The Michigan Right to Farm Act [RTFA] is a Michigan law designed to protect farmers and commodity producers, particularly small, family-scale farmers, from being legal harassed by local zoning ordinances, nuisance lawsuits, and other legal measures designed to halt or impair farm operations. While the policy is simple, the application of the law is not.
As the Michigan Court of Appeals recently noted:
The trial court concluded that, pursuant to the RTFA, "[a]ny action taken by a local unit of government which impairs a farm or farm operation is improper." This conclusion was an overly broad and incorrect statement of the RTFA.
Michigan law provides:
A farm or farm operation shall not be found to be a public or private nuisance if the farm or farm operation alleged to be a nuisance conforms to generally accepted agricultural and management practices ["GAAMPs"] according to policy determined by the Michigan commission of agriculture.
Contrary to its name, however, the Right to Farm Act merely provides an affirmative defense to nuisance lawsuits and does not give the landowner an entitlement or a "right" to conduct farming on any or all property. It simply provides a defense against nuisance lawsuits in rural areas and does not stop someone from filing a lawsuit against farm operations.
Nevertheless, the RTFA has been successfully used to protect everything from raising backyard chickens to major cattle operations, if pursued correctly. Clients of Outside Legal Counsel have enjoyed litigation success in receiving legals protections from overzealous governments and their attacks on local farming operations.
If you have been sued or threatened to be sued by a local municipality or by a neighbor regarding your farm operations, or need assistence with the Right to Farm Act and its related regulations, contact a property rights attorney at OLC.