Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) is asking members to urge the state’s Agriculture and Rural Development Commission to protect the Right to Farm by voting to remove zoning references from the Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs) on site selection.
You can help by texting the phrase “MI RTF” to the number “52886” and follow the instructions provided to show your support to the five-member commission.
The Commission is expected to vote on all proposed GAAMPs changes, including removal of zoning references, in early 2019 after reviewing input from the public comment period that ended in October.
This is the final step of an annual GAAMPs review process where committees of various experts revise and update the practices as necessary before they’re reviewed and approved by the Commission.
Public comments were accepted on several GAAMPs, including proposed changes for Manure Management and Utilization; Care of Farm Animals; Irrigation Water Use in addition to Site Selection and Odor Control for New and Expanding Livestock Facilities.
According to MFB Government Relations Specialist Matt Kapp, the organization believes removing zoning references within the GAAMPs on site selection upholds the Right to Farm Act’s integrity and is in line with the Attorney General’s opinion earlier this year that reaffirmed the law’s preemption of local zoning.
“MFB continues to believe that our state’s Right to Farm Act is the model for our country,” Kapp said. “There’s no question it has allowed all sectors of Michigan agriculture to move forward utilizing GAAMPs on a voluntary basis while enhancing and protecting the environment.”
According to Kapp, MFB weighed in with strong written support of the proposed changes to remove any reference of zoning within the siting GAAMPs, saying that requiring zoning conformance is contrary to the legislative intent of the 1999 Right to Farm Act amendments.
“A growing number of townships have developed their own ordinances regulating livestock agriculture as an end-around to the state’s Siting GAAMPs within Right to Farm,” Kapp said, referencing recent examples in Genesee County’s Fenton Township and Calhoun County’s Leroy Townships where local township officials attempted to use zoning ordinances to effectively box-out agriculture.
“There have been other cases such as Brady Township, in Kalamazoo County, where local officials used the zoning conformance requirement against farmers by changing the zoning in a portion of the township with the explicit intent to restrict expansion of livestock agriculture,” he said. “There was another case in a very rural area of Newaygo County, where a producer was denied siting approval because the site resided in a zoning district that did not allow agriculture, even though the farmer was planning to build a facility in the middle of a forest – the site was more than ideal for a livestock production facility.”
As expected, the Michigan Townships Association (MTA) went on the offensive in the final three days of the public comment period, claiming in their organizational Insights newsletter that the, “New GAAMPS draft would allow large livestock facilities almost anywhere.”
They urged township officials to tell the state’s ag commission, “not to eliminate zoning considerations from a section of the Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices (GAAMPs).”
“This draft would eliminate local land uses and plans from site selection criteria, meaning if this draft becomes final, large livestock facilities could locate almost anywhere, with no consideration of local zoning. MTA opposes this dramatic policy shift and is asking township officials to contact commission members as soon as possible to share your objection to this proposed draft,” according to the newsletter.
While not surprised, Kapp said the last-minute MTA challenge is misleading. “The GAAMPs still establish basic set-back standards for livestock facilities of all sizes,” he said. “The GAAMPs also still require consideration of existing land uses, development patterns, the cost-benefit of an investment in animal housing, as well as the sustainability of farm animal production before construction of a livestock facility begins.”
According to Kapp, the siting GAAMPs were written to provide uniform, scientific standards and management practices for the construction of new and expanding livestock facilities.
“The siting GAAMPs still fulfill three primary objectives: environmental protection; social considerations (neighbor relations); and economic viability,” Kapp explained. “When all three of these objectives are met, the ability of a farm operation to achieve agricultural sustainability is greatly increased.”