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A Ban On Owning Farm Animals? Michigan Is Considering It

michigan farm restriction animals

Kelly VanderKley. Image source:

Keeping even one “farm animal” in residential neighborhoods could soon be illegal in Michigan. That’s because a proposed change to state regulations could strip property owners of the right to keep and raise small numbers of poultry or livestock.

Michigan’s Right to Farm Act currently extends to all property owners in the state, including those in areas zoned residential or commercial. The state Agricultural Commission is considering a change to the regulations – called Generally Acceptable Agricultural And Management Practices (GAAMPS) — that would strip property owners of that right.

“It would exclude a whole bunch of people who are seeking Right to Farm protection,” Randy Buchler of the Michigan Small Farm Council said of the proposal, “and strip the small farmers of their right to be protected by a state law.”

The change would allow local governments to bar people from keeping small numbers of animals such as one cow or pig or a flock of chickens on their property. The law does this by labeling certain kinds of property, such as lots in subdivisions or small homesteads, as unacceptable for livestock.

Currently, Strong Legal Protections For Farms

Currently, Michigan property owners such as Buchler can go to court and get restrictions on livestock ownership overturned. The changes to the law would restrict that right to farmers with more than 50 animals.

“What they are trying to do is to take away Right to Farm protection from people trying to be self-sufficient but not able to do agriculture on any level according their local zoning,” Buchler said of the commission.

Discover The Only Way Back To True Freedom And Liberty In America…

That could effectively strip most residential properties in Michigan of Right to Farm protections. It would also give local governments the power to stop people from raising small numbers of animals on their property.

“Small farms are protected the same way any farm is,” Brad Deacon of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development noted. That protection has upset some residents who don’t like the idea of livestock in rural areas.

Farmers Are Threatened

Michigan’s Right to Farm Act (RFTA) is the strongest legal protection for individuals’ right to grow food in the nation, the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund noted. The Fund is one of a number of groups that believe the proposed changes threaten property rights.

“The protection that Michigan’s RTFA provides to suburban and urban farms on non-ag zoned land is now in jeopardy,” the Defense Fund said in a press release.

“The agency can’t rewrite the law,” Buchler said of the Agricultural Commission. He accused the commission of trying to usurp the powers of the state legislature and overturn the legislature’s decision. “They have only the authority to carry it out as the legislature intended. If they’re going beyond that, they’re violating the separation of powers. Period.”

The farm of at least one family is already under threat from the proposed changes. Kelly VanderKley and David Hunter received a letter giving them 90 days to get rid of most of their farm animals because their land is zoned residential. According to, they have a horse, two donkeys, five ducks, a flock of chickens and 11 young turkeys. The letter said they could have only “only one horse and one donkey; or one horse and 3 fowl; or 13 fowls.”

In the end, they won the right to keep the animals under the Right to Farm Act. The proposed changes would give the Township the right to force the couple to get rid of their animals.

The Michigan Small Farm Council asked all of the state’s residents to contact the Agricultural Commission by Jan. 22 and complain. The Commission hasn’t approved the changes.

“A great deal is at stake here, and I hope each of you will appeal to the Michigan Commission of Agriculture for continued Right to Farm protection for small farmers in Michigan,” Council President Wendy Lockwood Bank wrote in the press release.

The battle in Michigan is only the latest example of efforts by local governments to restrict the growing of food on residential properties. For instance, cities in Florida have tried to force residents to remove vegetable gardens from their front yards.

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  1. This is a prime example of why we need to out law politicians who cannot pass a certain level of IQ tests. This is another attempt to control the population, and those in favor need to be removed from office and or have their voting rights revoked.

    Prime example number two: “That protection has upset some residents who don’t like the idea of livestock in rural areas.” That statement is as stupid as it looks. I can see where urban areas would have a concern, but rural? You would have to be thinking with some drug induced thought patterns to think that is good logic.

    • Shady Grove Farm U.P.

      Tom, I would have to agree. There are many “rural” or “rural residential” areas where we live here in the U.P. that have upwards of 80 acres. This new language would take away Right to Farm protections from these people, IF the local municipalities took them to court.

      • Better give those local officials IQ tests immediately; sounds like a lot of them have IQ’s of only room temperature.

        • You know, in many instances unfortunately, they aren’t stupid. Stupid can be fixed easier than those who have sold out to the devil. That is a much bigger concern. From that point forward they will do anything possible, legally or not, constitutionally or not to maintain that status with the Agenda 21 brats.

          • Exactly Tom. This is not stupidity but rather about control and money. The corporations don’t want anyone threatening their monopolies.

    • I have seen it where people move into areas where there has been farming, ranching, stables, etc., for decades, then complain loud and clear about the animals or view. Unfortunately, they frequently seem to win. The only reason I can understand them winning is the politicians in the area see that, hmm, if we force the agriculture out, we can develop that land and make more money for our county/town/city. It pretty much boils down to the money. Say 160 or 240 or 320 or more houses on that 80 acres of agricultural land. How much will they gain on taxes? Quite a bit…Politicians don’t see much but the greed for money, and more money. They don’t see down the road to where is the food going to come from, how are people going to survive without the ability to provide for themselves, or how they will destroy the land putting up asphalt roads and line after line of houses.. They flat out don’t care. Period. It’s all money, money, money.

  2. I see from the article that the Ag Commission met Jan. 22nd on this issue. I just saw the article posted last night on FB. (Jan. 24th). Has anyone heard the outcome of that meeting?

    • Shady Grove Farm U.P.

      Julie, the outcome of that meeting was that none of the Ag Commissioners showed up to listen to the public comment or the citizen’s concerns. There was a stenographer there recording everyone’s comments.

      I would also like to clarify that the following quotes that are in the story above are from our a lawyer, Michelle Halley, who helped us win our Right to Farm case. She was hired by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund and did an amazing job.

      “The agency can’t rewrite the law,” Buchler said of the Agricultural Commission. He accused the commission of trying to usurp the powers of the state legislature and overturn the legislature’s decision. “They have only the authority to carry it out as the legislature intended. If they’re going beyond that, they’re violating the separation of powers. Period.” (This was part of Michelle’s letter to MDARD and the Ag Commissioners) I want to give credit where credit is due. 🙂 I didn’t accuse the commission of anything, I was relaying information to an Mlive reporter.

  3. Greetings again from the Convicted Chicken Criminal,
    This issue was foreshadowed when my hometown filed criminal charges against me and a few other people. We were not allowed to use the RTFA as a defense in 21st. District Court. Our legal rights were denied by the local court.

    Now all citizens of Michigan may have their rights denied if the proposed changes take place.

    What the Agriculture Commissioners and MDARD is doing this is dirty politics. According to the letter of the law, a farm has legal protection if it meets three (3) criteria:
    1) Produce an agriculture product;
    2) Sell that product;
    3) Comply with the GAAMPs

    What MDARD is doing is taking away the compliance part of the law and letting local towns set the rules based on arbitrary zoning. Any house that is currently or can be zoned as “residential” is automatically denied protection. Any farm that is within 1/4 mile of a zoned resident can also lose protection.

    Also hidden within the proposed changes are reductions in the enforcement of environmental impact of large farm operations (CAFOs). For example, pesticides can be used off-label and their disposal is no longer to be regulated as it is currently. Irrigation and ground water are also affected.

    Essentially, MDARD is working against any and all small scale farms as they cater to mega-farms and corporate interests by removing the rights of the citizenry.

    Randy Zeilinger V.P.
    Michigan Small Farm Council

  4. The pioneers tame the land.
    The farmers settle the land.
    The politicians take the land away.

  5. Anyone who applies for a building permit in my township in WI is flat out told that certain smells and sounds go along with rural life, and if you go ahead and get the permit, you have therefore accepted those smells and sounds.

  6. First off this is not politicians, this sounds like its the Ag Commission. This group is appointed by the Gov and the House members do not play a role in this, but your Senator has some say. This reminds me of my fight with the DEQ when they wanted to stop burning in a trash can or make it possible for the police to go thru your campfire with a stick to see if someone by chance threw a piece of plastic in it. This proposal is sad and to see that it comes via the Ag Committee is even worse. I would ask my Legislator to ask for the dismissal of the board for even considering such legislation!

  7. Sounds like corporate farms want to be the only way anyone can raise food and livestock.
    I’m sure they have funded this in some way.

  8. This issue is being misrepresented in this article. Local zoning ordinances determine if livestock are permitted. The Right to Farm Act protects farmers who are following Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices (GAAMPS) from nuisance suits. The Right to Farm law was written during a time period when farming operations were being encroached upon by residental development.

  9. In these economic time we should be going back to growing our own produce and raising a few chickens, etc. If the city minded people don’t like it then go back to the city. I live in a rural area and am tired of the people moving to this area and want everything changed to their liking – if you move to a rural area then accept their ways. Subdivision mentality includes way too many chemicals and pesticides just to have a pristine looking lawn.

  10. I bet Monsanto is the driving force behind this!

  11. Second hand smoke

    Michigan is stupid.The animals will just leave when they hear that and then Michigan won’t have any friends.

  12. This society is post-orwellian. This is beyond insanity. If we don’t get together and stop the sociopaths and people from the insane asylum running our country, then we are in big trouble. Michigan is already one of the worse economic areas in the country; so wow that’s great let’s stop people from trying to feed themselves. Excellent! Not only can they not find a job that pays squat; but let’s stop them from trying to be self-sufficient too. What a concept!

    Seriously, what the blank (f***) are we going to put up with people? Turn off the televisions and march on D.C. (the District of Criminals)! This is getting out of control.

  13. Vote them all out, take back the rights given to you, but usurped by years of apathy…. only you can retake your rights…..we must all stand together, or all hang individually…..

  14. I was taken to court for having TWO chickens. When I was in court, the judge asked what I did with the chickens. “I killed them. What else, besides going to jail or paying a fine, was I supposed to do!?! By the way, those two chickens were my child’s pets. You can explain it to her.”

  15. I sure wish OfftheGridNews would have posted this BEFORE the cutoff of commenting to the Michigan legislature! This is the first I am hearing of it, and the comments were closed the 22nd. Thanks for keeping us informed, but OTGN should do it sooner.

  16. Rev J. Christopher Boyd

    There are some that should the township whomever approach them and tell them to cease and desist that will commit an act and they will be incarcerated. Use common sense

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