Michigan to Amend Right to Farm Bill

According to insiders in the Michigan State Senate, the legislature is considering a series of amendments to the state’s Right to Farm Bill. The Bill, supported by the Michigan Farm Bureau, which lobbied extensively for its passage, was created to protect farmers from regulation by municipal governments. The bill prevented municipalities from exercising zoning control or regulatory authority over Michigan farms, instead, leaving that power up to the state government.

The problem that some cities face in the wake of this bill regards the future of urban farming. The relatively new phenomenon is sweeping urban centers across the country. By transforming empty urban land into small farms, advocates says, cities can create jobs, revitalize their downtowns, and boost struggling economies. A recent study by Michigan State University suggested that by farming 5,000 acres, Detroit could create nearly 30,000 jobs and provide for 70 percent of its food needs.

The difficulty arises in the fact that many cities in Michigan, particularly economically depressed Detroit, are reluctant to give up regulatory authority over city farms. Rather than risk potential problems like traffic or odor, many cities find it easier to prohibit urban agriculture altogether.

The legislation currently being discussed would exempt Detroit from key provisions in the Right to Farm Bill.

Tonia Ritter, governmental affairs manager for the Michigan Farm Bureau, stated that the organization supports urban farming movements, but is concerned that amending the Right to Farm Bill could weaken vital provisions that protect farming in the state.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer