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E-M:/ Senate Abandons Local Control for Farm Industry

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Today the state Senate passed S.B. 205, essentially ending local control
over farming operations across the state -- including industrial, or
factory, farms.  The horribly short-sighted bill passed on a mostly
partisan vote -- Sen. David Jaye (R-Washington Twp) being the only one
to break ranks.  In a strange twist, it was the Senate Democrats who
rallied to support the local control angle, while the Republican caucus
rallied around the cause of propping up the agriculture industry.

The bill prohibits local governments from establishing ordinances --
zoning or otherwise -- that conflict with the Michigan Right to Farm
Act.  The solitary exception is in the case of "unreasonable adverse
effects on public health," but even those cases must first be approved
by the Agriculture Commission.

Senators Jaye and Diane Byrum (D-Onondaga) both offered amendments to
the bill which were defeated.  The Jaye amendment would have codified
the Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices cited in
the bill.  Currently GAAMPS are established by the Ag. Commission and
are voluntary standards recommended to farmers.  Often GAAMPS are cited
as a defense against nuisance lawsuits.

Byrum's amendment would have allowed local ordinances to apply to farms
with 1,000 or more livestock units (units, established in federal law,
vary in size by species, for example 1,000 units equals 100,000 chickens
but only 750 head of cow).

Environmentalists and local governments -- including MEC, MUCC, the
Sierra Club and Michigan Townships Association -- opposed the bill.

SB 205 is the first attempt to eliminate the ability of local
governments to regulate activities within their boundaries.  In the
House, HB 4777 applies this tactic to a variety of federal statutes
arguably meant to act as guidelines.  In the case of Michigan
agribusiness, the result is an industry -- one of the state's largest --
that virtually unregulated at any level.

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