The Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development made changes to the state's longstanding Right to Farm Act this week. The new changes remove protections which previously allowed individuals to raise livestock such as chickens and goats in small backyards of densely populated areas. If an area is considered "primarily residential," Michigan public radio reports, the state now has the authority to decide whether or not a farm or livestock must be removed from the area.
According to MLive, the original Right to Farm Act was drafted in 1981 as a response to a large amount of city dwellers moving to rural areas and complaining about the farm-like conditions there. The law protected farmers from nuisance complaints and lawsuits. As time has gone on, the Michigan Commission of Agriculture has decided that it makes more sense to keep farms in areas that are specifically zoned for that purpose.
Critics of the change to the law argue that the ruling supports big farms while making it more difficult for smaller farmers to survive in the state. Lawmakers maintain that the revised Right to Farm Act simply ensures that smaller farms follow the proper zoning ordinances.