Policy released on urban livestock recommendations

Urban livestock workgroup calls for the creation of an urban agriculture act to stimulate and support efforts to raise and grow food locally.

On March 15, 2015, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) issued the Urban Livestock Workgroup Recommendations Report to MDARD Director Clover-Adams and State Senator Joe Hune. The report is the product of deliberations by the 21-member Urban Livestock Workgroup organized last summer with the charge “to formulate recommendations to stimulate and support local efforts to address the increased interest in raising livestock in urban/suburban areas for home use and sale to local markets.”

The workgroup was comprised of individuals representing municipalities, associations, farmers of various scales and legislators. The group discussed and recommend policy related to raising livestock in urban/suburban areas.

Over the course of five meetings, the Urban Livestock Workgroup developed the following recommendations:

  1. Develop an Urban Agriculture Act to address, stimulate and support local efforts and interest in raising livestock in urban/suburban areas.
  2. Acknowledge the interconnection of raising livestock and plants (crops), recommending the proposed Urban Agriculture Act require development of guidelines for urban/suburban agriculture.
  3. Grant authority to develop and approve guidelines for urban/suburban agriculture to the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development.
  4. Provide for local zoning authority over agriculture in urban/suburban areas.
  5. Introduce the bill to establish the Urban Agriculture Act during the 2015/2016 Legislative session.

Many of the recommendations were made with less than unanimous support and the report also presents the position of minority interests for each of the recommendations. For instance, recommendation 4) – to provide for local zoning authority over agriculture in urban and suburban areas – included a minority viewpoint that the Legislature should consider (in addition to adopting an Urban Agriculture Act) amending the Michigan Planning Enabling Act and the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act to require that local governments plan and zone for food production at least somewhere in their jurisdictions.

The report also includes, in the appendix, extensive guidelines for raising livestock in urban/suburban settings, including the topics Understanding Soils; Livestock Health; Livestock Housing; Waste and Manure Management; Livestock Slaughter and Euthanasia; and Pest Control. The appendix is intended to highlight specifics to consider and sources of information for both policy makers and urban livestock producers.

The recommendations are now in the hands of the MDARD Director – Jaime Clover-Adams, and the Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee – Senator Joe Hune, R- Fowlerville. The workgroup’s report is the start of a policy discussion and there are expected to be many opportunities in the future for further public discussion on the topic of urban livestock in Michigan.

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