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Controversial Right to Farm decision expected Monday

Blandford students raise hens and sell the eggs as part of an "eggtrepreneur" lesson.
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Blandford students raise hens and sell the eggs as part of an "eggtrepreneur" lesson.

A state board is likely to make a decision today on a controversial rule that would end certain legal protections for people raising chickens and other livestock in residential areas.

The rule change would take protections under the state’s Right to Farm Act away from people living in residentially zoned areas. The changes would not outlaw backyard chickens and other livestock.

“If you wanted to turn your backyard into a barnyard, then your community may and should have a say in how it impacts their neighbors,” Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development spokeswoman Jennifer Holton said.

A special board within the department, the Michigan Commission on Agriculture, is expected to vote on the rule change Monday afternoon.

Michigan’s Right to Farm Act was passed decades ago to protect big farmers from lawsuits as more people moved from cities.

But now that more people are trying urban farming, the state is considering getting rid of that blanket protection and allowing local lawmakers to have more of a say.

“Clearly the language that we had was not suitable for livestock in urban or suburban areas," Holton aid. "Just common sense would say that having a cow in your backyard in a subdivision is just ridiculous.” 

Urban farming advocates worry many cities and townships would simply say no to backyard farm animals without the legal protections outlined in the state law. Some argue the rule change alone won’t actually change the law and the issue may end up in court.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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