For a while here in Michigan, folks who have been illegally keeping critters have been scream "But I'm covered by the Right to Farm Act!!" No, no you aren't and you never were! While some folks have successfully loop holed local laws (including zoning) because of a judges interpretation of the Right to Farm Act, all those folks did was succeed in forcing the state of Michigan to revamp the Right to Farm Act to reflect what it was originally meant to cover, which was never backyard farming!
Last year I wrote a piece on keeping backyard chickens legally and responsibly. I wrote that piece because the winds of change were already blowing. I have been in contact with the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development over the years and they have always stated that the Right to Farm Act was NEVER meant to cover "backyard farming." And since so many folks were attempting to use it to loop hole laws, they had to revisit and change it so that the act protected who it was originally meant to.... rural farmers in areas zoned for agriculture.
What does this mean to you and me? What does this mean to backyard farmers and urban chicken keepers? Well that all depends.... are you following your local laws? My town is small (pop around 1,400) in a rural area of Michigan. Up until a few years ago, our city ordnance read that you could not keep any fowl inside the city limits (aka zoned residential.) That law was changed and we are now legally allowed to keep chickens. This does NOT change just because the Right to Farm Act has changed.
Now if you live somewhere where it is against the law to have (fill in the blank) the changes to the act DO mean something.... you either follow the laws of your area, face prosecution for breaking your local laws, or that you work WITH your local government to change those ordinances. It is not that the Right to Farm Act was taken from folks... it was never theirs to begin with. The state has simply stated you can no longer use this act to violate laws which apply to you.
From The Detroit News:
But when the law passed in 1981, state lawmakers worried about shielding Michigan agriculture from over-regulation as urban sprawl gentrified the countryside outside big cities, said James Johnson, environmental stewardship division director with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.Legislators in 1981 didn’t anticipate the current movement with tiny “farms” popping up in cities, Johnson said.The new policy defines “primarily residential” as any farm animal site that has 13 or more homes within one-eighth of a mile, or any one home within 250 feet. They won’t be protected from local rules.Johnson said the shift allows for governance based on local feelings toward farming.“There’s a huge variety of communities in Michigan and that huge variety of communities has a huge variety of tolerances as to what they’ll allow,” he said. “There are many that have no problem with animals.”
Now maybe I am a simple person, but having laws keeps order and people need to follow them (or work to change them.) No one is above the law and to rabble rouse and disseminate misinformation does nothing but create panic and a hostile environment where cooperation between citizens and the local government becomes even harder. When people try to change things through emotions, not facts, not much every comes of their attempts. People need to remain calm.
If you are violating local laws, it is time to put on a smile (even if it is forced) and start talking nice to your local government about possibly changing the laws. Just remember, The Right to Farm Act was never meant to cover you (aka the backyard or urban farmer) when it was written.... so really you have lost nothing. The local laws have not changed. If you live in a residential area and are in compliance with your local laws, no one is coming to take your chickens or whatever else you have or are doing. Keep collecting those eggs, plant that garden and carry on.... nothing has changed.
The changes in the Michigan Right to Farm Act are NOT a farewell to backyard chickens and beekeeprs, gardeners or whatever else you are legally doing on your property.