Right to farm: site selection for new and expanding livestock operations

Siting GAAMPs are an important component of the planning process when farmers are considering expanding, or building new, livestock facilities.

For many farms, winter provides a break from constant outdoor activity and the opportunity to plan future farm projects. Granted, on livestock farms the regular animal care responsibilities still need to be done and the challenges of snow and cold make every day chores that much more difficult to complete. But even the busiest of farms need to plan their upcoming spring and summer activities. For many farms, now is the time to plan the summer’s major projects and many livestock farms may be in the midst of planning new animal housing and manure storage facilities. The Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs) for Site Selection and Odor Control for New and Expanding Livestock Production Facilities (Siting GAAMPs) should be part of that planning process. Most farms complete the Site Verification process in order to maintain the protection from nuisance lawsuits provided by the Michigan Right to Farm Act. Farms that move ahead with construction projects without first getting Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) site verification risk losing the protections provided by the Right to Farm Act and in some cases may be forced to shut the facility down.

Other advantages to Siting GAAMP verification:

  • Siting GAAMP verification maintains the farm’s opportunity to participate in the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP). MAEAP verification requires the farm meet all applicable GAAMPs. New and expanded livestock facilities built after August 2003 must meet Siting GAAMP standards to be verified in the MAEAP program. The site verification process remains available for farmers after the project is complete but this type of planning is always easier when done as part of the pre-construction process.
  • Siting GAAMP verification assures that farm considers the social and community impacts of the facility prior to construction. Property line setbacks and odor management plans are both intended to help livestock farms minimize their impact on neighbors and the rural community.
  • Verification also assures the farm plans for an adequate land base and the appropriate use of accumulated manure nutrients after the new or expanded facilities are placed in production.
  • Meeting Siting GAAMP standards assures the manure storage facilities meet current environmental standards. The Siting GAAMP verification process requires a professional engineer (PE) stamped design verifying the storage will meet NRCS 313 or Midwest Plan Service standards. A PE must also monitor the construction process and provide “as built” documentation verifying the manure storage structure meets design specifications. This documentation also allows for a smoother transition to becoming a M-DEQ permitted farm should the livestock farm continue to grow and exceed the Large CAFO threshold.
  • Siting GAAMPs also consider the facility’s impact on ground water and any nearby residential water wells.

How long will the process take?
The time consuming portion of the process includes gathering all the information required within the site verification checklist, completing the manure systems management plan and other complementary documentation. Weather conditions, including frozen ground or extremely wet soils, may delay the subsurface soils evaluation. In these instances the verification request may be submitted to MDARD for review pending the results of the evaluation. All fields included in the MMSP must have soil test results that are less than 3 years old and were collected on increments of 20 acres or less. Having acceptable soil test results are key to timely completion of the verification request.

The verification request:
The approval or verification process begins with a livestock producer submitting a Site Verification request to MDARD. If the farm owner requests MDARD siting assistance, then MDARD staff will visit the site to conduct a preliminary site evaluation. MSU Extension Educators may also be invited to the early site visit. Often times these early visits will determine if the site has potential and if there are any extenuating circumstances the owner will need to consider during the application process. The site verification request requires the farm provide MDARD the following information:

  • The completed MDARD site verification checklist providing all the required information
  • A site plan including the location of all utilities, fuel storage, water wells and driveways
  • A complete manure systems management plan (MSMP)
  • An odor management plan when needed
  • If in ground manure storage, earthen or concrete, is included in the project a subsurface soils evaluation indicating the seasonal high water table must be included in the verification request
  • A PE stamped design certifying the manure storage structure meets NRCS 313 or Midwest Plan Service standards
  • Results of the well isolation distance worksheet or a letter from the local health department verifying the well location. The well isolation distance worksheet is available at local NRCS offices.
  • Aerial photos highlighting adjacent property owners and non-farm residents within ½ mile
  • A topographical map and soils map of the site

Who is available to help?
MDARD staff is available to answer questions and make preliminary site visits. MSU Extension Educators are also available to help with the process. Many of Michigan’s Certified CNMP providers also assist with completing the site verification process.

Siting GAAMPs provide a planning process that can be used to properly plan new and expanding facilities, increase the suitability of a particular site and enhance neighbor relations. The siting GAAMP process helps ensure high environmental and social standards so that the Michigan livestock industry can continue to grow.

To learn more about Site Selection GAAMP and to download an application form, go to the MDARD website.

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