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Michigan Right to Farm Law, what does it mean? - Page 113

post #1121 of 1692
Quote:
Originally Posted by shadygrovefarm View Post

I agree Washtenaw Farmer.  I am not saying MAEAP confirms environmental consciousness.  I am saying it will most likely be required for Right to Farm protection.  That was the main reason the judge ruled in our favor is because we got that verification to prove GAAMP compliance.  Without that, there really is no PROOF of being compliant. 


Shadygrovefarmer,

Here's my concern:  I think that before this community accepts the idea that small farms are to be held to a different and much, much higher (i.e., expensive in terms of time and energy) standard than large farms to receive RTFA protection--that is, being MAEAP compliant rather GAAMPS compliant--we need to think hard if there's a different way.  I understand completely that in your case, this was the absolutely the right way to go as a practical matter, and that may be so for many, right now--but I question whether as a policy goal it's the right path. 

 

And everyone's situations differ even in terms of the practical side--in the case of my 80-acre LP farm, I think I'd try pretty hard for a GAAMPS inspection before accepting that I had to divert tens of thousands of dollars from other goals for the farm and spend a lot of time I don't have making it MAEAP compliant. 

post #1122 of 1692
Quote:
Originally Posted by WashtenawFarmer View Post


Shadygrovefarmer,

Here's my concern:  I think that before this community accepts the idea that small farms are to be held to a different and much, much higher (i.e., expensive in terms of time and energy) standard than large farms to receive RTFA protection--that is, being MAEAP compliant rather GAAMPS compliant--we need to think hard if there's a different way.  I understand completely that in your case, this was the absolutely the right way to go as a practical matter, and that may be so for many, right now--but I question whether as a policy goal it's the right path. 

 

And everyone's situations differ even in terms of the practical side--in the case of my 80-acre LP farm, I think I'd try pretty hard for a GAAMPS inspection before accepting that I had to divert tens of thousands of dollars from other goals for the farm and spend a lot of time I don't have making it MAEAP compliant. 

I'm not sure I follow your concerns when you speak of MAEAP and tens of thousands of dollars to become MAEAP compliant.  If people have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to become verified, then obviously their farming practices are questionable.  I spent less than $200 to become MAEAP Verified, simply because our farming practices are beyond compliant already.  This service is free but we do incur the costs of soil tests, water testing, etc.  But, it was minimal and, if you already have environmentally sound farming practices, is easy to achieve.  I understand trying to get a GAAMP inspection instead, however, when I tried this, I was told they didn't have the money or resources to do "voluntary" inspections and I'm sure their resource situation has not gotten any better.  An inspection would have to be generated by a formal complaint in order for them to follow up.  At this point, my understanding is that MAEAP is our option to prove our compliance.  I am not a fan of gov't regulation or corporate ag.  I don't like being "clumped" in with that group either, but look at it as a stepping stone to continue our work to make the necessary changes for small farms.  The Right to Farm Act doesn't do anybody any good if they can't prove GAAMP compliance and currently, this is the best way for us to prove it.  And, the more small farms that go for this verification, the more that MDARD will see that the current standards of MAEAP are not directed at small farms, so perhaps it will encourage creating some change in policy.  Our MAEAP Techs and inspectors were excited about our operation and the fact that it was small, diverse and very well managed and the fact that it was different from their "normal" farm inspections. 

 

Now, if a farm is not having any legal issues that would require Right to Farm protection and the farmers are confident that their farming practices are the best possible for the environment, the animals and us, I see no reason to have to become verified. 

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Educate yourself so that you can educate others.  Knowledge is power!
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post #1123 of 1692
Quote:
Originally Posted by shadygrovefarm View Post

I'm not sure I follow your concerns when you speak of MAEAP and tens of thousands of dollars to become MAEAP compliant.  If people have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to become verified, then obviously their farming practices are questionable.  I spent less than $200 to become MAEAP Verified, simply because our farming practices are beyond compliant already.  This service is free but we do incur the costs of soil tests, water testing, etc.  But, it was minimal and, if you already have environmentally sound farming practices, is easy to achieve.  I understand trying to get a GAAMP inspection instead, however, when I tried this, I was told they didn't have the money or resources to do "voluntary" inspections and I'm sure their resource situation has not gotten any better.  An inspection would have to be generated by a formal complaint in order for them to follow up.  At this point, my understanding is that MAEAP is our option to prove our compliance.  I am not a fan of gov't regulation or corporate ag.  I don't like being "clumped" in with that group either, but look at it as a stepping stone to continue our work to make the necessary changes for small farms.  The Right to Farm Act doesn't do anybody any good if they can't prove GAAMP compliance and currently, this is the best way for us to prove it.  And, the more small farms that go for this verification, the more that MDARD will see that the current standards of MAEAP are not directed at small farms, so perhaps it will encourage creating some change in policy.  Our MAEAP Techs and inspectors were excited about our operation and the fact that it was small, diverse and very well managed and the fact that it was different from their "normal" farm inspections. 

 

Now, if a farm is not having any legal issues that would require Right to Farm protection and the farmers are confident that their farming practices are the best possible for the environment, the animals and us, I see no reason to have to become verified. 


We agree that for some folks, MAEAP is the way to go, practically speaking, and that MAEAP does not necessarily or solely equate to environmentally conscious, which it seemed to me you were saying--and I'm glad to know I was mistaken!  I apologize for any misunderstanding. 

 

And I may be wrong, but I don't think farming practices "obviously" have to be "questionable" to require a great deal of money (and time) in order to be MAEAP verified if one owns a farm that is on the large side of small farms--say, over fifty acres or so--especially if the land is sloped, a variety of crop types are cultivated, or one is restoring land neglected or abused by a previous owner.  Just for example, if someone buys farmland that had been let go by the previous owner, the farmer might be in the position of needing to fix a very large number of issues related to tiling, drainage, erosion control, filtering strips around wetlands, irrigation measures, wells, and so on.  Or fuel tanks might need to be relocated farther from a well if one decides to hire even one part-time farm employee (the distance increases from 50 feet to 800 feet because of this). This kind of thing can get very expensive, very quickly--especially if one needs to buy or rent equipment to do the work, build outbuildings for proper storage of chemicals, and/or is paying someone else to do some of the work or incurring an opportunity cost (other paying work not done).   

post #1124 of 1692

 

soiltestkits.jpg

 

 

A soil test is recommended every two to three years to determine  current soil PH, available organic materials and fertilizer requirements. 

 

Why have a soil test?

To maximize the growth potential of your plants.

 

How do I do a soil test?

Purchase a soil test kit from the local MSU Extension office. 

All instructions are with the kit.

 

Where do I get a kit?

Available at the Wayne County MSU Extension office located at
5454 Venoy, Wayne, MI. The main office is located in the annex building.

Self-mailer kits are also available through the MSU Bookstore. You can order one by visiting their website:  bookstore.msue.msu.edu


 

How much does a soil test kit cost?
All soil test kits are now $25. If purchased in person, make checks or money orders payable to MSU. Credit/debit cards and cash are not accepted in person.


For information on taking a test, result information or any other question about taking a soil test, visit: msusoiltest.com

post #1125 of 1692
Quote:
Originally Posted by WashtenawFarmer View Post


We agree that for some folks, MAEAP is the way to go, practically speaking, and that MAEAP does not necessarily or solely equate to environmentally conscious, which it seemed to me you were saying--and I'm glad to know I was mistaken!  I apologize for any misunderstanding. 

 

And I may be wrong, but I don't think farming practices "obviously" have to be "questionable" to require a great deal of money (and time) in order to be MAEAP verified if one owns a farm that is on the large side of small farms--say, over fifty acres or so--especially if the land is sloped, a variety of crop types are cultivated, or one is restoring land neglected or abused by a previous owner.  Just for example, if someone buys farmland that had been let go by the previous owner, the farmer might be in the position of needing to fix a very large number of issues related to tiling, drainage, erosion control, filtering strips around wetlands, irrigation measures, wells, and so on.  Or fuel tanks might need to be relocated farther from a well if one decides to hire even one part-time farm employee (the distance increases from 50 feet to 800 feet because of this). This kind of thing can get very expensive, very quickly--especially if one needs to buy or rent equipment to do the work, build outbuildings for proper storage of chemicals, and/or is paying someone else to do some of the work or incurring an opportunity cost (other paying work not done).   

You make a good point!  If people are taking over someone else's poorly managed operation, or an old, non working farm, I totally understand it costing many thousands!  I do apologize for not seeing that point of view initially. But, the main point I am trying to make, from the experience of our trial and over 41 months of dealing with local gov't, proving GAAMP compliance through the MAEAP Verification program seems to be what the courts may be looking for.  Whether you choose MAEAP verification or attempt to get an MDARD voluntary inspection, (which is part of and the final step of the MAEAP process anyway) either will let a farmer/farm know whether or not they are GAAMP compliant.  I am not here to promote MAEAP or MDARD or gov't involvement, I am here to share with people what I feel is crucial to obtaining Right to Farm protection.  We're all in this together...therefore we need to share our experiences and what we have learned.  Thank you for sharing your view points with me and clarifying how costly it can be.  With respect, Randy   

Educate yourself so that you can educate others.  Knowledge is power!
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Educate yourself so that you can educate others.  Knowledge is power!
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post #1126 of 1692

I think both of these views are valid.  RTF clearly does not require MAEAP verification, and does require the state to conduct a GAAMPS inspection for any complaints against the farming operation.  It is certainly fair to expect MDARD to meet their statutory requirements.  

 

But if they don't - either because our interpretation of the law is incorrect or theirs is - then we get to a fundamental difficulty:  believing that RTF does protect our farming operations regardless of size or place, but unable to prove that we are GAAMPS-compliant because the only agency with the authority to make that determination (MDARD) refuses to inspect our operations.

 

Shadygrove has shown that one way around this conundrum is get MAEAP verified.  For my particular operation, it looks as though this might be a manageable solution and I am willing to give it a try.  However, it is very clear to me that by aiming for MAEAP verification I am doing more than the law requires, and that there is an essential unfairness about that.  

 

And I don't really understand how the failure of MDARD to provide a GAAMPS inspection can be used against someone in a court case.  It is one thing to not be GAAMPS-compliant because you don't meet the requirements, and quite another to be not be compliant because MDARD refuses to inspect your operation.  Surely that distinction makes a difference?  I went back to read that section of the law, and here is what it says:

 

Sec. 4. (1) Subject to subsection (2), the director 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, the director shall conduct an on-site inspection of the farm or farm operation. The director shall notify, in writing, the city, village, or township and the county in which the farm or farm operation is located of the complaint. 

 

So doesn't that mean that if a township sues a farmer for not being compliant with their local regulations that MDARD is required to conduct a GAAMPS inspection?  

post #1127 of 1692
Quote:
Originally Posted by wingless View Post

I think both of these views are valid.  RTF clearly does not require MAEAP verification, and does require the state to conduct a GAAMPS inspection for any complaints against the farming operation.  It is certainly fair to expect MDARD to meet their statutory requirements.  

 

But if they don't - either because our interpretation of the law is incorrect or theirs is - then we get to a fundamental difficulty:  believing that RTF does protect our farming operations regardless of size or place, but unable to prove that we are GAAMPS-compliant because the only agency with the authority to make that determination (MDARD) refuses to inspect our operations.

 

Shadygrove has shown that one way around this conundrum is get MAEAP verified.  For my particular operation, it looks as though this might be a manageable solution and I am willing to give it a try.  However, it is very clear to me that by aiming for MAEAP verification I am doing more than the law requires, and that there is an essential unfairness about that.  

 

And I don't really understand how the failure of MDARD to provide a GAAMPS inspection can be used against someone in a court case.  It is one thing to not be GAAMPS-compliant because you don't meet the requirements, and quite another to be not be compliant because MDARD refuses to inspect your operation.  Surely that distinction makes a difference?  I went back to read that section of the law, and here is what it says:

 

Sec. 4. (1) Subject to subsection (2), the director 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, the director shall conduct an on-site inspection of the farm or farm operation. The director shall notify, in writing, the city, village, or township and the county in which the farm or farm operation is located of the complaint. 

 

So doesn't that mean that if a township sues a farmer for not being compliant with their local regulations that MDARD is required to conduct a GAAMPS inspection?  

Thanks for that input and info Wendy.  Unfortunately, as shown in our case, a township sueing a farmer does NOT require MDARD to do this.  That was one of the points that came up in our case was that our township did not exhaust all of their administrative remedies, i.e. ~ filing a formal complaint with the MDARD.  So, taking us to court is viewed differently than a formal complaint.  It is screwed up that since they didn't do that, we had to go through MAEAP to prove compliance.  Maybe that's why the township didn't file a complaint?  But, I don't want to give them that much credit...I don't think they would have even thought of that.  tongue.png  At this point, because MAEAP does exist, is not required but rather is voluntary on the farmer's part, WE have an option to prove GAAMP compliance ourselves.  I'm not saying that I agree that we should have to do this simply because they won't conduct an on site GAAMP inspection.  I believe we were the first MAEAP verified Right to Farm case.  If farms/farmers are having issues and feel they are GAAMP compliant, urge whomever has a problem to file a complaint!  I told our township they could do this, but they chose not to.  So, we chose MAEAP. 

Educate yourself so that you can educate others.  Knowledge is power!
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Educate yourself so that you can educate others.  Knowledge is power!
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post #1128 of 1692

My understanding of the law, the court system, and your particular case is really thin, shadygrove, but I am going to suggest that your court case didn't test this particular question - whether or not MDARD is required by law to conduct a GAAMPS inspection for a farming operation claiming RTF protection when sued for violation of local regulations.  That language from Section 4 of the law looks clear and unambiguous to me, and suggests that MDARD actually is required to undertake an inspection of farming operations for complaints of any kind.

 

I don't think anyone being sued for zoning/ordinance violations has requested a GAAMPS inspection by right of Section 4 subsection 1 of the Right to Farm Act, so we don't know how MDARD  would respond.  Is that correct, shadygrove, or is that an argument you explicitly made to MDARD?  In any case, I am just suggesting that in addition to the MAEAP option for becoming GAAMPS compliant, it is possible that Section 4 could be used to get a GAAMPS inspection for folks currently being sued.  

 

Here is Section 4 subsection 1 again, followed by subsection 3 (which describes how MDARD is required help you become GAAMPS compliant if you aren't already compliant at the first inspection).

 

 

Sec. 4. (1) Subject to subsection (2), the director 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, the director shall conduct an on-site inspection of the farm or farm operation. The director shall notify, in writing, the city, village, or township and the county in which the farm or farm operation is located of the complaint. 

 

 

(3) If the director finds upon investigation under subsection (1) that the person responsible for a farm or farm operation is using generally accepted agricultural and management practices, the director shall notify, in writing, that person, the complainant, and the city, village, or township and the county in which the farm or farm operation is located of this finding. If the director identifies that the source or potential sources of the problem were caused by the use of other than generally accepted agricultural and management practices, the director shall advise the person responsible for the farm or farm operation that necessary changes should be made to resolve or abate the problem and to conform with generally accepted agricultural and management practices and that if those changes cannot be implemented within 30 days, the person responsible for the farm or farm operation shall submit to the director an implementation plan including a schedule for completion of the necessary changes. When the director conducts a follow-up on-site inspection to verify whether those changes have been implemented, the director shall notify, in writing, the city, village, or township and the county in which the farm or farm operation is located of the time and date of the follow-up on-site inspection and shall allow a representative of the city, village, or township and the county to be present during the follow-up on-site inspection. If the changes have been implemented, the director shall notify, in writing, the person responsible for the farm or farm operation, the complainant, and the city, village, or township and the county in which the farm or farm operation is located of this determination. If the changes have not been implemented, the director shall notify, in writing, the complainant and the city, village, or township and the county in which the farm or farm operation is located that the changes have not been implemented and whether a plan for implementation has been submitted. Upon request, the director shall provide a copy of the implementation plan to the city, village, or township and the county in which the farm or farm operation is located. 

post #1129 of 1692
Quote:
Originally Posted by wingless View Post

My understanding of the law, the court system, and your particular case is really thin, shadygrove, but I am going to suggest that your court case didn't test this particular question - whether or not MDARD is required by law to conduct a GAAMPS inspection for a farming operation claiming RTF protection when sued for violation of local regulations.  That language from Section 4 of the law looks clear and unambiguous to me, and suggests that MDARD actually is required to undertake an inspection of farming operations for complaints of any kind.

 

I don't think anyone being sued for zoning/ordinance violations has requested a GAAMPS inspection by right of Section 4 subsection 1 of the Right to Farm Act, so we don't know how MDARD  would respond.  Is that correct, shadygrove, or is that an argument you explicitly made to MDARD?  In any case, I am just suggesting that in addition to the MAEAP option for becoming GAAMPS compliant, it is possible that Section 4 could be used to get a GAAMPS inspection for folks currently being sued.  

 

Here is Section 4 subsection 1 again, followed by subsection 3 (which describes how MDARD is required help you become GAAMPS compliant if you aren't already compliant at the first inspection).

 

 

Sec. 4. (1) Subject to subsection (2), the director 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, the director shall conduct an on-site inspection of the farm or farm operation. The director shall notify, in writing, the city, village, or township and the county in which the farm or farm operation is located of the complaint. 

 

 

(3) If the director finds upon investigation under subsection (1) that the person responsible for a farm or farm operation is using generally accepted agricultural and management practices, the director shall notify, in writing, that person, the complainant, and the city, village, or township and the county in which the farm or farm operation is located of this finding. If the director identifies that the source or potential sources of the problem were caused by the use of other than generally accepted agricultural and management practices, the director shall advise the person responsible for the farm or farm operation that necessary changes should be made to resolve or abate the problem and to conform with generally accepted agricultural and management practices and that if those changes cannot be implemented within 30 days, the person responsible for the farm or farm operation shall submit to the director an implementation plan including a schedule for completion of the necessary changes. When the director conducts a follow-up on-site inspection to verify whether those changes have been implemented, the director shall notify, in writing, the city, village, or township and the county in which the farm or farm operation is located of the time and date of the follow-up on-site inspection and shall allow a representative of the city, village, or township and the county to be present during the follow-up on-site inspection. If the changes have been implemented, the director shall notify, in writing, the person responsible for the farm or farm operation, the complainant, and the city, village, or township and the county in which the farm or farm operation is located of this determination. If the changes have not been implemented, the director shall notify, in writing, the complainant and the city, village, or township and the county in which the farm or farm operation is located that the changes have not been implemented and whether a plan for implementation has been submitted. Upon request, the director shall provide a copy of the implementation plan to the city, village, or township and the county in which the farm or farm operation is located. 

You are correct in assuming that our case did NOT test that question.  But, I do believe that MDARD is only required to conduct a GAAMP inspection when a formal complaint is filed.  This was never done in our case.  Instead, Forsyth Township decided to skip this opportunity as a step toward a speedy resolution and just file to take us to court...because, we "...don't have deep pockets and can't afford to fight it...".  Also, when I called to get a voluntary inspection, long before I was made privy to MAEAP (which may not have existed at that time), I did not refer to Section 4, subsection 1 of the MRTFA.  It was simply a conversation that was not successful in my attempt to be inspected for compliance.  I had also told the township, since it was their proposal for me to call and schedule an inspection, that they would need to call and file a formal complaint to make the inspection happen.  They simply chose not to do this.  In any case, I think the info you have provided here is GREAT and should be tested. 

Educate yourself so that you can educate others.  Knowledge is power!
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post #1130 of 1692
Quote:
Originally Posted by shadygrovefarm View Post

You are correct in assuming that our case did NOT test that question.  But, I do believe that MDARD is only required to conduct a GAAMP inspection when a formal complaint is filed.  This was never done in our case.  Instead, Forsyth Township decided to skip this opportunity as a step toward a speedy resolution and just file to take us to court...because, we "...don't have deep pockets and can't afford to fight it...".  Also, when I called to get a voluntary inspection, long before I was made privy to MAEAP (which may not have existed at that time), I did not refer to Section 4, subsection 1 of the MRTFA.  It was simply a conversation that was not successful in my attempt to be inspected for compliance.  I had also told the township, since it was their proposal for me to call and schedule an inspection, that they would need to call and file a formal complaint to make the inspection happen.  They simply chose not to do this.  In any case, I think the info you have provided here is GREAT and should be tested. 

 

I would not have thought about this except for the great conversation that you had with WashtenawFarmer.  I am continually amazed at how useful this thread is (many thanks to BYC!).

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