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Michigan Loses “Right to Farm”

May 14, 2014
by Jacque Porte
IQM2 Sales & Marketing

In a special session on April 28, the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development voted to adopt changes making all farm livestock operations, no matter how small, subject to certain restrictions, while also creating a category of land where no animals will be in compliance. The change effectively removes the Right to Farm protection created in 1981 to protect commercial farming.

A spokesperson for the commission explained that the main issue was ensuring that those raising livestock in residential neighborhoods were conforming to local zoning. Commission member Trever Meachum of Hartford, supported the change: “I think it makes sense to let democracy rule rather than have the state set an arbitrary number.”

Dozens of citizens commented on the change, voicing concerns that the commission was taking sides in the marketplace, preventing urban and suburban farmers from creating their own sources for local, sustainable food. Others, like Michelle Regalado Deatrick, who blogs about organic farming and gardening, questions who will decide whether she can have livestock on her 40 acre plot, which falls into Category 3 zoning. “Now we're having to reconsider our business plans,” Deatrick explained, “and may sell the farm and buy a farm in a more rural area with definite RTF protection, or move to another state that's more welcoming and protective of small farm rights.”

Meachum noted that the commission also discussed a suggestion to create a work group to “tackle the concerns of people who have urban or suburban operations, either commercial farms or to grow their own food.” As of yet, no action has been taken to form the group. However, Meachum maintained his positive outlook, saying, "I think we can start making this a 'win-win' for all for all sizes of agriculture.”

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