Nebraska’s Right-to-Farm Summary

Proponents of Nebraska’s right-to-farm law, first enacted in 1982, argued it would stop sprawl and protect family farmers. Others countered that the law would cripple smaller farmers and violated constitutional rights to private property.1 Yet since the RTF law first passed, the number of Nebraska farms has dropped by 26 percent, with less than a percentage point in loss of farmland.2 So what does this legislation do in practice?

Nebraska’s RTF Law at a Glance

Nebraska’s law provides no explicit protection for farmland or family farmers. Rather, Nebraska’s RTF law, like those present in the other forty-nine states, centers on protecting certain types of operations from nuisance suits when their activities impact neighboring property, for example through activities like noise or pollution.

Conditions and Activities

To receive special RTF protections in Nebraska, operations must be engaged in the commercial production of farm products on over ten acres of land.3 As long as the operation existed before a change in the surrounding land or occupancy and as long as it was not a nuisance before the change, it is protected.4

Nebraska has a long-standing history of nuisance suits. In two cases decided in 1985, neighboring farmers and homeowners sued hog facilities (which in one case was a corporation) for nuisance. In both cases, the courts found the operation to be a nuisance, required the operation to cease the nuisance activity, and declared that the RTF law did not apply, as there had been no proximate change in land use or occupancy.5

In 1998, the RTF law was amended to include protections for grain warehouses and operations.6 When a business owner brought a nuisance case against a grain elevator in 1997, the original court held that the 1998 amendment applied retroactively, barring the suit. On appeal, the Nebraska Supreme Court overturned this decision, holding that the legislature did not intend a retrospective application; thus the grain warehouse was not shielded from the 1997 nuisance action.7

  • 1. See David Hendee, “Court Action Raises Fears of Neighbors’ Suits against Farmers,” Omaha World-Herald, February 23, 1999; Paul Hammel and Martha Stoddard, “Proposed Expansion of Nebraska’s Right to Farm Act Runs into Opposition,” Grand Island (Neb.) Independent, April 10, 2019.
  • 2. U.S. Department of Commerce, “Table 1. Farms, Land in Farms, and Land Use: 1982 and 1978,” in 1982 Census of Agriculture, Volume 1: Geographic Area Series, Part 27: Nebraska State and County Data, Chapter 2: County Data (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1984),; “2021 State Agriculture Overview: Nebraska,” U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service, accessed October 21, 2022,
  • 3. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 2-4402 (2021).
  • 4. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 2-4403 (2021).
  • 5. Flansburgh v. Coffey, 370 N.W.2d 127 (Neb. 1985); Cline v. Franklin Pork, Inc., 361 N.W.2d 566 (Neb. 1985).
  • 6. 1998 Neb. Laws 1193, § 6 (amending, in relevant part, Neb. Rev. Stat. § 2-4402).
  • 7. Soukop v. Conagra, Inc., 653 N.W.2d 655 (Neb. 2002).