Originally Posted by dportfamfarm
I am in a residentially zoned area and we have 2 acres. My city told me a big fat NO when mentioned chickens and ducks. I called Department of Agriculture and was told coop had to be in those peramaters for us to be good to go. We built our coop and had a represenative from Dept of Ag. come over and check the coop location, juat waiting on a letter saying we are peotected. We have had ducks for over a month and to be honest, no one has complained....yet.
If you have any questions I would try calling Dept of Ag.. They answered my questions and gave answera I could understand, I agree with the legal talk.. Made my head spin!
I agree that MDARD will help if you meet their criteria. The problem is that the law protects a whole lot more people than MDARD will admit to. To my way of thinking, every time MDARD tries to convince an individual or a township or a municipality that someone isn't protected because they are zoned residential and are 'primarily residential', they are using their authority to deny citizens their legal rights.
So I think it is great that MDARD helped you. When folks contact the Michigan Small Farm Council for advice, the first thing we do is to figure out whether they meet MDARD's constraints, and if they do we help them engage with the Right to Farm program so they can easily go forward without further hindrance from their local government.
However, there are three things that everyone should consider, even if they are fortunate enough to be among MDARD's chosen.
The first is that there are other people who are similarly protected by what the RTF law says, but who are being disenfranchised from their legal rights by the actions of MDARD. I think state agencies should respect the authority of the legislature to enact laws and the authority of the courts to interpret them, and should not infringe on either authority. But when MDARD makes changes to the GAAMPs that add layers of restrictions on who is protected by Right to Farm (as they did in the 2012 and the 2014 GAAMPs), or when they make judgements about who is and who is not protected, they are infringing on the authority of other branches of government. For example, in 2012 MDARD told Forsyth Township that Randy Buchler's farm (zoned Lake Residential) was not protected by Right to Farm. Randy disagreed, and when the case went to court the judge agreed with Randy, not MDARD. But MDARD continues to make these judgements, and in my personal view continues to tell people and townships that certain farms are not protected by RTF when they actually are. It isn't MDARD's job (or my job) to make these interpretations, it is the job of the courts. MDARD should do GAAMPs inspections when asked, and should let the courts interpret the law to determine when someone is protected by the Right to Farm Act.
The second is that if you, Allie, are on 2 acres, you might be in a position in the future in which your property becomes both zoned residential and 'primarily residential', as new homes are built in your area. In that case, MDARD will no longer be your friend, and you could find yourself on the other side of MDARD's arbitrary line. In that case you will which either have to agree to forego your existing legal rights to engage in agriculture, or go to court to defend those rights.
And finally, I think everyone should be aware that there are townships in Michigan that are now using the new GAAMPs to develop strategies for systematically restricting agricultural rights, even in rural areas. For example, Brady Township is creating a new ordinance that aims to prevent folks in rural residential areas with 2-10+ acres from engaging in commercial agriculture. There are people in Brady Township who are doing everything they can to sound the alarm of the danger and short-sightedness of such a policy, but as far as I can tell the township is determined to continue down this path.
I don't think MDARD is done with changing the GAAMPs to try to deny Right to Farm protection for folks who are (in my view) clearly protected by the statutory language of the law, and I don't think the townships are done using those GAAMPs changes to further their own interests in asserting control over agricultural rights. This is important stuff. With 80% of Michigan citizens in "urban" areas, most Michigan citizens are on the verge of losing the legal right to grow food. And, importantly, it isn't the Governor or the legislature that is leading these major changes to our agricultural policies. Instead it is MDARD who is leading the charge to restrict agricultural rights, regardless of the agricultural mission of that agency, and regardless of what the Right to Farm Act actually says.