Farms and ranches challenge constitutionality of farm access law

DENVER – Today, June 21, Colorado farm and ranch owners filed a lawsuit in United States District Court challenging recently passed legislation that requires agricultural employers to open their private property to intrusion by so-called “key service providers”.

The following statements can be attributed to the Colorado Council of Rural Employers:

“As farm and ranch owners, we have a duty to protect our team members and families, and those who visit our farms and ranches, from harm. The new Farm Access Act makes this job much more difficult by requiring us to allow almost anyone onto our property at almost any time.

“We have a duty to protect the food we grow and harvest from contamination. Many of our agricultural and ranching operations must meet strict government and industry standards that are not compatible with people walking on our property and ultimately putting our consumers at risk.

“Across the state, our farms and ranches use heavy equipment that can be dangerous for those inexperienced in farm work.”

“Many of us raise cattle and other animals that can quickly inflict serious injury on someone who wanders into their barns or pastures, or startles them.”

“The requirement of Senate Bill 21-087 that we open our private farm and ranch property to anyone identified as a ‘service provider’ at any time we are working, without notice, without any assurance that ‘they will follow our safety and security rules, and without recourse if they don’t, puts us in a position that no other class of Colorado employer faces.

Passed by the General Assembly in 2021, Senate Bill 87 requires agricultural employers to allow so-called “key service providers” access to any location on their private farm or ranch, without notice, whenever they wish to contact an employee who is on a break or otherwise not working. In doing so, this law directly conflicts with the United States Supreme Court’s 2021 decision in Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid, in which the court decisively held that a California regulation allowing a limited number of labor organizers to access specific locations on farms and other agricultural properties, at limited times, and only with notice, was an unconstitutional taking of private property.

Since the Farm Access Act of Senate Bill 87 imposes almost no limits on the unfettered access it offers major service providers to farms and ranches in Colorado, we are confident that the district court will determine that it is also unconstitutional and unenforceable.

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