HB 1090 signed into law, some landowners concerned

House Bill 1090 passed with relative ease. Along its journey to being signed, there was...
Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 10:11 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - House Bill 1090 passed with relative ease. Along its journey to being signed, there was support from many organizations in the agriculture industry. The opposition came from organizations like Dakota Rural Action and the South Dakota Trial Lawyers Association.

Governor Noem signed HB 1090 in Mitchell. According to her office, the main reason for the bill’s introduction was to protect agriculture operations from lawsuits without merit that would hurt them either by delaying their processes or by increasing producer costs.

“Around the nation, we have seen an increase in nuisance claims in ag operations,” said Rep. James Wangsness, the House Majority Whip. “This legislation enhances the state’s ag nuisance laws to provide additional protections so that my neighbors, your neighbors, and our next generations can be productive and keep feeding America.”

With the tremendous support from groups like the South Dakota Farm Bureau and the South Dakota Farmers Union, it was an uphill climb for opponents. The bill passed with only 17 “nay” votes in the House and Senate combined.

At the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on February 16, some of the opponents of the bill raised their concern with the bill.

“They happen in other states, but in South Dakota we generally don’t see a lot of frivolous lawsuits,” said Steve Siegel, a lobbyist with the South Dakota Trial Lawyers Association. “Lawyers here take their job seriously and they’re not going to assert a claim if they don’t think it has merit. This would be a bad bill for everyday South Dakotans. I think it would be a good bill for large, out-of-state operators that come in.”

“We don’t have any data available on the economic burden on property owners from frivolous lawsuits,” said Chase Jensen, a lobbyist for Dakota Rural Action. “There’s nothing to point to that shows this is an issue.”

Dakota Rural Action was also concerned with section seven of the bill changing the language so that it would require the plaintiff to be the owner of the land, which, they believe effectively took away the rights of tenants who rent.

The opponents say that filing against these operations is already difficult and this bill is excessive in asking for a burden of proof.

The Governor’s office maintains that the rule of law is still in place and if a claim has merit, it will be heard.

“We aren’t changing any state laws or requirements at all. All we’re saying is who can file the claim and who can’t,” said Governor Noem. “We want it to be someone that is in that area, that has been impacted by that ag operation, and that actually has factual information.”

Only time will tell if there will be any repercussions from the bill. For now, it’s being seen as a win for the agriculture industry.