Panel eyes farm market land use

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The proposed GAAMP draft could be problematic for Michigan residents who don’t want farm markets near their homes. Photo by iStock

The location of farm markets has become a topic of debate for the Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices for Farm Markets review committee.

A draft of the 2020 Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices for Farm Markets has many proposed revisions by the GAAMP review committee, but one that is of concern is the use of space.

Currently, GAAMP states that “farm markets must be located on property where local land use zoning allows for agriculture and its related activities.” However, the proposed draft eliminates local land use zoning requirements, which can be problematic for Michigan residents because the Michigan Right to Farm Act protects farmers from nuisance lawsuits over matters such as odor or farm dust, so long as the farmers comply with GAAMP, according to the Michigan Farm Bureau.

Mika Meyers attorney Jim Scales said he fears that with the proposed 2020 GAAMP, farm markets can be established anywhere.

“These farm markets can be anywhere, even in an exclusive residential district,” he said. “(Although it) is a good way for farm markets to make a good margin on their sales, I think they’ll overstep if they allow farm markets in residential districts. Every farmer could take advantage of it.” 

Ben Tirrell, manager of the Right to Farm program at the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the review committee still is working on that particular section of the draft and hopefully will offer its final proposal to the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development for consideration in March.

“There have been some concerns for the removal of zoning as a criterion in the GAAMP site selection,” he said. “The issue with zoning is there is a very explicit preemption in the Michigan Right to Farm Act of local zoning and there are some concerns about the propriety of going back and using that as a criterion. The challenge for this committee is to consider if zoning is not the criterion, then what (will be) the criterion for the appropriate placement of farm markets. That has not been determined yet, but that has been the function of that group to look at that question.”

Updates to GAAMP are considered by MDARD annually.

Scales said he believes the commission is looking to remove any reference to zoning in GAAMP because last year, MDARD made changes to the site selection GAAMP, which included references of local zoning from the determination of acceptable sites for livestock production.

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