The Texas Legislature enacted three bills amending the state’s Right to Farm statute during the 2023 legislative session. The new law modifies several definitions, changes when a lawsuit can be brought, and imposes a higher burden of proof for potential plaintiffs. These changes went into effect September 1, 2023.

The Texas Right to Farm statute prohibits nuisance lawsuits against farms that have been in operation and substantially unchanged for one year. Texas Agric. Code § 251.004. Previously, a physical expansion was considered a separate date of establishment. The new law provides that a farm operation has only one date of establishment and that date is when the farm commenced agricultural operations. The law includes a definition for “substantial change” which means “a material alteration to the operation of or type of production at an agricultural operation that is substantially inconsistent with the operational practices since the established date of operation.”

In addition to providing immunity from nuisance lawsuits, HB 2308 expanded the protection offered to farm operations to include any “other action to restrain an agricultural operation.” This could likely include claims of trespass or negligence. In addition, the law requires that a plaintiff prove each element of their claim by “clear and convincing evidence.” This burden of proof is stricter than the “preponderance of the evidence” standard, but less strict than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal cases.

For more information: HB 1750HB 2308, HB 2947