By KEVIN WALKER
LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is seeking feedback as it prepares its latest round of Right to Farm guidelines on best management practices, which are reviewed annually.
The department also announced a public input meeting at 9 a.m. on Nov. 29 in Lansing.
The Right to Farm guidelines are known as Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs) and are reviewed by committees of various experts each year, to be revised and updated as necessary. Experts from the Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan State University extension and other groups participate on review committees. The GAAMPs are reviewed and approved by the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Public comment will be taken on the following GAAMPs, which have proposed changes: Manure Management and Utilization; Care of Farm Animals; and Site Selection and Odor Control for New and Expanding Livestock Facilities.
The purpose behind the GAAMPs is to protect farmers from lawsuits and to help them get along with their neighbors. Under Michigan’s Right to Farm law, if a farmer is in compliance with all applicable GAAMPs, they can be shielded from nuisance lawsuits.
For example, in one of the GAAMPs, farmers are told to put manure stockpiles a certain number of feet from their property line as well as a certain number of feet from a neighbor’s home, which are two different distances. If a farmer is in compliance with these guidelines, it can provide protection for them against a lawsuit regarding any manure stockpile.
In fact, the Manure Management and Utilization GAAMP is the oldest of the eight now in existence. Although the Right to Farm Act was passed in 1981, the first GAAMP wasn’t enacted until 1988.
The second one to take effect, the Pesticide Utilization and Pest Control GAAMP, was enacted in 1991; Nutrient Utilization followed in 1993; Care of Animals in 1995; Cranberry Production in 1996; Site Selection and Odor Control in 2000; Irrigation Water Use in 2003; and the most recent, Farm Markets, was enacted in 2010.
The few changes proposed for the 2018 GAAMPs are not significant, with one exception, said MDARD Environmental Stewardship Division Director Jim Johnson. Although it isn’t a change per se, it’s the fact that a different model is going to be used to determine whether odor could be a problem at a particular site. That new model is in the Site Selection GAAMP.
Many more weather stations are incorporated into the model to make estimates of wind direction; this could affect farms near the big lakes, he said. A change in some wording regarding manure stockpiles is just for clarification and doesn’t change the farmer’s obligations. That change is in the Manure Management GAAMP.
The public input meeting will be in the J. Hutchinson Conference Room, Atrium Level, at Constitution Hall, 525 West Allegan St., Lansing, MI 48933.
Written comments may be submitted to: MDARD Environmental Stewardship Division, P.O. Box 30017, Lansing, MI 48909 or sent via email to turrubiatesO@michigan.gov by 5 p.m. on Nov. 29. Mailed comments must be postmarked no later than that date.
MDARD will forward all comments received by the due date to the respective GAAMPs Task Force Committee chairs for consideration prior to final review and adoption. For a copy of any of these GAAMPs, including the proposed revisions, visit www.michigan.gov/righttofarm or contact MDARD’s Environmental Stewardship Division at 517-284-5619 or 877-632-1783.