Goat Law

Episode 16
For the Love of Goats

Goat Law featured image

Learn about your responsibilities and liabilities as a goat owner with Eva Moss, Farmer and Partner Development Manager at Farm Commons, which is a non-profit specializing in legal education for farmers.

If you want to know why I’m not doing goat yoga on our farm, it’s one of the first things we talk about in this podcast. We also talk about what you need to do to protect yourself if you do want to start making money with your goats, whether with making cheese or having goat yoga classes. We also answer these important questions:

Do signed liability waivers avoid lawsuits?

What kind of insurance do you need? (A general farm policy isn’t going to protect you.)

Should you incorporate?

Under what circumstances are you liable if a goat bites someone or knocks them down?

How do you protect yourself from lawsuits if you are making goat products like cheese or soap?

2:50 zoning
6:20 goat yoga
7:20 liability
8:30 signed waivers
10:00 agritourism liability statutes
11:56 insurance
17:40 incorporation
20:49 types of business entities
24:00 liability for goat bite and rabies
31:22 product liability

Farm Commons

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Deborah Niemann 0:17
Hello, everyone, and welcome back to another episode. I am really excited today that I am joined by Eva Moss from Farm Commons. Eva is the farmer and partner development manager at Farm Commons. And I love what she said to me earlier, and that is that she is a farmer who went to law school. Because I think that is wonderful. I think that’s what we really need to… That’s the kind of person we need to talk to, because she gets it; she gets both sides of it. At Farm Commons, she guides farmers towards legal resilience through workshops and peer-led environments, and she also facilitates partnership development with other organizations to bring Farm Commons’ programming to communities nationwide. She’s got a master’s degree in food and agriculture law and policy from the Vermont Law School, and a bachelor’s in anthropology. And, a little bit more about Farm Commons: I first got to know Farm Commons at a workshop six years ago, where one of their attorneys was speaking about liability, because I was looking at the possibility of starting a cheesemaking operation back then. Farms Commons is a national nonprofit that specializes in legal education for farmers. And their mission is to empower agricultural communities to resolve their own legal vulnerabilities within an ecosystem of support. So, they provide a lot of education on their website, as well as through in-person events, and also, you know, online.

Deborah Niemann 1:53
So, let’s go ahead and get started. One of the first things, I think, that people need to think about if you haven’t gotten goats yet—we’re going to talk about everything. Goat law. We’re talking goat law today. So, we are gonna start out at the very beginning, if you don’t even have goats yet. Now, maybe you think, like, “Oh, well, I live out in the country. It’s totally legal for me.” If you are anywhere close to a municipality, one of the things you need to consider is zoning. So— Oh, I should also say: Welcome, Eva! I just realized I didn’t let you say “hi.”

Eva Moss 2:31
You’re good, Deborah. I’m just so excited about your enthusiasm for goat law. It’s good to be here with you.

Deborah Niemann 2:38
Thank you. So, let’s go ahead and get started, then, with those people who are just thinking about getting goats. What do you have to say about zoning and checking out the zoning laws in your area?

Eva Moss 2:51
Yeah, zoning is an excellent place to start when you are setting out on your goating adventures, because you’re going to want to ask yourself the question, “Is it legal to even have goats?” And, like you said, Deborah, especially in municipal areas where you’re in a city, or peri-urban area that’s adjacent to a city, zoning can be more stringent towards farming endeavors. So maybe, like, you’re in a more rural area, and you’re in an agri—you know you’re in an agricultural zone, because there’s signs everywhere saying, like, “voluntary agricultural district,” and there’s lots of farmers around, and you can pretty well bet when you look into the zoning code that it’ll say something “agricultural,” “agricultural residence,” and usually livestock and farming and all that is allowed. Yeah, in urban areas, it gets a bit grainer as to whether or not it’s legal to have goats. And so, what you’ll want to do is look into your zoning code for your municipality, for your city, and see what it has to say regarding livestock, especially small livestock. And if you could get a definition for that. even better. Maybe it explicitly names chickens and goats, and if so, that’s great, because you’ll have clear guidance. And, if you are lucky enough to be in a municipal area or a city that has those, you know, livestock specifically named, you’re going to want to look to see if livestock uses—with goats especially—are either allowed, disallowed, or not mentioned. And so those three different classifications are very useful to know. So, if goats are allowed, oh my gosh, like, what a clear answer! Please go forth with your goat things and your goat plans. If it is specifically disallowed, then you might think, “Hmm, if goats are really something I want to do, I might not be in the right area.” Maybe think about moving or seeking out land in an area that is zoned to have livestock. Or, you’ll know, “Oh shoot, I already have goats”—that you’re taking a risk. And so you’ll know to be a bit more careful or to start thinking about transition plans. If goats are not mentioned at all, or livestock’s not mentioned that all, that is also a useful tool in that there’s not been a zoning code specifically written either for or against having livestock in the area, or specifically goats, and so you do have some bargaining power there to go to your city’s zoning board and petition to have goats be allowed and give reasons why they’d be good for the community, especially the area that you’re in.

Deborah Niemann 5:37
And then, sometimes, you will hear about a community that has some restrictions on them. Like, I interviewed somebody a couple weeks ago who has dairy goats in Vancouver, Washington, and I think she’s only allowed to have a maximum of three adult goats in her backyard.

Eva Moss 5:53
Yeah, that’s a very popular model that zoning codes will take is to set a cap limit of, like, what is doable for the area. So, all right, we’re gonna allow folks to have goats in a more city or urban area, but we’re gonna cap it at three, or five, and maybe specifically say, you know, what sex those goats need to be so that there’s not a chance of breeding so that the person raising goats goes over that cap limit.

Deborah Niemann 6:19
The next thing that I wanted to talk about is—and let’s go ahead and get into some of the topics that people might think are a little bit scarier. But, I’m gonna transition to that using something that everybody thinks is just the coolest thing in the world, and that is goat yoga. I could not tell you, at this point, how many people have said to me, “Are you doing goat yoga? You should be doing goat yoga.” Like, goat yoga is like the thing. And, I am not gonna do goat yoga, because there are so many things that can go wrong with goat yoga, you know, just from, like, tripping over a goat; to having a goat knock you down; to having you, you know, put your hand in goat poop and getting Listeriosis; and just all kinds of stuff. So, what exactly do people need to think about when it comes to liability issues related to goats that they own?

Eva Moss 7:19
Yeah, great question. And at Farm Commons, you know, we always bring up goat yoga during our workshops with farmers for—because everybody’s doing it on social media. It sounds like this really cool thing that, as you just laid out, there’s so many things that can go wrong at goat yoga. And, in terms of liability, you want to be thinking about what happens if my goat bites someone,] and the bite is really bad. What happens if my goats kick someone and the kick is really bad? What if they kick a small child? What happens if there’s cross-contamination with my goats and fecal matter or proteins and food, and somebody gets sick or has a really bad allergic reaction? What happens then? And the answer to that question is: It depends. You never know; we can’t fully anticipate how someone’s gonna react or how bad an injury is gonna be. But the first line of your defense is insurance. And it really helps to boost confidence as well. And you might be thinking, you know, as I bring up insurance and managing liability and the risks of all these injuries happening with your goats is, “Well, what if I have a liability waiver in place? When folks come out to goat yoga, I make them sign this piece of paper where they waive all chances of them suing me, and, you know, the liability’s on them?” Well, please consider that waiver ineffective in court. You know, once someone does get injured, and they go and get sutured up at the hospital, and their health insurance company covers it and comes calling, wanting to get recouped for paying out on those injuries, a waiver will be ineffective in court unless an attorney drafted it for you. However, I don’t want all of you out there going being like, “Oh gosh. Going to get rid of the waiver now.” They are very helpful for communicating a culture of safety. You know, if there’s certain ways people need to behave around the goat, or like “don’t touch,” you know, I don’t know… Maybe there’s some bucklings around who are super aggressive, and you want them in a certain area, and, you know, “please don’t go in this area” or “please wash your hands after you’re around the goats before you eat anything.” Those are helpful things to communicate. And so, if folks know there’s danger on the farm, and they have to read it in writing and then sign something, the chances are that they’re going to act in a way that’s safer and reduces risk in that way.

Eva Moss 9:43
Another thing you might be thinking about—not if you’re in Illinois, where Deborah is, but in other states like Alabama, Maine, Oregon, Idaho, here in North Carolina where I am. There’s this piece of law called an “agritourism liability statute,” and it essentially is a sign that you can put up that has the state law written down where folks who go to an agritourism farm are totally liable for whatever happens to them. The responsibility is not on the farmer or the farm. And a lot of farmers assume if they have that sign up—that agritourism liability sign—that they’re good; they’re not responsible if something happens. And I want you all to know that agritourism statute is very helpful for mitigating the risks of people acting all kinds of crazy when they see the super cute baby goats, you know. It communicates a culture of safety. And it does cover a narrow scope of injuries that would happen over the course of general agritourism. So, think taking a tour, walking around, visiting the goats, petting them, saying “hi”—maybe you get a little nibble. But it won’t cover things like negligence. Like, if the farmer is totally negligent with guests, to the property, around the goats, and something very bad happens that shouldn’t have been on the course of the tour or during the yoga session or something else. You know, maybe someone is hanging out after a goat yoga session, and, you know, as guests are leaving, a couple of people stay behind, and they say, “Hey, we want to help out with chores.” And they start wandering around, and you say, “Yeah, sure, help out with chores. Feel free to check out the farm.” And they get into a situation where they meet, you know, some very angry goats that don’t want to be bothered during feeding time. And they get really badly hurt. That’s not in the general course of a tour or the day’s plans. And so that would be negligent to let those guests hang out and do the stuff with the goats. And so that agritourism statute would not cover injuries like that.

Eva Moss 11:55
And so, because of this, that is why insurance is your best line of defense when thinking about managing liability for any goat-related activities that you’re hosting, either on your farm or off your farm. And so, for types of coverage, you can consider farm liability coverage, incidental business coverage—especially for business that’s farm-related but isn’t like, you know, the sale of your goat meat products, or goat dairy products, and sheep, you know, cheese, and that kind of stuff. But, like, a tour day on the farm, where you have… I don’t know—picture taking with the goats. That’s incidental to you raising the goats, that you get to take pictures with them. If it’s more of, like, a tour and celebration of all thing goats, where it’s an event, you might want to think about asking your insurance agent about event endorsement. And if you have, you know, herds of goats set up where you’re able to lease them out to other folks for maybe mowing or breeding stock or other leasing out on different properties of your goats, you might want to think about commercial coverage since it’s off of your property. So those are some common insurance options. And I do want to hone in, just this last bit about insurance: There’s a dual value that insurance plays in that, if you get the right insurance coverage for your needs—and that requires a good working relationship with your agent—insurance will provide an expert attorney to go to bat for you when something bad does happen, when an injury occurs. And so, they’ll go to court and argue—give their best argument—to limit your responsibility in the injury, and therefore limiting the amount of damages you would have to pay. And then, insurance is also there to pay up to the coverage amount of your policy. So, insurance really is, like, the best, best risk management strategy, especially when dealing with animals and visitors to your farm, and really just animals and people getting together.

Deborah Niemann 14:08
Right. Yeah, and people may be thinking that goats are, you know, “Oh, just my goats are very low risk,” or whatever. But any animal on your farm could cause you a problem—or not even an animal. I know one farm that has been sued twice. One, they have—it’s an on-farm cheesemaking operation with a little farm store. One time was because a woman slipped and fell on the stairs going in. They got sued by her insurance company. And, the other time was because, like a lot of farms, they have cats, and some three- or four-year-old child picked up one of the cats—as children that age too, not very gently—and the cat scratched the child. And their insurance company paid out $100,000 for a cat scratch, and… Which just—when they told me that I was like, “Did the child’s arm have to be amputated or something?” No, they’re like, “It was just a cat scratch.” I’m like, “It scratched out the child’s eye?” No. Like, I was trying to figure out how could it be $100,000?? So, it just goes beyond the kind of things that you might think just discussing this, you know, like with your spouse or your family or something.

Eva Moss 15:32
Absolutely. And that’s a large part of what risk management is: anticipating the worst-case scenario, which is not the funnest thing to do. And especially if you’re a homesteader or farmer, like, you likely have a healthy dose of idealism in you. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be doing what you’re doing. And it’s beautiful. It’s what keeps so many farmers and homesteaders and gardeners and growers growing, you know, that hope and idealism that things will work out. But, in order to sustain the really awesome and important and good thing that you’re doing, we do need to plan for the worst-case scenario. And so oftentimes at Farm Commons we encourage farmers to envision, like, “Alright,” you know, “you see your farm as you see your farm, as the operator. You know it intimately. But, try to see it as, you know, maybe a little brother, like a little sister, who might pick up a cat real rough, or like someone’s young child, or someone older, who may not be from the country or be familiar with the types of grounds.” You know, try to envision someone who is totally not intimately aware of the goings-on your farm, and try to see what the risks are. Like, “Ooh, should I keep the cat, you know, inside? Or make sure the floors are real dry—extra dry—even though I think, you know, I don’t mind a little bit of wetness on the floor?” Or even, you know, like scouting out for potholes around the farm. Like, are there any holes or divots around the fence where the goats are? Or even in their pasture? Where, “If I take people into their paddock, and someone trips in a hole and then falls into a goat? Oh, gosh!” You know? So, it’s really helpful to envision the worst-case scenario. As, like, not fun or hopeful as that might seem, it’ll help you grow forward with confidence.

Deborah Niemann 17:19
Speaking of thinking of worst-case scenarios, insurance companies—insurance policies—have limits. You know, like, I know, I’ve seen $1,000,000 as the limit a lot of times on these policies. So, what do you think is the importance… How important is it, do you think, that people consider—if they’re planning, you know, to have a business around their goats and the members of the public are coming to the farm—how important is it, do you think, that they consider incorporating or forming an LLC or something like that?

Eva Moss 17:48
Yeah, that’s a great question. So, regarding insurance limits, at Farm Commons—and I do want to, like, back up way to the beginning: None of what I’m saying is legal advice. We are a national nonprofit organization specializing in legal education. So, this is purely educational information. And so, that’s all the work that we do. We do this through workshops with farmers, and also with agricultural service providers—so extensions, insurance agents, lenders, folks who work at agricultural nonprofits. We educate on all of these matters: insurance, business structures, employment, zoning, all that. And a lot of times in our trainings, farmers will ask, you know, “I hear that an umbrella-cy”—ha, an “umbrella-cy”—”an umbrella policy would be a good thing for me to have if I’m expanding into agritourism or value-added good production, because those are riskier activities.” And, so we would break down what an umbrella policy is in insurance. And an umbrella policy doesn’t mean that you’re covered for more things, but rather that your coverage limit has broadened. So, it’s higher, and it covers more in terms of amount, but not in terms of stuff. And so, folks can increase their insurance limits for their coverage to, you know… Like this poor child who got—sounds like—terribly badly scratched by a cat, where the cost was very high, unfortunately for the farmer, and so anticipating high injury costs like that and upping insurance amounts. But, that is very different than managing liability with a business structure. And so, a business structure is in no way a substitute for insurance. Really, the sweet spot is having the right insurance coverage for the activities on your farm and anticipating, you know, to what extent will there be risk—you know, am I doing goat events or serving goat products to just 100 people this year, or is it 1,000? You know, 100 people will require different kinds of insurance coverage for injuries than 1,000 people. Just as if you’re starting out; maybe you’re only really dealing with 10 people. Those are different insurance coverage limit needs for each of those numbers. But, with a business structure, you know, that doesn’t waver so much with the numbers of people you’re serving or reaching, but more so in terms of, really, how you want to structure your business, what your tolerance for fees are, and your tolerance for paperwork.

Eva Moss 20:41
And so, I’ll just do a quick review here over common types of business structures—the most common that we see with farmers nationwide. And they are: sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies, and S corporations. And so, sole proprietorships and partnerships are formed as soon as you go into business. So, if you’re doing business with yourself, you’re running a goat farm by yourself, you’re sole proprietorship. If you are operating the goat farm with a buddy—maybe it’s your sibling, or your spouse, or a friend, or a business partner—you are in partnership; you have formed a partnership. And those two business entities are created without taking any action with your state. They’re just the default business structure that you got because you’re doing your thing with your farm business. Now, some farmers are compelled by the… I struggle sometimes to phrase this, but the “opportunity for personal asset protection from business liabilities” that more formal business structures provide. And so, sole proprietorships and partnerships do not provide any form of personal asset protection. You are your business, therefore any injuries or liabilities that your business creates or facilitates happening you will be held personally responsible for—except for insurance, which will cover you if you have the right insurance. So, operating as a sole proprietorship or partnership with the right insurance is an excellent way to go about business; many farmers do it. But, for the farmers who are interested in the personal asset protection—so another shield of protection in addition to insurance, good insurance—will also consider forming a limited liability company or a corporation. And those two entities are formed with the state you’re in. So, Deborah, it would be in Illinois; you’d form an LLC with a secretary of state in Illinois, or a corporation with the same. And each of those structures will have a different fee for filing, and different annual fee and filing or paperwork requirements. And so, at Farm Commons, we have a really helpful guide called “The Farmer’s Guide to Business Structures.” And it goes through each of the different business structures that I just shared and more—nonprofits, cooperatives, are also in there; and the different aspects of each one; what to think about when forming them; the different paperwork requirements; and also a handy flowchart in there to help you decide, “Hmm, which business structure should I choose?” if you’re thinking about forming one with your state, or considering “Well, maybe I should just keep doing my sole proprietorship thing.” And, with the limited liability company and the corporation—the S corporation—one of the best things you can do as you brainstorm, you know, which one to pursue, if you’re in that space, is to talk to your accountant and see if they have more experience with managing a limited liability company or an S corporation, and if they charge more for one over the other. Those are great things to consider when choosing.

Deborah Niemann 23:57
Before we move on to the next topic, one more thing I wanted to cover about injuries is a question that came from one of the people in my Goats 365 membership program, because I asked them—I told them that I was gonna be talking to you today and asked if they had any questions for you. And one person was wondering if she should have her goats vaccinated for rabies if they’re going to be around people that come to her farm, because she was worried, like, in case one of her goats got rabies, she was worried about liability in case that goat bit someone. And I told you a little bit about this before we started recording, because what makes this interesting is that there’s not actually a rabies vaccine that is labeled for goats. And so, if people do that, they have to use a vaccine that is off-label, because it has to be another species that their vet decides would work for a goat, hopefully. And there’s no research that says that the vaccine would work in a goat, but I do know some people who’ve done that. But my feeling was that, since there’s not even a vaccine that is sold for goats specifically, that nobody could really hold her accountable for not vaccinating them for rabies. So, in the rabies part of it, she’d be okay. The bite, well, you know, that might not be so—there could still be bite issues. But I didn’t think that the rabies part could be a problem. What do you think?

Eva Moss 25:29
Yeah, good question. And I didn’t… I found it really interesting to hear about this scenario, that one here. What is it? A Goat 360 member’s post?

Deborah Niemann 25:39
Yeah, Goats 365 is our goat membership program.

Eva Moss 25:42
Okay, awesome. Very cool. Well, I love where this person is thinking, like, trying to cover as many risk areas as possible, you know, “Oh, gosh, if someone gets bitten by my goat, like, I better make sure they don’t have rabies, so I’m gonna go ahead and get this vaccine even though it’s not—it’s off-label. It’s not specifically for, you know, my species of animal; it’s for a dog, not a goat.” And so, I think your thinking is also very good. You know, that’s not for a goat. And therefore, there’s not a precedent that people are vaccinating their goats for rabies. There’s no research behind it, and so there wouldn’t be any legal precedent necessarily to sue or seek damages for getting rabies from a goat. But, I do want to hone in on what you said about, you know, the bite is a little bit more squishy. And so, the bite, definitely, you want to make sure you have proper insurance coverage for injuries like a goat bite. But, in terms of the rabies, what would happen in court is that there would be a test for negligence regarding—based on how this scenario is framed—whether or not the goat was vaccinated. And so, the test for whether a farmer was negligent is whether or not they acted reasonably, or as reasonably as the same farmer would in similar circumstances. So it’s essentially asking: What would every other farmer do in this situation? And so, if every other farmer is not vaccinating their goats for rabies, then there’s no precedent for that needing to happen. But if every farmer is using this off-label dog vaccination for goats for a rabies vaccination, there could be an argument there. So, it does kind of depend. I would say, if it was my goat, and I had learned, you know, there’s a vaccine that people are using, and I’m a little bit worried about rabies and someone getting rabies from a bite, I might think about getting that vaccine; but at the same time, with my understanding of how the law works, I would assess the risk and say, “Hmm, there’s not actually a precedent there” where, you know, farmers are vaccinating with a goat vaccine for rabies. And so, I don’t know… Maybe if the cost was really high, I’d consider that, and it’s like, “Well, you know, the risk to me seems kind of low, so I’m not going to take that cost on.” Or, if you’re super hyper-vigilant, and you want to make sure people—for public health and safety reasons—there’s like a 0% or close to 0% chance of not getting rabies, and you want to pursue that vaccination, I think whatever people can do to be safe is a good thing to do.

Deborah Niemann 28:17
That’s another good point, too. I think… So, there’s two kinds of rabies in terms of a way that an animal acts. There’s an aggressive form, and then there’s a very mellow, lethargic form. And goats usually get the very lethargic form. But, if goats do become aggressive, what they usually do is headbutt people, not bite them. And, in fact, if you’ve been hearing us talk about goat bites, and you’re new to goats, you may think, “What are you talking about? I have never had a goat bite me.” I know, because I thought that many years ago when an insurance agent said to me about, like, “This insurance will cover in case your goats bite anybody.” I was like, “Goats don’t bite people!” And I think I’d owned him, at that point, you know, every bit of like two or three months or something. And the funny thing about this is that I did wind up losing a lot of sleep. I think we probably had goats for five or six years. And, a local elementary school called us and said that they were celebrating, like, farm week or something like that, and they were looking for farmers to come in, and asked if we could bring in a couple of goats. Well, I happened to have a couple of bottle babies. And, if you’ve listened to me very long, you know I don’t like bottle babies. I am not a big fan of them. And this is one reason why. So, I thought, “Oh,” because bottle babies are, like, super friendly; they’re beyond friendly. They don’t know they’re a goat; they’re, like, all over people. And so, what happens when you have two baby goats and, like, 20 fifth graders? You can’t see where every single fifth grader has their hands. And all of a sudden, I hear one of the kids go, “Ah, it bit me!” And the teacher was super chill. He was just like, “Well ya I shouldn’t have stuck your finger in his mouth.” All I could think was, “Oh, I hope his parents are that mellow about it.” And I really did lose sleep for about a week on this because—and this is the thing with bottle babies: They will grab your finger and start to suck on it. And if it winds up in the back of their mouth between their molars, you could get bitten. And that is exactly what happened. These children thought it was just the coolest thing that the goats wanted to suck on their fingers. So, you know, so goats can bite people. I mean, just weird things can happen all the time. So that’s my goat bite story. And one of the reasons I don’t like bottle babies, because the babies that are raised by mom are not usually looking at people and going, “Where’s the milk spigot? How do I get the milk out?” and sucking on your fingers and your chin and your hair and, you know, everything.

Deborah Niemann 31:05
So, moving on to our next topic. I think this is really important, because if people want to have a business, I think we’ve covered the agritourism aspect pretty well. You know, just bringing people onto your farm for various reasons to see your goats, visit with your goats, whatever. The other thing is, we’re going to get into product liability. If you’re selling something—you know, if you’re selling goat milk, cheese, yogurt, meat, even goat milk soap—what are the things that people need to think about in terms of product liability before they start selling products?

Eva Moss 31:38
Yeah, great question. And, by now, I bet your listeners will anticipate me saying “insurance!” Always the first line of defense. And we do talk so much about insurance at Farm Commons. And I promise you: We are in no way connected with any kind of insurance company. We just understand how the law works. And, in our system, our very litigious system and society, insurance is the way to protect yourself. We’re very retroactive; we wait until something bad happens, and then, you know, we go and argue about it, and then we pay up. That’s how we deal with it here in the United States. But, for product liability, there is product liability insurance. And when we’re talking about product liability, it’s the chances, and covering the chances, and the risks of your products making someone sick. So, if you sell goat meat, or goat milk, or goat cheese, you’ll want to consider having product liability coverage for those products, whether they’re purchased on the farm, or if you’re selling them wholesale to a grocery, or selling at the farmers market. And, depending on how you’re getting these products to your customers, you will want to let your insurance agent know that, so they can underwrite you properly and make sure you have the right coverage. Because… So say, for instance, you’re selling direct from the source. So, maybe you’re able to sell your cheeses on your farm; you have a nice farm stand, refrigerated cooling space… Your insurance agent is gonna want to come and, like, check out what your cooler situation is like, make sure the numbers are where they need to be, you know, you have the right number of outlets—all the tiny, like, gritty, annoying pesky details that make sure that, if something does go wrong, that you’re actually covered because you have all that in order. And so, let’s say a cooler goes out. And for a few—I don’t know, maybe like an hour or two—and you’re worried about your cheese, and it looks good, but you sell it anyway; product liability coverage will look a bit different than if you’re selling wholesale to a grocer. And then you’re going to want to ask your insurance agent about recall and reset coverage within that product liability package. And so, what I mean by “recall and reset,” you’re gonna want to be able to recall your product from shelves and figure out, you know, “Oh gosh, someone got sick buying cheese from the co-op grocery store.” You know, “We need to find out, you know, what’s the lot number on that cheese? What date was it made? Can we identify what lot it’s from and then recall that specific lot, get it off the shelves?” If it’s at other stores, it’ll make it so much easier to recall all that product, and then also to reset your facility back on the farm. So cleaning your dairy equipment, sterilizing it, and all that takes time and money. And so, if you’re a staffed operation, that’s like payroll hours. And so, if you aren’t anticipating having money to cover all that on hand, you should definitely consider getting product liability insurance that will provide coverage for all those costs of recall and reset. And so, yeah, if you’re selling on the farm, your product liability will look a bit different than if you’re selling to a wholesaler or off the farm. You could also look into a commercial policy—commercial coverag—since you’ll be selling off the farm. But, if you go to our website, FarmCommons.org, at the very top of our page we have menu items for each of our different legal subject areas. And, if you click on “Insurance,” we have lots of great tutorials and print resources that are available to you for free; you’ve just got to create an account. It functions as a library card. And you can download guides on maximizing insurance for value-added products and diversification. And we touch on recall and reset, and all of that.

Deborah Niemann 35:43
That’s really fascinating. I know I have heard way too many farmers say, “Oh, I’ve got farm insurance, I’m covered.” Assuming that, like, you know, anything that happens related to their farm, they’re going to be covered. And one of the things I had not even thought of… And I feel like we were really good, you know, with our insurance, because we asked for a recommendation from another farm, who did everything we did in terms of, you know, like the agritourism, and selling food, and stuff like that. And then, I was completely 100% honest with him about everything that we do to make sure everything is covered. But, you know what? We never talked about the product recall or anything like that, that you just talked about. So, I kind of feel like maybe I should give my insurance agent a call now.

Eva Moss 36:34
There you go!

Deborah Niemann 36:37
There’s just so many little tiny nuances. You know, I mean, if we had a recall on our eggs—because we sell eggs through a grocery store—it wouldn’t be the end of the world, because it’s just us. We don’t have a staff that would have to be working overtime or anything. But there’s just so many little things where I feel like people, like, you really have to… You know, you may feel like you’re beating a dead horse as you, like, explain this to your agent. I know, I felt like it. I was like, “Well, what about this? What about this? What about this?” You know? And whenever we have an event, you know, I give him a call and say, “Hey, we’re having an event, can you add that to our policies, to make sure that we’re covered during the event?” So it’s just, it’s really good to have somebody you know, with your background, providing the same kind of information and helping people understand the importance of really making sure that you’ve got the kind of coverage you need from your insurance company. Because I think that’s pretty much what all this boils down to. Doesn’t it?

Eva Moss 37:37
Yeah, absolutely. And, I do just want to call out that this can seem very overwhelming. Like, you know, as you’re listening, maybe you’re in the field, or you’re out in the car doing deliveries, or you’re in the office, you know, updating all that accounting in the books and that kind of stuff, and like, “Oh gosh, I gotta call my insurance agent about this.” And then, “Oh, gosh, now I got a call about that. That’s gonna be a lot really long call.” And, you know, the farm’s needs will look different during different seasons, and at different points of time, and so what we advocate at Farm Commons is to, you know, just take one step at a time, and make a list, you know, set priorities. In our workshops—which we’re getting ready to offer this fall and winter online—we help farmers prioritize their farm law action plans specific to their farms’ needs. And so, what we’ve shared today really are best practices in general with zoning, and insurance for injuries, product liability, and some of the negligent stuff. But not all of that is going to be relevant to every farmer; every farmer will have different needs. And so, do not fret. Try not to get overwhelmed. But do prioritize, like, you know, just as you were saying, Deborah, like, “Oh, you know, we do sell stuff to different stores, so maybe we should call our insurance agent about recall and reset.” And that’s one thing to put on your list. And maybe, later on, you’ve maybe acquired some more land and want to look into the zoning then about, you know, whether you can even have goats on that land—that’s another thing you would add to your list. And so, little bits at a time.

Deborah Niemann 39:10
I want to give another shout-out to the website at Farm Commons and just say how wonderful it is. One of the things we did not touch on here at all is employees and interns and things like that. Which is definitely a topic for another day, because that’s actually how I got to know you guys, you know, was listening to a talk on that. And there’s a lot of information. I know I have also downloaded a lot of information from your website about interns and employees and things like that to make sure that we’re doing everything that we need to do. Because there’s a lot, and it’s a great thing to do, like, you know, in the middle of January when everything’s cold and frozen outside.

Eva Moss 39:53
Absolutely. The winter to-do lists. The paperwork chores.

Deborah Niemann 39:56
Yeah, exactly. So, thank you very much for joining us today! I know this has been a lot of good reminders here for me. And I hope that it’s given our listeners a lot of good information so that they can make smarter decisions with their goats, if they want to show their goats to the world, or start making goat products. So, thank you very much for joining us today.

Eva Moss 40:19
You’re welcome. Thanks, Deborah, for having me.

Deborah Niemann 40:22
And that’s it for today’s show. I hope you’ll join me next time when I’m going to be interviewing one of the founders of the San Clemente Island Goat Association. That is a breed of goat that is so rare, it’s actually in danger of extinction. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to hit that “subscribe” button so that you don’t miss an episode. And remember, you can always find show notes at ForTheLoveOfGoats.com, and check us out on Facebook at Facebook.com/LoveGoatsPodcast. Bye for now!

7 thoughts on “Goat Law”

  1. Sooo… if you have like two large animals and a few poultry / ducks … for personal enjoyment… do you recommend insurance in case a pony gets out etc?

    • Yes, you should have insurance to cover something like that. You should talk to an insurance professional about your specific exposure and needs.


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