Prepare yourself and your farm to respond to complaints

Neighbors may lodge a Right To Farm complaint about your operation with the Michigan Department of Agriculture. This checklist can help you resolve it.

Neighbors or others may lodge a complaint about your farming operation with the Michigan Department of Agriculture. Odor and dust, to noise and other nuisances may be reported. If a complaint is made, someone from the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) will visit your farm to verify the issue. The Michigan Right To Farm law exists to protect farming operations from nuisance complaints as long as generally accepted farming practices are followed. While no one wants to be accused of doing a bad job, working with a reviewer from the MDA can be a positive experience.

If someone lodges a complaint against you, here are 10 easy steps to help you prepare for a visit from the MDA reviewer to help resolve the issue.

Top 10 ways to prepare for a RTF visit

10.  Make sure all animals are excluded from actual contact with streams, etc. unless you have installed a controlled crossing or access point.

9.  How much freeboard is in your manure storage? (10” minimum on upright cement structures or slurry store; 16” on earthen storage with slanted sides)

8.  Check to make sure no silage leachate is leaving property, ponding or pooling on bare ground or entering water.

7.  Built any new barns that resulted in increased animal numbers or manure storage facilities since 2001? Site selection GAAMPS should have been followed!

6.  Make sure that contaminated water (including manure, leachate, and wastewater) does not leave your property, pond or pool on bare ground or enter any water (ditches, streams, lakes, etc.)

5.  Have soil tests on all fields on which manure is applied. Soil tests must be done every 3 years.

4.  Fields that test higher than 150 ppm (300 lbs) phosphorous cannot have any manure applied. Fields testing between 75-150 ppm (150 – 300 lbs) may only receive manure P at rate that crop will remove annually (except in certain cases you may apply up to 4 years worth at once as long as you don’t apply any P the other 3 years)

3.  Manure test annually! You need to know the nutrient content of what you apply.

2.  Have written records of manure application: when, where, what type of manure, weather? Manure must be incorporated within 48 hours (weather permitting) unless applied to no-till, forage crops, etc. A calendar kept in tractor is fine for record keeping!

1.  Make sure your attitude is positive and welcoming; the MDA employee didn’t make the complaint. They may well find there is no problem at all. Nearly 40 percent of all complaints were unverified as reported in the latest Right To Farm Annual Report. Regardless, dealing with MDA on the issue is a best-case scenario. If you choose to not resolve the complaint with MDA, you will have to answer to the Department of Environmental Quality.

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