For several years now members of the Michigan Small Farm Council (MSFC) have been attending the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development meetings that are held at various locations and times. November 18, 2015 was no exception.
We attend these meetings to provide information to the commissioners relating to small-scale agriculture in Michigan, and that are impacted by how commissioners vote on action items or policy changes that affect the entire state. All individuals who attend are granted a brief opportunity to provide public comment.
Wendy Banka and Randy Zeilinger attended the meeting in Lansing, with both addressing the Commissioners and MDARD Director regarding the proposed changes to the 2016 GAAMPs (Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices). According to an October press release from MDARD, the proposed changes to the GAAMPs are for “clarification” of previous changes and to make them easier to understand. MSFC pointed out that the changes proposed this year would further muddle the language of the Site Selection and Odor Control GAAMP. The MSFC had previously made similar points during the Public Input period on the GAAMPs earlier in the year; all public comments received during this period are available here.
The appointed Site Selection GAAMP review committee suggested a change in the definition of farm animals to be defined as “beef and dairy cattle, swine, sheep and goats, horses and poultry”. This definition is counter to the expressed language of the actual law (PA 93 of 1981 as amended) that was passed by legislative action. Additionally the proposed change added a reference to “Part 413 of MCL 324.41301 et seq.) with wording to allow MDARD, DNR or DEQ to make declaratory rulings that could outlaw any animal species that they see fit.
MDARD representatives conceded that the new definition of “Livestock” should be clearer, and that the real intent had been to make clear that bees were not included as livestock covered in the Site Selection GAAMP. Furthermore, they admitted that the inclusion of Part 413 was an unnecessary duplication, because existing laws on invasive species already supercede the Right to Farm Act. The commissioners voted to return the Site Selection GAAMP to committee for revisions before the January vote.
Also of note at the meeting:
- Information regarding the certification programme for mushroom hunters to legally sell their harvest.
- The Michigan Meat Association asked that MDARD provide assistance in leveling the playing field between meat processors who have met the requirements of a new Specialized Meat Processing Variance and those who have not. Small deer producers have not been a problem.
- A comment was presented that there is a feral hog issue in Marquette County with a game farm “across the river” being suggested as the source. There was no supporting documentation of this allegation, and another MSFC member from Marquette informs us that to his knowledge "there is not" a feral hog problem in the area.
- Michigan Grape and Wine Industry suggest that there will be a shortage of Michigan wines within the next few years.
- John Stears was present to inform the Commissioners about the impending loss of agricultural rights in Brady Township.