The Attorney General of Michigan has been asked to issue informal opinions on Michigan's Right to Farm Act on at least four occasions, to address the issue of whether the Act really does protect farming operations sited in non-agricultural areas. Those four opinions are presented below.
2000 Informal Opinion: In 2000 Representative Mark Schauer asked several questions of Attorney General Jennifer Granholm and received the attached response from Deputy Attorney General William J. Richards.
2006 Informal Opinion: In 2006 Senator Bob Emerson asked five questions of Attorney General Mike Cox, and received the attached response from Carol L. Isaacs, Chief Deputy Attorney General. Note that in the last paragraph of this letter it is asserted that the Michigan Department of Agriculture had recently "... expanded the site selection GAAMP to operations with any number of animal units..." so that local units of government could enforce zoning requirements for farming operations of less than 50 animal units. Based on this change to the site selection GAAMPS, the attorney general concluded that whether a local government can enforce zoning its zoning ordinance for operations of 50 animals is moot. Importantly, however, the June 2006 Minutes of the Agriculture Commission, during which changes to the 2006 GAAMPS were discussed, made no mention of this change to the Site Selection GAAMP. Furthermore, a survey of the final Site Selection GAAMPS in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, shows that this change to the Site Selection GAAMPS did not occur in any of those years either. Thus the information provided to the attorney general by MDARD is demonstrably false, and casts serious doubts on the opinion issued in 2006. Two courts have since considered this question, however, and have ruled that the site selection GAAMPS are not applicable for farming operations of less than 50 animal units. Those two court cases can be found on The Courts page.
As an aside, it may be important to note that the kind of changes described by MDARD in 2006 actually were attempted in the Proposed 2013 Site Selection GAAMPS, on page 3 of that document. These change met with persistent opposition, however, and the Agriculture Commission agreed unanimously at their December 2012 meeting to not approve those changes.
2011 Informal Opinion: In 2011 Representative John J. Walsh asked Attorney General William Schuette whether MIchigan's RTF preempts local zoning ordinances, and received the attached response from Richard A. Bandstra, Chief Legal Council. Note that this analysis fails to note that the definition of "Livestock Production Facility" on page 3 of the 2011 Site Selection GAAMPS was defined as 50 animal units or more (the equivalent of 5,000 chickens), meaning that these GAAMPS virtually never apply to farming operations in residential areas. This analysis also cited the 2006 information letter to Senator Emerson, but failed to note that although that letter stated that the site selection GAAMPS would be changed in 2006 to cover operations with any number of animal units, that that change had never actually been implemented.
Despite the clear factual errors in both the 2006 and 2011 informal attorney general opinions, Jamie Clover Adams advised during the June, 2013 Agriculture Commission meeting that "Until the advice from the Attorney General's Office is overturned by the courts, it is the law of the land, and the department will follow that law and the counsel of its attorneys."
2012 Request for Formal Opinion on 2012 Preamble GAAMPS language, from Senators Joe Hune and Virgil Smith: In late 2011 Senators Joe Hune and Virgil Smith, at the urging of MDARD, chose to set aside a legislative proposal that would have amended RTF to exempt Detroit, and to instead rely on a change to the GAAMPS to deny the citizens of Detroit RTF protection; that story can be found on The City page. Uncertain that this change to the GAAMPS could withstand a court challenge, Senators Hune and Smith wrote a letter to Attorney General, requesting a formal opinion on the question. That letter was written in February 2012. As of July 2013, it remains unanswered by Attorney General Schuette.