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E-M:/ SB 205 passes Senate Ag Com
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Stating that they are "in a hurry" the Senate Farming, Agribusiness and Food
Systems Committee voted out a modified version of SB205 today (see below).
The vote was taken despite the request by Senator Dianne Byrum that the
Committee wait a week to allow others to review the new version of the bill
(which was only available for most of the world as the hearing itself started)
and to clarify a bunch of questions she still had about what the bill would
actually do. Sen. Gougeon, the chief sponsor, refused to go along with the
request, claiming he had been taking input on the bill all year (so one
wonders why what was voted on was unavailable to the environmental community,
the townships association, and many other groups with a real interest in this
issue before 3 p.m. today).
The version passed made some nods to the deep concerns about the original
version of the bill -- the exemptions from zoning are limited to existing
farms and to those conforming with GAAMPS. The reasons raised for the "need"
for such exemptions were supplied by two family farmers who have been sued by
neighbors after deciding to build confined animal feeding operations. In one
case the farmer won, and in the other the judge decided that farming
operations are not exempt from the general provisions of the zoning code in
that Twp. for not producing dust, odors, glare, etc. that goes off the
Other testimony was presented by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce going "rah
rah for no regs!" -- can't wait til a CAFO sets up next door to one of their
The MI Twps. Association testified raising many very valid concerns about the
approach of using a preemption of zoning to supposedly protect farmers. While
they did not have a chance to put together a position on the modified bill,
the Twps. spokesman pointed out that much of the problem is that the Right to
Farm Generally Accepted Agric. Management Practices are weak and inadequately
enforced. For example, a big issue is smell from large livestock
operations, but that is not addressed in GAAMPs at all (they are water quality
oriented only). Many other valid concerns were raised as well.
Julie Stoneman of MEC testified, though as she noted she was not provided the
new version in advance, so expressed MEC's opposition to the bill as
introduced. She also presented the testimony of the Michigan Land Use
Institute, whose research has shown just how bad CAFOs can be.
All of the reasoned testimony and pleas by Sen. Byrum for taking time to get
input were for naught -- this baby was like a greased pig, pardon the pun.
The one saving grace is that the Committee passed it out too late for it to be
on the Senate floor tomorrow, so it will be next week before it gets onto
ACTION: Take time to look at the new version of SB 205 below, and think about
its implications in your community. Then, if you feel concern, write to your
STate Senator or call him or her RIGHT NOW and ask that they vote against this
bill. It is being fast tracked, cutting out a chance for reasoned discussion
and modification. It also, as I suggested yesterday, takes a sledge hammer to
fix a problem where laser surgery may be the solution. I will also point out
that NO LAW can prevent people from suing each other -- the farmer who won the
lawsuit above still spent $30,000 bucks -- and simply banning zoning regarding
farming will not convince city people to like the smell of manure. And those
among us who are either paranoid or perceptive see this as the red carpet
being rolled out for industrial CAFO operations, while rolling the little
farmers who think it is to protect their interests.
SENATE BILL NO. 205
A bill to amend 1981 PA 93, entitled
"Michigan right to farm act,"
by amending section 4 (MCL 286.474), as amended by 1995 PA 94.
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT:
Sec. 4. (1) EXCEPT AS PROVIDED IN SUBSECTION (2), THIS act does not affect the
application of state statutes and federal statutes.
(2) THIS ACT PREEMPTS PROVISIONS OF A ZONING ORDINANCE OR
NOISE ORDINANCE THAT CONFLICTS WITH THIS ACT EXCEPT AS APPLIED TO
EITHER OR BOTH OF THE FOLLOWING:
(A) A FARM ESTABLISHED AFTER THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE AMENDATORY
ACT THAT ADDED THIS SUBDIVISION, OR FARM OPERATIONS ON
SUCH A FARM, IF THE FARM IS LOCATED IN A LOCAL UNIT OF GOVERNMENT
WITH A ZONING ORDINANCE AND IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH THE PLAN UPON
WHICH THE ZONING ORDINANCE IS BASED.
(B) A FARM OR FARM OPERATIONS THAT DO NOT CONFORM TO
GENERALLY ACCEPTED AGRICULTURAL AND MANAGEMENT PRACTICES.
(3) (2) For purposes of this section, "ZONING ORDINANCE" MEANS AN ORDINANCE
ADOPTED UNDER any of the following : (a) The county, ZONING ACT, 1943 PA 183,
MCL 125.201 TO 125.240. (b) The township zoning act, 1943 PA 184, MCL 125.271
T O 125.310. (c) THE CITY AND VILLAGE ZONING ACT, 1921 PA 207, MCL 125.5 81
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