The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is the state agency charged with over-seeing Right to Farm protection in Michigan, and does so by conducting inspections in response to nuisance complaints, and by annually working to update the Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices (GAAMPs).  Not surprisingly, MDARD has historically favored Right to Farm protection, and after the 1999 amendment helped even residential farmers win Right to Farm protection from local cities and townships who were trying to exert restrictions on those operations.  More recently, however, MDARD has used the GAAMPs documents to restrict Right to Farm protection from the vast majority of Michigan citizens, raising a number of legal issues, and prompting backyard chicken farmers in Michigan to become politically active in the agriculture community.  

As described on The City page, MDARD proposed a new kind of language for the GAAMPs in late 2011 and effective in 2012, which exempted whole classes of Michigan citizens from Right to Farm protection for reasons other than generally accepted agricultural and management practices.  For the 2012 GAAMPs both the reasoning and the effects are clear:  the reason was to find a non-legislative way to exempt Detroit citizens from Right to Farm protection, because MDARD believes that if the Right to Farm Act comes before the state legislature, some existing farm operations will lose protection.  To save those operations from public scrutiny, 1.5 million Michigan citizens were exempted from their RTF protection on December 14, 2011.  The language that does that work can be found in the Preamble to any of the 2012 GAAMPs documents below, but importantly is not present in the Proposed 2012 GAAMPs, because they were not passed using the normal procedures of the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Now, in late 2012, the Agriculture Commission is considering changes to the GAAMPs proposed for 2013.  Proposed changes to the Site Selection GAAMP change the definition of Livestock Production Facility from 50 animal units (5,000 chickens) to 1 animal (1 chicken), and then state unequivocally that Livestock Production Facilities may not be sited in areas in which local zoning does not allow for agricultural use; this puts the language of the GAAMPs in direct opposition to the language of the RTF law, which prohibits any local regulation from conflicting with Right to Farm protection.  Since 80 percent of Michigan's 10 million residents live in urban areas, this change to the GAAMPs likely exempts 8 million Michigan residents from Right to Farm protection.  Furthermore, other observers have pointed out that many rural properties are also not zoned agricultural, and that the setback requirements in the proposed document are often not met by small farmers, such that they will be exempted as well.  These changes put Michigan at risk of going from one of the strongest Right to Farm states to perhaps one of the weakest, with only large traditional farms and CAFOs protected by Right to Farm at the state level.  

July 2013 Update:  The proposed changes to the 2013 Site Selection GAAMP did not pass, and RTF protection remains strong for most Michigan citizens.  The only exception is for citizens of cities of 100,000 or more, because changes made to the 2012 GAAMPs stand - at least for now.

March 2014 Update:  In early January of this year MDARD again proposed changes to the Site Selection GAAMP that would effectively deny Right to Farm protection from Michigan citizens living on land zoned residential.  A public comment period was held between January 6th and January 22nd, during which 684 small farmers and their supporters spoke out in opposition to the proposed changes, with 21 other citizens supporting the change.  The Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development is scheduled to vote on the proposed changes on March 20th, 2014.

April 2014 Update:  The Commission delayed the vote by a month and made last-minute changes, but on April 28, 2014 approved changes to the 2014 Site Selection GAAMP.

March 2015 Update:  As a result of the furor over the 2014 Site Selection GAAMP, Senator Joe Hune and MDARD Director Jamie Clover Adams convened an Urban Livestock Workgroup to consider issues of livestock in urban and suburban areas.  The ULW Report was released on March 15, 2015.  

March 2015 Update: Also In March, the Michigan Small Farm Council made a request to each of the chairs of the GAAMPs Committees that they comply with the Open Meetings Act.  The letter to Wendy Powers, Chair of the Site Selection GAAMP Committee is here.  The denial of this request came from Brad Deacon of MDARD, and is here.

May 2015 Update: Two letters emerge that were written in late 2014 on the subject of Right to Farm and the GAAMPs.  The first was written by officials of Brady Township to the Commissioners of Agriculture and Rural Development.  The second was the response, written by Chief Deputy Director of MDARD, Gordon Wenk.  Notably, in his letter Wenk states, "Since zoning is not a condition for Right to Farm coverage, the Right to Farm Act applies across the entire state, regardless of local zoning."  




Proposed 2016 GAAMPs; note no changes were proposed for the pesticide, irrigation, cranberry, or farm market documents:

Site Selection     Manure     Pesticide     Nutrient     Irrigation     Animal Care    Cranberry     Farm Markets



Site Selection     Manure     Pesticide     Nutrient     Irrigation     Animal Care    Cranberry     Farm Markets

Proposed 2015 GAAMPs;  note no changes were proposed for the pesticide, irrigation, cranberry, or farm market documents:

Site Selection     Manure     Pesticide     Nutrient     Irrigation     Animal Care    Cranberry     Farm Markets  



Site Selection     Manure     Pesticide     Nutrient     Irrigation     Animal Care    Cranberry     Farm Markets

Proposed 2014 GAAMPs (note that the Site Selection GAAMPs were revised several times in 2014, and it is the April 2014 version that was approved.  Note also that these changes to the Site Selection GAAMPs also led to changes to the MAEAP which resulted in farms as small as a single backyard chicken receiving the designation of High Risk - Significant Hazard, so that small farms could be excluded from the MAEAP verification process):

Site Selection (January 2014)     Site Selection (March 2014)   Site Selection (April 2014) APPROVED

Manure    Pesticide    Nutrient    Irrigation    Animal Care    Cranberry    Farm Markets

Proposed Changes to the 2014 MAEAP to Align with Approved Changes to the 2014 Site Selection GAAMPs


Proposed 2013 GAAMPS (None voted on in 2013):  

Manure    Pesticide    Nutrient    Irrigation    Animal Care    Cranberry    Site Selection    Farm Markets



Manure    Pesticide    Nutrient    Irrigation    Animal Care    Cranberry    Site Selection    Farm Markets

Proposed 2012 GAAMPS:  

Manure    Pesticide    Nutrient    Irrigation    Animal Care    Cranberry    Site Selection    Farm Markets


A History of Public Comments:  2000   2001   2002   2003   2004   2005   2006   2007 (April)  2007 (Dec)   2008   2009   2010   2011   2012   2013  2014  2015


A History of Site Selection GAAMPS:  2000  2001  2002  2003  2004  2005  2006  2007  2008  2009  2010  2011  2012  2013  2014  2015  2016     


A Detailed History of the 1992-1993 discussions over application of phosphorous and nitrogen in the Nutrient GAAMP, and in the need to find a way to dispose of all the excess manure (which is high in phosphorus) that would result from Michigan's $67 million investment in the Animal Livestock Initiative.  



In an attempt to understand the statutorily required Memorandum of Understanding between MDARD and MDEQ, I FOIA'd both MDARD and MDEQ for that MOU.  And then, because the MOU refers to several other documents that are not publicly available, I FOIA'd both agencies for their copies of those documents.  What I received in return is posted below.