Local Government Law Bulletin November 27, 2019

Farm Markets Anywhere? Proposed Changes to Farm Market GAAMPs Would Eliminate Zoning Requirement

The draft 2020 Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices for Farm Markets could have significant land use consequences.

The Right to Farm Act overrides those local zoning controls which are contrary to GAAMPs promulgated by the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development. Under the Farm Market GAAMP, a “farm market” is defined as a place where farm products are sold, if at least 50% of its products are produced at the same location as the farm market, or on an “affiliated farm” – a farm at a different location but owned or leased by the operator of the farm market. So a farm market can be in a location with better visibility and more retail traffic, as long as 50% of the products are produced by a farm affiliated with the operator of the farm market. The GAAMP does not have any limitation on what the other 50% of products marketed may be, and does not even require that they be farm products.

Currently, the farm market GAAMP preempts local zoning only if a farm market is “located on land where local land use zoning allows for agriculture and its related activities.” The draft 2020 farm market GAAMP would remove that requirement. Although the intent is to promote direct marketing and profitability of farming, this has a real potential for land use conflict. Because there is no requirement that any of the required 50% of farm products be produced at the market location, and no limitation on what the other 50% of products sold must be, this would allow grocery or convenience stores or other types of retail operations in an otherwise exclusively residential area, as long as 50% of the floor area is used for marketing farm products produced somewhere by the owner of the farm market.

It is not clear whether this is the policy intent of the change, or an oversight in drafting. The 2020 draft removes language expressly stating that the farm market need not be located on the property where agricultural production occurs. Removing that language, however, does not mean that the market must be located on the property where the production occurs.

If you are concerned about this, you may wish to contact the Michigan Commission on Agriculture and Rural Development in Lansing. The Commission in the past has not been receptive to objections based on a stringent position that the GAAMPs should bend to local zoning. A successful approach here might be a suggestion to leave the current zoning requirement in place, unless the only products sold on the farm are those produced at that location.

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