By Gregory Gamalski, Giarmarco, Mullins & Horton, P.C. and Melanie Duda, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, 3L UDM Law Review, Symposium Editor
Michigan is a hothouse for the national urban agriculture movement. But commercial agriculture remains illegal in many Michigan municipalities because the Right to Farm Act (RTFA) protects farmers and preempts local ordinances that prohibit or control agriculture once established. A sticking point has been the RTFA provision that allows industrial agriculture as long as it complies with Generally Accepted Agriculture and Management Practices (GAAMPs). Allowing agriculture can be like letting the camel’s nose in the tent. By authorizing agricultural operations, municipalities may have no control over the operation if it complies with GAAMP. Once established, an agricultural operation could expand to unwelcome things like concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The Michigan Agricultural and Rural Development Commission responded to this problem by changing the GAAMPs’ Prefaces in January, 2012. The Prefaces now state that GAAMPs do “not apply in municipalities with a population of 100,000 or more.” See, e.g., Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practice for Site Selection and Odor Control for New and Expanding Livestock Production Facilities, (January 2012). The revision allows large municipalities to approve agricultural activities while preserving the right to regulate them. The change may encourage municipalities to write ordinances opening the Urban New Frontier to agricultural uses. While urban farmers may still desire changes to the Right to Farm Act, large municipalities are now exempt from GAAMPs and may start to encourage urban agriculture so it more fully blossoms. To paraphrase Horace Greeley: Go urban, young people!
Gregory J. Gamalski