A bill that places limits on liability for agritourism operators is scheduled to be signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker at 9:15 a.m., Wednesday, April 16, in the governor's office.
Steve Peterson, president of the Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association, called the bill passage "a huge day for WATA … I truly feel this new law is a game changer in ag-tourism."
Agritourism safety guidelines published by the National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety, part of Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, played a key role in bringing the bill to the governor's desk.
Safety concerns and numerous "what if?" questions emerged during State Assembly hearings on the bill in February.
Dave Meuer, of Meuer Farm in Chilton, was testifying when he remembered the guidelines and checklists that he obtained while attending a National Children's Center presentation. Meuer pulled them out of his briefcase and shared them with his Assembly questioners. The resources were entered into evidence. "They were impressed," Meuer said, "and they thought all growers/producers/farmers participating in an agritourism venture should be using the checklists as a guide to inspect their farms."
Steve Peterson also was present at the hearings. He told the Assembly committee that he would be working with the National Children's Center to educate the growers/producers/farmers about the new bill, and about using the guidelines to inspect their farms and keep records of inspections and repairs.
Reassured, the Assembly committee passed the bill the next day, and the bill went on to pass the full Assembly 85-9. The bill passed the Senate on a voice vote April 1.
Marsha Salzwedel, who leads agritourism safety initiatives at the National Children's Center, plans to be at the signing as an ex-officio member of the WATA Board.
To access the Children's Center's interactive web guide, go to www.safeagritourism.com.
Features of the interactive web guide include:
· Walk-throughs that use photos to contrast improper practices with best practices and guidelines. Review questions and resource information accompany the photos.
· Checklists that operators can print and use to conduct customized walk-throughs to identify safety issues and hazards in their operations.
· Resources page with signs, policies, logs and other practical, ready-to-print items.