What is the "farm exemption" and what qualifies for the exemption?

The State of Iowa has given counties the authority to develop zoning regulations for their unincorporated areas. However, the State has declared that farms should be able to operate relatively free from local restrictions. This "right to farm" is contained in the following section from the Code of Iowa:

335.2 Farms exempt. Except to the extent required to implement section 335.27, no ordinance adopted under this chapter applies to land, farm houses, farm barns, farm outbuildings or other buildings or structures which are primarily adapted, by reason of nature and area, for use for agricultural purposes, while so used. However, the ordinances may apply to any structure, building, dam, obstruction, deposit or excavation in or on the flood plains of any river or stream.

Even though the State exempts farms from zoning regulations, it has provided few guidelines as to what should be considered a farm. In order to qualify under the agricultural exemption, it must be clearly demonstrated that the principal use of the land and the proposed building(s) is farm-related. This includes proposed dwellings, and that the occupants of the dwelling are primarily engaged in agriculture.

We strongly encourage anyone wishing to claim the exemption - especially for a new house - to contact us prior to the start of construction to determine if the exemption is appropriate. The farm exemption applies only to Linn County zoning and building regulations. Other permits (such as floodplain development, well, septic, E911 address or driveway access) may be required. Please contact the appropriate county department for information.

New in 2020!

In 2020, the Iowa legislature enacted additional exemptions from zoning regulations for “agricultural experiences” as follows:

335.26 Agricultural experiences exempt. To assist in the promotion of agricultural experiences, a county shall not require a conditional use permit, special use permit, special exception, or variance for agricultural experiences on property of which the primary use is agricultural production. Agricultural experiences includes any agriculture-related activity, as a secondary use in conjunction with agricultural production, on a farm which activity is open to the public with the intended purpose of promoting or educating the public about agriculture, agricultural practices, agricultural activities, or agricultural products.

Because the “agricultural experiences” provision in state code is new, the definition of an agricultural experience is very broad, and the application of building codes is not exempted, please contact the Planning & Development Department for assistance.

To submit a request or if you have further questions, please email or call 319-892-5130.  

Show All Answers

1. What permits are required to build a house in Linn County?
2. What is the "farm exemption" and what qualifies for the exemption?
3. Is there a deadline for submitting my application for next month's agenda?
4. Where do I obtain agendas for Linn County zoning meetings?
5. How do I find out what the current zoning is for a certain property in Linn County?
6. Can I operate a business from my home in Linn County?
7. What are the required lot sizes and setbacks?
8. What is the status of my Linn County zoning case?
9. My property is subject to deed restrictions (covenants). What are they and does Linn County enforce them?
10. What do I need to do to divide my property in rural Linn County?
11. Can I separate the original farmhouse from the farm?
12. How can I find out if my property has a mapped FEMA floodplain on it?
13. How do I get an elevation certificate for my house or proof that my house is not located in a floodplain?