Hayrides are popular in the fall: New law helps farmers keep you safe, avoid potential legal action

GREENLEAF, Wis. (WITI) -- With the fall season in full swing, hayrides are pretty popular! So how can farmers protect their guests from danger, and protect themselves from possible legal action?

At the Rock K Ranch near Greenleaf, Dick Koltz and his dog Albert patrol the hayride route every day.

"On several occasions, we've had to move a branch, sometimes come back and get the chainsaw," Koltz said.

Koltz says he gives 400 to 500 tours each year.

"When we leave I just give a few orders that everybody remain seated. That when we're moving, they don't walk around, fall, knock a tooth out or something," Koltz said.

Koltz says wagons are inspected.

"We've added steps on the back so people can get on and off easier. We have brakes on all the wagons for loading and unloading or in an emergency," Koltz said.

A new state law enacted six months ago is designed to protect those in agricultural tourism against liability.

"It identifies and just understands for participants that there are inherent risks for being on a farm, or partaking in these agricultural activities," Brown County Agricultural Agent Liz Binversie said.

Binversie says the statute compliments current recreational immunity laws. But the new law doesn't offer total immunity. Farmers still have to provide a safe environment for their visitors.

"They want you to put a sign with correct verbiage, lettering, all of that at each entrance as well," Binversie said.

"It's a good law, but it does not remove us from responsibility," Koltz said.

Koltz already has a sign to go with his $2 million insurance policy. He says in 51 years, he hasn't had a claim.

"We've been very fortunate. Hopefully it continues that way," Koltz said.

Agriculture agents say farmers need to talk to their lawyers, and insurance agents to see how the new law will affect individual operations.