Michigan Law Blocks Urban Agriculture

Michigan’s emergency finance law, which was enacted last March, has threatened urban agriculture throughout the state. The emergency finance law authorizes the governor to appoint emergency financial managers, whose power overrules local city councils and elected municipal officials, in cities and municipalities with dysfunctional finances. The controversial law has recently begun to interfere with local efforts at urban agriculture, some community activists claim.

Michigan is currently a leader in the urban farming movement. Detroit in particular has been at the forefront of urban farming. Cheap land and high unemployment that plagues much of Michigan makes the prospect of locally grown, cheap food very palatable for many Michiganders.

However, in Benton Harbor, the first town in Michigan to experience the new emergency finance law, the financial manager has been accused of hindering efforts at urban farming. According to Emma Kinnard, a retired teacher and urban farming advocate, emergency manger Joe Harris’ response to her requests for more water was to tell her that, “water is the least of his concerns.” Other activists claim that Harris has refused to allow farming on vacant land in the city, blocking the expansion of the town’s urban farming movement.

Urban farming activists have expressed frustration at Harris’ supposed unresponsiveness towards local agriculture, particularly since Benton Harbor is part of a local food plan that was officially endorsed by the now defunct City Commission.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer