“If your chickens cross the property line” might sound like the start of a joke, but when neighbor disputes, local officials and Michigan’s Right to Farm Act are all involved, it’s no laughing matter.
Lapeer County’s landscape transitions from suburban sprawl and commuter residences in our southernmost townships to mostly farm fields in the north. This mix of environments, coupled with residents’ growing desire to know where their food comes from (some even wanting to raise their own), means local government officials must understand the scope and protections of Michigan’s Right to Farm Act.
Most didn’t know where to get that information or who might teach them, so Lapeer County Farm Bureau stepped in, hosting an educational session May 18 for more than 20 local government officials eager to learn more about the Act.
Kyle McCarty, Michigan Right to Farm resource analyst for Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), opened with a factual introduction about the Act and how it affects local governance of farming practices.
He addressed some common Right to Farm misconceptions, including how the Act doesn’t preempt other state or federal statutes, but in some situations may preempt township or county ordinances.
McCarty also spent a fair amount of time talking about Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices — GAAMPS — and the role they play in how Act operates.
Attendees had plenty of questions afterwards, many of them related to specific situations local officials have experienced, both current and previously.
One real-world example was whether the Act protected chicken enthusiasts in populated areas if their birds roamed into a neighbor’s lawn! The short answer was no, due to residential zoning restrictions and the site-selection GAAMP.
As a side benefit, the event provided an ideal opportunity to introduce Lapeer County Farm Bureau to both new and tenured officials from across the county, including representatives from almost every Lapeer County municipality and staffers representing our state senators, representatives and members of congress.
County President Tiffany Howell explained that Farm Bureau is a resource available to local officials with questions or issues with the farming community. She explained the organization’s policy development process and encouraged attendees to review policy books provided to attendees.
Overall the response from participants was overwhelmingly positive, with attendees requesting similar educational opportunities in the future and requesting more information on specific topics.
Haley Christie is Lapeer County Farm Bureau’s administrative coordinator.