All About The Daily Michigan News

Farm Regulations to be Approved in Michigan

May 24

In order to stimulate urban agriculture in economically depressed Detroit, the Michigan government took the first steps toward revising the Right to Farm Act.

In the 1980s, Michigan was the first state to pass the Right to Farm Act. The intent of Michigan's statute, as well as similar laws in other states, was to cut down on farm nuisance complaints. The statute curtailed a municipality's authority to regulate local agriculture, putting much of that power in the state government's hands. It also curtailed residents' ability to file nuisance complaints against area farms, which commonly involved farm odors or dust pollution.

The popular statute, which was backed by farmers and a bipartisan coalition of legislators, came into problems in the wake of the urban farming fad. Major cities have recently begun to embrace urban farming, which involves converting underused or unoccupied municipal space into tiny agricultural plots.

Advocates expect that urban farming would generate much-needed jobs, revive downtown districts, and address the nutritional needs of city dwellers.

The problem in Detroit, however, was that the city, fearful of the negative consequences of odor and traffic issues, was unwilling to relinquish all regulatory control, preferring instead to prohibit urban farming entirely.

The State Agriculture Commission recently passed an amendment that would exempt cities with populations greater than 100,000 people from much of the Right to Farm Act. Officials in Detroit are hoping that these exemptions will aid in the city's agricultural and economic revival.

This is a great first step, but, in order to truly succeed, the state will need to provide more resources and support for would-be farmers. This is still why a lot of farmers are getting agricultural finance loans to get their businesses up and running. The state also offers tax breaks for farmers, but more can always be done.

It is hoped that, with time, the state will create an environment that is conducive to the success of urban farmers. Until then, however, the Right to Farm Act will continue to be a sticking point in the city's agricultural development.