warn  approaching traffic from the front and prevent unsafe passing from the rear. If possible, try to limit

movement of equipment on roadways on the day of the event. The day before, consider locating  equipment in fields or areas that need at least a day of work without leaving on roadways. 

Be prepared to react to an incident. We all know that the best preparation can reduce risk, but there’s  still the possibility of an incident occurring. If there is an incident during the solar eclipse period, a  farmer must also be prepared to react to the incident. Doing so can minimize the risk of harm or  liability. An incident can create chaos and emotional responses, so jot down a list of the following  actions and have them readily accessible for guidance. 

Call local law enforcement or emergency services, if necessary. Keep in mind, response times of law  enforcement and emergency services may be greatly delayed due to the influx of people and traffic in  the area. Have a first aid kit on hand and know how to use it. A minor injury might be treatable if  appropriate medical supplies are available, and someone is properly trained in first aid care. 

Preserve the evidence. Don’t move or change anything until the situation is documented. Document  what happened right away. Use a phone camera or video to capture images, make notes of what  happened, witnesses, and what witnesses said or saw. 

Be aware of being documented. It is important in these days and times to assume that everyone has a  camera (recorded on a cell phone or otherwise) at all times. A trespasser can use this to show or  dispute your actions, for instance. Maintain composure and don’t do or say anything that could be  harmful if captured in photos or recordings. 

Call the insurance agent. An insurance policy likely requires “prompt notification” of property damage  or liability that might be covered by the policy, this allows the company to investigate the situation  immediately, while evidence is fresh. Failing to give prompt notice might be considered a violation  and lead to a loss of insurance coverage. Be sure to have the insurer’s contact information readily  available. 

Additional Ohio Solar Eclipse Resources: There are many resources available on the solar eclipse,  explaining topics such as time schedule, path, and local events. Since our focus is on safety and legal  issues, we recommend that farmers and farmland owners focus on resources provided by the Ohio  Emergency Management Agency and local health departments.  

Here are two helpful resources. Ohio Emergency Management Agency: The site at has a Total Solar Eclipse page and provides contacts for County Emergency  Management Agencies. Local Health Departments: The Ohio Department of Health provides a list of  local health departments in Ohio at