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County Executive Mark Thomas on Monday proposed a "right to farm" law to the Chautauqua County Legislature.

The law would protect and preserve farmers' rights in the county with three provisions:

Aid in preventing lawsuits against farmers as long as they are using sound, necessary and safe agricultural practices.

Provide information about farming to nonfarmers who wish to purchase property next to a working farm.

Create a mechanism for resolving disputes between farmers and nonfarming neighbors, thus avoiding legal action.

The proposed update of the county's law came from Chadwick Bay leaders in the northern part of the county, Thomas said.

Legislator Fred Croscut, R-Sherman, a dairy farmer, said, "Agriculture is one of the top industries in our county and state. We're business people who work the land, and we're always striving to add value to what we're doing."

"This law gives more protection to the farmers than the Agricultural District law, and it addresses items such as dispute resolution that came out of the Agricultural Summit held in 2001," he added.

According to the county executive, since the 1997 census of agriculture showing a 13 percent decrease of full-time farms in the county, local leaders and members of the farm community began to address farmers' rights.

The census stated the market value of county agricultural products is more than $88 million annually.

The local law will be considered by the Planning and Economic Development Committee of the Legislature at its next meeting at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

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