LANSING — Michigan farmers fought hard to see the state’s Right to Farm Act enacted in 1981, and they do not take kindly to local governments’ attempts to tamper with the dearly held protections it provides. Accordingly, when a township south of Battle Creek last year decided to draft its own regulations about siting livestock farms, the Calhoun County Farm Bureau didn’t hesitate to insert itself into the discussion.
Notifying its members of the situation—and Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) and the state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD)—Calhoun County spared no effort in showing Leroy Township the error of its ways. The county Farm Bureau worked to oppose the township ordinance that added a layer of unnecessary and illegal regulation on top of the state’s Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices (GAAMPs).
Those efforts will be recognized Feb. 27 when Calhoun County Farm Bureau leaders formally receive MFB’s Excellence in Grassroots Lobbying Award. The annual award goes to one county Farm Bureau for exceptional policy advocacy efforts; building relationships with elected officials and educating and influencing them on issues impacting the state’s food and agriculture industry.
Last fall Calhoun County Farm Bureau President Andrea Boughton described what her county was facing to Michigan Farm News.
“This is clearly an overreach by a township that is not listening to the community,” Boughton said. “The boards (planning and township) kept telling us they want agriculture to remain in the community, and to be sure it and all citizens are protected. My question is who will be protected, and from what?”
Her letter to the Leroy Township board clearly laid out why additional, local-level regulation beyond Right-to-Farm GAAMPs is unwarranted.
“Protection for local units of government, farmers and non-farm residents is already in place under the Right-to-Farm law,” Boughton wrote. “Right-to-Farm and GAAMPs have been proven time and time again to be effective at allowing for agricultural growth, environmental protection and community harmonization.”
MDARD Director Jamie Clover Adams has been close to the situation since Calhoun’s savvy leadership first tipped her off to what Leroy was attempting.
“Their work was extremely significant because they built the [public] record, being involved, giving their opinion and providing information to the township,” Clover Adams said. “That record they built will be very valuable should somebody choose to move ahead and then they’re challenged by the township and this goes to court.”
Governmental Relations Specialist Matt Kapp follows Right-to-Farm issues for MFB.
“The whole reason Michigan Farm Bureau and MDARD knows about this ordinance is because the county Farm Bureau informed us,” Kapp said. “Calhoun County Farm Bureau sent notifications out to all its members in Leroy Township, informing them about township meetings where this zoning amendment was going to be discussed.”
While the township has yet to retract the flawed ordinance, the prompt, decisive action of the Calhoun County Farm Bureau has all the appropriate agricultural parties on alert and primed for a showdown if and when the time comes.
“The Calhoun County Farm Bureau, stepping in and doing this, has really set an example,” Clover Adams said. “They have set the standard others should emulate. Their stepping out and being involved in this issue is extremely important and we should all give them a thank-you.”
Representatives of the Calhoun County Farm Bureau will be present at MFB’s 2018 Lansing Legislative Seminar, Feb. 27, to accept the award.