The Michigan Right to
Farm Act ("RTFA") is recognized nationally as model policy for resolving disputes that
can arise between farms and neighboring residents when neighbors or local governments allege that practices on the farm constitute an actionable nuisance.
The Act protects farmers who voluntarily follow the state's
Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs) from nuisance
lawsuits over matters such as odor or farm dust so long as the farmers comply
with GAAMPs that cover a variety of practices ranging from manure management to
From Michigan Farm Bureau's perspective, the Right to Farm Act
and GAAMPs have enabled all sectors of agriculture to progress utilizing
existing and new technologies that strike a delicate balance between the
state's social, environmental and economic needs.
Although the RTFA expressly preempts local ordinances that purport to extend or revise the provisions of the Act, it does not pre-empt all
requirements. Building permits, for example, are an issue addressed separately
by the state Construction Code. However, many types of
local zoning ordinances are pre-empted by the RTFA. The RTFA was written to provide for preemption because of the tendency for local townships to adopt a "not
in my backyard" stance on farming activities that leads to overly restrictive bans on many activities that are necessary for farming and are of great importance to society. The subject of such local regulations often include:
The RTFA will preempt local zoning ordinances when such ordinances conflict with GAAMPs as designated by the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development. Without this pre-emption, many local ordinances would be passed that severely restrict farming operations.
No, the RTFA does not preempt other state-wide laws such as the animal abuse prohibition statute. Therefore, farmers must be mindful of their obligation to adequately care for their livestock and the criminal penalties associated with animal abuse, otherwise they will be subject to civil and criminal liability. Adequate care is defined as "the provision of sufficient food, water, shelter, sanitary conditions, exercise, and veterinary medical attention in order to maintain an animal in a state of good health."
No, but the state Construction Code provides limited exemptions for agricultural building permits. Visit our
Permit Exemption page for more information.
Currently in the courts, RTFA issues are arising mostly with respect to farm stands, small organic operations and horse farms—not
CAFOs. In order to benefit from RTFA protection, large livestock farms are
currently required to obtain permits from the Michigan Department of
Environmental Quality and site approval from the Michigan Department of
Agriculture and Rural Development. The GAAMPs for RTFA protection include setbacks; for example, a new
livestock production facility must be at least 1,500 feet from areas zoned for
No. Courts have confirmed that the Michigan RTFA is Constitutional. All 50 states have Right to Farm statutes, and only one state, Iowa, has had
its RTFA ruled as unconstitutional. However, the Iowa Bormann decision was the result of a law that was structured quite differently than Michigan's RTFA.
GAAMPs are mandatory for new
farms that wish to benefit from RTFA nuisance protection, but they are not intended to be
environmental laws. GAAMPs are industry wide practices that are evaluated and
updated regularly as agricultural technology and practices improve. RTFA does
NOT affect the application or enforcement of environmental laws. Even with
RTFA, all farms must comply with all environmental laws and animal abuse laws.