Michigan’s Right To Farm celebrates 30 years
The Right to Farm Act affects everyone. A wide variety of crop and livestock production strengthens our farm economy and helps to enhance the natural environment.
October 5, 2011 - Author: Wayne Whitman, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and Roberta Osborne, Michigan State University Extension
The Michigan Right to Farm Act, P.A. 93, was enacted in 1981 to protect farmers from nuisance lawsuits. This state statute authorizes the Michigan Commission of Agriculture & Rural Development (Ag Commission) to develop and adopt Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs) for farms and farm operations in Michigan. These voluntary practices are based on available technology and scientific research to promote sound environmental stewardship and help maintain a farmer's right to farm.
In simple terms, a farm operation shall not be found to be a public or private nuisance if the farm alleged to be a nuisance conforms to generally accepted agricultural and management practices according to policy determined by the Ag Commission. These generally accepted agricultural and management practices or “GAAMPs”, as they are known, are sound on-farm production guidelines that provide both pollution prevention and nuisance protection as determined by a committee composed of Michigan State University staff and others. These guidelines are reviewed annually by the Ag Commission and revised as considered necessary.
What happens if someone thinks a farmer is not following good farming practices? A call to the Right to Farm hotline, 1-877-MDA-1RTF, can be made. Once received, MDARD shall investigate all complaints involving a farm or farm operation, including, but not limited to, complaints involving the use of manure and other nutrients, agricultural waste products, dust, noise, odor, fumes, air pollution, surface water or groundwater pollution, food and agricultural processing by-products, care of farm animals and pest infestations. Within 7 business days of receipt of the complaint, MDARD personnel shall conduct an on-site inspection of the farm or farm operation, and notify, in writing, the city, village, or township and the county in which the farm or farm operation is located of the complaint.
If upon investigation by MDARD staff, it is determined that the person responsible for a farm or farm operation is using generally accepted agricultural and management practices, MDARD shall notify, in writing, that person (i.e. the farmer), the complainant, the city, village, or township, and the county in which the farm is located, of this finding. If it is determined that the source, or potential sources, of a verified environmental or nuisance problem were caused by the use of other than generally accepted agricultural and management practices, the person responsible for the farm is notified that necessary changes should be made to resolve or abate the problem and to conform with all applicable GAAMPs. If those changes cannot be implemented within 30 days, the person responsible for the farm shall submit to the director an implementation plan including a schedule for completion of the necessary changes. MDARD staff will conduct follow-up on-site inspection(s) to verify whether those changes have been implemented, and when resolved, the farmer, complainant, local government and appropriate agencies are again notified in writing of this determination.
What else does Right to Farm deliver besides pollution prevention for the environment and nuisance protection for farmers? In most cases, the abatement of a verified problem also contributes to conflict resolution. By reviewing GAAMPs with farmers, MDARD raises environmental awareness and promotes the implementation and maintenance of good on-farm stewardship practices. And, the complaint investigation process also provides education about acceptable farming practices to non-farm neighbors, local government officials, and other agencies.
Michigan’s Right to Farm law assures producers that they can operate and flourish in a business environment free from nuisance lawsuits. This law positions Michigan above many other states and allows our agricultural industry to grow and thrive.