Since the 1999 amendment, the courts have ruled on Right to Farm cases several times, reinforcing the fact that the clear language of the law requires adherence to Right to Farm Protection for everyone in the state of Michigan, regardless of local regulations. Despite this, in 2013 cases continue to be fought in cities like Garden City, Sterling Heights, Marquette, and Plymouth, primarily by homeowners who wish to keep small flocks of backyard chickens.
Copies of court rulings are available by clicking any of the blue case names below.
2014: Richland Township v Nieuwenhuis
Opinion and Order - August 15, 2014
Motion for Reconsideration (includes GAAMPs letter from MDARD) - September 18, 2014
Claim of Appeal - September 25, 2014
Apellant's Brief - November 7, 2014
Application for Leave to Appeal - April 2, 2015
Amicus Brief in Support of Application for Leave of Appeal - June 1, 2015 from Michigan Small Farm Council
- Established that "...rights afforded a farmer under the RTFA preempt local ordinances such that activities falling with the purview of the act cannot be barred by ordinance." (p. 6)
- Established that "... it is clear that in determining whether an activity is protected under the RTFA, a two prong analysis is required: first the activity must constitute either a "farm" or a "farm operation", and second, the "farm" or "farm operation" must conform to the applicable generally accepted agricultural and management practices (GAAMPs)." (p. 6)
- Established that "... where a party asserts the RTFA as a defense, the party asserting the defense bears the burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the challenged conduct is protected under the RTFA.
- Established that there are two elements of a successful RTFA defense: first, that the challenged operation constitutes a "farm" or a "farm operation", and second, that it conforms to the relevant GAAMPs (p. 7 - 8).
- Established that compliance with the GAAMPs is decided by the court (rather than MDARD) , since "A party can satisfy this element by introducing credible testimony or other evidence to show that their farm or farm operation complies with applicable GAAMPs as set forth by the Michigan Commission of Agriculture." (p. 10)
- Established that a criminal prosecution for violation of a zoning ordinance is equivalent to a nuisance prosecution for purposes of the RTFA. (p. 4)
- Established that the plain language of the RTFA precludes enforcement of an ordinance that conflicts with the RTFA (p. 6) .
- Established that the defendant's Chicken Operation (6-12 live chickens (p. 1)) is not a "livestock production facility", and that the GAAMPS for Site Selection and Odor Control for Livestock Production Facilities do not apply (p. 12) .
- Established that a farm that meets MAEAP verification meets the requirements of applicable GAAMPS (p. 7).
- Established that the GAAMPS for Site Selection and Odor Control for New and Expanding Livestock Production Facilities defines Livestock Production Facilities as those with 50 animal units or greater, and furthermore that 50 animal units corresponds to 500 sheep and lambs or 5000 chickens (p.10).
- The court went on to note that "Buchlers' sheep and chickens are about 1.6% to 3% of the minimum "animal units" that trigger the application of the standards. (p.11)"
- Established that the GAAMPS do not carry the rule and force of law (p. 14).
- "This court is left with weighing a policy that suggests consideration of local zoning ordinances against a clear, unambiguous statutory right afforded the Buchlers. Weighing both in the balance the court concludes the statute controls." (p. 15)
- Also available is the Wayne Whitman Deposition, as well as the Gary Taylor Deposition.
- Established that "a farming operation must be at least partially commercial in nature for the RTFA to apply."
- Established that "A farm or farm operation that conforms to generally accepted agricultural and management practices is entitled to the protection provided by the RTFA without regard to the historic use of the property in question.
- Established that "a zoning ordinance restricting agricultural activity to parcels containing a minimum number of acres conflicts with the RTFA
- Established that commercial production is "the act of producing or manufacturing an item intended to be marketed and sold at a profit," and that there is no minimum level of sale required to meet the definition of commercial.
- Established that "any township ordinance, including a zoning ordinance, is unenforceable to the extent that it would prohibit conduct protected by the RTFA."
- The MDARD affidavit prepared by Steve Mahoney asserted that the Papesh operation was compliant with the GAAMPs, because the Manure GAAMPs requirements were met and because the Site Selection GAAMPs not applicable.
- Established that a riding stable is a farm operation, and that a corn maze is a farm product.
- Established that a game bird operation where birds are bred, raised, hunted, and sold does constitute a farm operation.