Anyone worried about using the Right to Farm Act?

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances (and how to change' started by jdywntr, Jan 29, 2013.

  1. jdywntr

    jdywntr Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am just curious as to whether anyone is concerned about using the Right to Farm Act in order to get around local ordinances allowing backyard chickens? After seeing it referenced time and again, I am worried that all of this use of the act will dilute it's power for the people that it was actually meant to protect: Farmers.

    The act was put in place to prevent nuisance lawsuits against farmers by people that move into a rural area and then complain about the noise, smell, etc.

    From the National Ag law website:

    All fifty states have enacted right-to-farm laws that seek to protect qualifying farmers and ranchers from nuisance lawsuits filed by individuals who move into a rural area where normal farming operations exist, and who later use nuisance actions to attempt to stop those ongoing operations.

    We need farmers in this country and they already face immense challenges to continue their, usually multi-generational, way of life.

    Why not just get petitions signed, talk to city councils and educate your community on raising chickens?

    I love having birds. I did have them illegally at first, unbeknownst to me. The city I lived in allowed 5 hens but I lived in an "unincorporated" part of the city where it was not legal. After petitions, education and talking to the county, the law was changed there too.
     
  2. Sonoran Silkies

    Sonoran Silkies Flock Mistress

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    It really depends on the state you live in, and its specific intent in its right to farm act. You are assuming that they are all identical or nearly so. That is not the case.
     
  3. jdywntr

    jdywntr Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I understand that each states law varies but the intent of the act is the same: To prevent nuisance lawsuits against farmers.

    My concern was that a law that was inacted to protect farmers is being used as a way to circumvent ordinances in different municipalities.

    When I first saw this, that was my first thought. What will about the people that this is actually meant to protect if this act is used in ways that it was not intended?
     
  4. wingless

    wingless Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I think there is a lot more here than immediately meets the eye.

    In Michigan, Right to Farm was originally passed in 1981, and as far as I can tell the purpose then was exactly as you say: to protect farmers. The traditional kind.

    However, the law was subsequently amended in this state in 1987, 1995, and 1999, and in those cases it was not to further protect traditional farmers, but rather (as far as I can tell) to protect CAFO's - Concentrated Agricultural Farming Operations - also known as Factory Farms. The rise of CAFOs not only correlates with the loss of family farms, but also with a much poorer quality of life for farmers who now live near CAFOs that store tens of millions of gallons of manure at a time.

    I guess the way I've come to think of it is that in the first phase of RTF (1980s), the law really did protect traditional farmers across the country. And then in a second phase (1990's), RTF (in Michigan) was amended to protect CAFOs from nuisance lawsuits, enabling efficient and explosive growth of that industry. And now we are in a third stage (2010s), in which people unhappy with their food choices, or with overly-restrictive local regulatory systems, have realized that the amendments to RTF designed to protect CAFOs from local regulations also protect them from local regulations. This is definitely an unexpected outcome of those amendments, but which is worse? Living in rural areas with neighbors who store tens of millions of gallons of manure, or in a residential area with neighbors with a few chickens? Why should the law protect the former but not the latter?

    I do agree that RTF issues may start showing up in legislatures again. But I don't think traditional farmers are the ones at risk. Operations most at risk, I think, will be CAFOs and backyard operations like ours. I see traditional farmers benefiting from whatever comes next, in part because they have already lost about as much as they can lose.

    A website on RTF in Michigan is here: sustainablefarmpolicy.org
     
  5. jdywntr

    jdywntr Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for the very well thought out and informative reply. I am not that familiar with it, only it's original purpose and I figured I'd post my concerns here. I think I sometimes can be very pessimistic and assume that people are just thinking of themselves and not the greater implications of their actions.


    (Though I am usually the eternal optimist) ;)
     
  6. RTFchickens

    RTFchickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    After talking to my township about owning chickens, they said it is not allowed. When I mentioned RTF act, the man at the township said "that would be a bold move" as if to imply I would be sidestepping their rules. He suggested we change the way our property is zoned, from residential to agricultural. I didn't mention to him that we are in the process of building a coop, and our 5 week old chicks are about to be moved out doors to it. I'm meeting with the man from the township Friday to take steps toward re-zoning.
    Anyone have any experience with changing zoning from residential to agricultural?
    Thanks for any replies!
     
  7. abmaddox1981

    abmaddox1981 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    try your county extension office. good luck!
     
  8. wingless

    wingless Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi Deannag -

    There are two recent court cases that decided in favor of chicken keepers who claimed RTF protection, even when their local ordinance prohibited them. Perhaps if the man at the township saw these decisions he would understand that claiming RTF protection is not sidestepping the rules at all. I can't seem to post pdfs on this site, but the two cases are City of Garden City v. Santieu, and Forsyth Township v Buchler. Both can be found here: http://sustainablefarmpolicy.org/the-courts/

    And the other really great paper on this subject by a professor from MSU is the 2007 Land Tech Bulletin. That is here: http://sustainablefarmpolicy.org/the-scholars/

    And if you want to know what a lot of BYCers think, there is a terrific Right to Farm thread here: https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/...farm-law-what-does-it-mean/1190#post_11334673

    Good Luck!
     
  9. RTFchickens

    RTFchickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Update
    The township basically said if neighbors don't complain about the chickens, they won't make an issue. The township is in a battle right now over RTFA with another property owner and is losing from what I hear. Sounds like they will not be making waves over my chickens.
    Thanks again for all of the useful info!
     
  10. Amastacia

    Amastacia Chillin' With My Peeps

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    who defines "farmer"? traditionally, a farmer raised food for their family and sold any extras to buy whatever else they needed. it is my understanding that that applies to a lot of people who only have a few hens or whatever. i feel these laws (in most places, i haven't read up on all of them) are fully usable for protecting the smallest of small time farmers. it is our right to produce our own food.

    of course, health codes and sanitation do trump RTF, though it is possible to have small animals like poultry in a fairly small area without any sanitation issues. the people who pile manure of whatever form can (and, at times, should) get in trouble for that kind of thing. similarly, having a cow on half an acre is almost impossible to do without sanitation issues. that would also be unfair to the animal.
     

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