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Farm Tours Future More Secure

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Iowa lawmakers are giving farmers extra protection when it comes to liability for educational tours.

This comes after a Supreme Court decision in February about a case dating back to 2010 in Fayette County. A woman fell from a hayloft while chaperoning her daughter's field trip.

Iowa law had protected farmers from liability for recreational activities, encouraging them to open their land to the public. But the justices ruled that farmer, acting as a tour guide, was liable. That made farmers more susceptible to lawsuits. This legislation reverses that.

We found Robb Ewoldt on his Davenport farm. "I just enjoy the life," he says. "I grew up doing it. It's the only thing I really know. I like to think I'm halfway good at what I do."

And he likes to share what he does, regularly opening the farm to public tours. Ewoldt says "We're one and a half percent to two percent of the people in production, in agriculture, producing food for the other 98 to 98 1/2 percent. And I think people have been so removed from agriculture and where their food comes from, I think it's important that we give these tours."

After the Supreme Court ruling, farmers faced stopping tours or requiring liability waivers. Ewoldt tells us, "When the Supreme Court shot it down, then it put us all at risk." He says that covers hunters as well, who harvest deer on his land. "If these people come on your property and you don't have a special rider policy, then liability is an issue."

But he says, not anymore. Not since fans of farms and the great outdoors pushed back, arguing increased liability would shut off the educational and recreational values of farmland access. It's an argument lawmakers heard.

While Ewoldt does carry a special insurance rider, he says not everyone does. He says lawmakers have now given all farmers one more layer of coverage. "In years past, we always thought we had liability coverage through the state, on this deal. And now we do, for sure." Helping farmers and the communities they want to share their farms with.

You can see it for yourself. The Ewoldts have a big farm tour coming up. The "Picnic in the Pasture" is set for June 1st, from 10 to 5. Visitors can show up at 10386 130th Street in Davenport. The Ewoldts will give you a map for a self-guided tour, and be on hand to answer any questions.