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      Agriculture officials clear confusion on new Right to Farm requirements

      According MDARD, the Right to Farm Act is a state law that was created in 1981. Within the Act, is a set of Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs) that involves different areas of farming.

      The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development made some changes last month that involve agriculture practices that are defined in Michigan's Right to Farm Act. But some false information on social media website caused a lot of confusion about what these changes really mean.

      According MDARD, the Right to Farm Act is a state law that was created in 1981. Within the Act, is a set of Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs) that involves different areas of farming.

      On April 28, commissioners voted to add a Category 4 to the Site Selection & Odor Control for New/Expanding Livestock Facilities GAAMP. MDARD Communications Director, Jennifer Holton, says they made the decision because previous language was not clear on livestock rules for urban and suburban areas.

      "Category Four is defined within the generally accepted agriculture management practices by locations that are primarily residential and don't allow agriculture uses by right," said Holton.

      Primary residential areas are defined in the category as more than 13 non-farm homes within an eighth of a mile of the livestock facility, or a non-farm home within 250 feet of the livestock facility, and where zoning does not allow agriculture by right.

      But the local communities can still decide to allow farm animals under these circumstances.

      "It simply means that property owners should be following their local zoning ordinances," said Holton.

      According to MDARD, at least 40 municipalities have ordinances that allow residents to keep backyard poultry and many townships allow for agricultural activity in residential areas.

      Rent-a-Chicken owner, Leslie Suitor, has customers all over the state who were calling her confused and concerned.

      "We reassured them that this shouldn't have any impact on their ability to have the chickens unless they already have something on the books that says they can't keep chickens there," said Suitor.

      She says she's only had to turn down a couple of customers this year in Bay City, because of their ordinances, but she's hoping that won't be the case next year.

      Other frequently asked questions about the changes, answered by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development:

      Q: Do the changes made by the Commission last week impact people raising food for themselves?

      A: No. The Right to Farm Act has always applied and continues to apply to farms which are defined by the Act as the land, plants, animals, buildings, structures, including ponds used for agricultural or aquacultural activities, machinery, equipment, and other appurtenances used in the commercial production of farm products (MCL 286.472(a)). However, local communities can decide to allow farm animals under these circumstances. In fact, at least 40 municipalities have ordinances that allow residents to keep backyard poultry and many townships allow for agricultural activity in residential areas.

      Q: Do the 2014 changes to the Livestock Siting GAAMP impact agricultural land?

      A: No. Owners of land where agricultural activities are allowed will continue to enjoy the same affirmative defense to nuisance lawsuits as they always have, provided they conduct their agricultural activities in conformance with the GAAMPs.

      Q: Are bees included in the Siting GAAMP?

      A: No. Bees are not considered livestock and are not included in the Site Selection & Odor Control for New/Expanding Livestock Facilities GAAMP. However, bees are included in the Care of Farm Animals GAAMP.

      For more information on the changes, click here.