The Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development effectively banned small farmers from raising livestock, barring them from “right to farm” protections.
The vote, which came in a special session April 28, will make all farm livestock operations subject to rules, including a category of land where no animals will be allowed.
Michigan’s Right to Farm Act was created in 1981 to protect commercial agriculture, making farmers immune from "nuisance lawsuits" at a time when urban residents were moving out to rural areas. As long as a farming operation followed the state’s practices Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices, it was protected.
Now, however, many small-scale farmers will lose their right to raise animals, in what opponents to the measure are calling a strike against small farmers in favor of commercial agriculture.
But the Michigan Farm Bureau said the new rules further protect all farmers by reducing land conflicts. But opponents say that the ruling is a swift step in taking away the eroding rights of small farmers.
Michigan Sierra Club Chapter Assistant Director Gail Philbin told MLive that “The commission is essentially taking sides in the marketplace.”
The action "effectively remove Right to Farm Act protection for many urban and suburban backyard farmers raising small numbers of animals," she wrote in an email to MLive Tuesday.
"The Michigan Agriculture Commission passed up an opportunity to support one of the hottest trends in food in Michigan--public demand for access to more local, healthy, sustainable food," Philbin said.
Small-scale farmers say they’re now in limbo about whether they are allowed to have livestock or not
Michelle Regalado Deatrick owns an 80-acre farm in an area that the GAAMP has ruled unfit for livestock.
“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 changes would be,” she told MLive. “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 RTF protection, or move to another state that’s more welcoming and protective of small farm rights.”