Changes to the Right to Farm 2014 Site Selection GAAMPs

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development recently made significant changes to the GAAMPs for Site Selection and Odor Control for New and Expanding Livestock Facilities. Livestock producers should be familiar with these changes.

The Right to Farm Act (RTFA) (MCL 286.471 et seq.) Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs) for Site Selection and Odor Control for New and Expanding Livestock Facilities (Site Selection GAAMPs) is a planning tool to help livestock farmers follow national standards and science-based practices when building new or expanding existing livestock facilities. Michigan State University Extension recommends all livestock producers review the Site Selection GAAMPs and consider the application of the GAAMP standards on their farm. This GAAMP is unique in that for large-scale livestock production facilities over certain size thresholds, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) suggests the producer request Site Verification prior to the practice being implemented or in other words, prior to starting construction.

The Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development recently approved changes for the 2014 Site Selection GAAMPs. Changes to the 2014 Siting GAAMPs differentiate between areas considered primarily residential and not suitable for livestock facilities and those sites where the placement and keeping of farm animals is considered an acceptable land use.

The 2014 Siting GAAMPs define a site as being “primarily residential” if there are more than 13 non-farm residences within 1/8 mile of the site or have any non-farm residence within 250 feet of the livestock facility and local zoning does not allow agricultural uses by right. Category 4 sites are newly defined in the 2014 Site Selection GAAMPs and are areas which meet the new definition as “primarily residential” and not suitable for livestock facilities.

According to the Right to Farm Fiscal Year 2013 Report, since June of 2000 over 400 livestock producers utilized the Site Selection GAAMPs to select suitable sites for new and expanding livestock facilities and were subsequently verified by MDARD. The changes to the 2014 Site Selection GAAMPs will not impact those sites that have been previously verified by the program.

Changes within the 2014 Site Selection GAAMPs include:

  • Persons keeping farm animals in places that are not acceptable for livestock facilities (Category 4) may still be allowed to keep their animal if a local government ordinance provides for raising farm animals. A local government (village, city, township, county or joint planning commission) that does not allow agriculture as a use by right in its zoning ordinance can allow animal agriculture as a special or permitted use. MDARD will not verify sites in Category 4 and it is up to the local zoning jurisdiction to enforce the provisions of the zoning ordinance.
  • Owners of livestock facilities in Category 3 areas, where local zoning allows agriculture, will be expected to follow the guidelines within all other GAAMPs including Care of Farm Animals and Manure Management and Utilization.
  • Persons who keep farm animals in Category 4 areas where a local ordinance does not provide provisions for keeping farm animals may choose to do so at their own risk. Those persons must recognize they will not meet Siting GAAMP verification guidelines, local ordinance or zoning and their local government may determine that their keeping farm animals at that location, is a violation. Thus local zoning officials may direct them to remove the animals.
  • For persons who choose to raise animals, no matter where, including 4-H and FFA members, and other youth with livestock projects, it will be in their best interest to practice good animal husbandry, maintain clean and neat facilities and in general, practice a good neighbor policy.

Other important points within the 2014 Site Selection GAAMPs include:

  • The 2014 updates continue to make the Right to Farm Act, and the option for an MDARD GAAMPs determination, available for all new and expanding livestock facilities where zoning allows for agriculture uses, provided the proposed facility meets all the guidelines within the Site Selection GAAMPs .
  • Proposed new or expanding livestock production facilities that will be below the GAAMPs size thresholds for MDARD verification of the site, (See the guidelines for Category I and II locations in Tables 2 - 5 [pages 6 - 9]) should still seek to meet all pertinent Site Selection GAAMPs provisions. In this instance, it is the responsibility of the livestock producer to review the Site Selection GAAMPs checklist  and self-assess the site to ensure the facility, and its location, is within the guidelines. These livestock producers also have the option of submitting the completed checklist and requesting MDARD verify the site.
  • This same option of requesting a proactive site verification from MDARD is also afforded to livestock producers with new or expanding livestock facilities housing less than 50 animal units (AU). Producers requesting proactive verification for facilities housing less than 50 AU in areas where zoning allows for agriculture uses, will be considered as having 50 AU and will need to follow the property line setbacks and other provisions for 50 AU listed in Tables 2 - 5 (pages 6 - 9).

The GAAMPs for Site Selection and Odor Control for New and Expanding Livestock Facilities are intended to provide statewide guidelines for selecting appropriate locations for raising livestock. The site verification process is intended to minimize the impact of livestock production on non-farm residents while providing the opportunity for a dynamic livestock industry to grow and thrive. The 2014 changes recognize that livestock production is not appropriate in areas that are primarily residential (more than 13 residents within 1/8 mile) unless the local governing body provides provisions allowing the raising of farm animals in its zoning ordinance or other ordinances.

In addition to this article Michigan State University Extension educators have also prepared these which have a focus on a specific audience and concerns: