ST. JOHNS — A provision involving site selection for new and expanding livestock farms received approval Wednesday from the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The decision from the five-member commission will ease the burdens carried by many Michigan farmers struggling to understand the current language in the site selection Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs).
“As a pig farmer … that’s in livestock, I think today's decision by the ag commission to remove the zoning (components) clarifies the science behind what suitable means for siting,” said Brian Pridgeon, vice chair of the commission and a seventh-generation hog farmer in Montgomery, Mich. “If you can meet the odor model, which is reviewable by science, and you can meet the population density, which is reviewable by science, then you are mitigating the risk.
“It gives farmers and the industry and even neighbors a clearer understanding of how to site livestock facilities in the state of Michigan.”
Prior to the commission’s decision, votes to remove a zoning provision in the site selection GAAMP were tabled as commissioners voiced concerns that current GAAMP language wasn’t clear.
“That was primarily what we were handling today — the language of zoning within the GAAMP and where it is appropriate and legal to site livestock facilities,” Pridgeon told Michigan Farm News. “…It’s a win for agriculture today because we are saying that the (Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development) wants to be a pro-farm environment. The win (for us) is we now have language in the (place) that supports growing … and the lifestyle of farming in Michigan.”
The reason the Michigan Farm Bureau supports removing zoning language from the site selection GAAMP is due to multiple townships using current verbiage to prevent new livestock operations.
According to Matt Kapp, a governmental relations specialist for the Michigan Farm Bureau, “A few years ago, we were notified by Farm Bureau members over a township in southwest Michigan using the zoning requirement in the GAAMP as a reason to zone active farmland out of agriculture.”
He said the township involved “purposely zoned” farmland out of agriculture as a way to prevent larger livestock farms from moving into the township.
“This really bothered farmers residing in the township as they supported scientific standards for siting livestock and had serious concerns about zoning farmland out of agriculture,” Kapp said. “These members asked MFB through our policy development process to remove the zoning requirement from the GAAMP. Today, the MFB policy was implemented. This is a victory for farmers in Michigan. Our members identified a problem, and we as an organization were able to address the issue through our government relations channels.
“Farmers have problems, and Farm Bureau has departments to handle those problems.”