Due to a new ruling from Michigan’s Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development, residents will lose their right to keep livestock on their own property.
On April 28th, 2014, the commission ruled that local governments have the right to ban livestock from any area zoned residential in the state. The action will, according to Gail Philbin of the Michigan Sierra Club, “effectively remove Right to Farm Act protection for many urban and suburban backyard farmers raising small numbers of animals.”
The Right to Farm Act is a state law designed to protect farmers from nuisance lawsuits and zoning regulations. These small protections, and allowances, have melted away under the decision of the commission that the Right to Farm Act does not apply to homeowners who keep small numbers of livestock. Kim White, who raises chickens and rabbits, said “It’s all ‘Big Farm,’ and it’s ‘Big Farm’ deciding against the little farm. They don’t want us little guys feeding ourselves. They want us to go all to the big farms. They want to do away with small farms and I believe that is what’s motivating it.” Goats, chickens, and bee hives could be banned on properties where there are 13 homes within 1/8 mile of a property containing livestock, or another home within 250 feet of the property, under the commission’s ruling, Michigan Public Radio reported.
“I believe we have over 100 communities in Michigan who have ordinances on the books against chickens and bees and other things, and they will be able to continue to move forward with those,” said Jamie Clover Adams, the director of Michigan’s Department and Rural Development
This comes only a month after a Michigan ban on Eurasian boars and similar exotic swine breeds was thrown out for being unconstitutional, because it denied equal protection to owners, and is so vague that it’s hard to tell what the policy covers and what is exempt. Some homesteaders will find themselves in a regulatory limbo. One such individual is blogger, writer, and organic farmer Michelle Regalado Deatrick, who doesn’t know if she’ll be able to keep her livestock, because about half of her 80-acre farm may be considered a residential zone.
“We’re building up a mixed production farm, planning to farm during retirement, and we have a permit in hand for a livestock facility, but have waited with building until we were sure of what the GAAMP (Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices) changes would be. Now we’re having to reconsider our business plans and may sell the farm and buy a farm in a more rural area with definite [Right To Farm] protection, or move to another state that’s more welcoming and protective of small farm rights.”
GAAMP states “Category 3 sites may be zoned for agriculture, but are generally not suitable for livestock production facilities. They may be suitable for livestock facilities with less than 50 animal units.” Another problem is that local governments in Michigan are under no obligation to follow the GAAMP, as it is simply a set of guidelines. It is also unclear if these new measures will do anything to increase public health whatsoever.