Michigan legislators are considering a plan to exempt Detroit from a provision in the state’s Right to Farm Act, allowing the financially ailing city to turn tracts of abandoned property into farmland. The legislation, co-sponsored by state Sens. Virgil Smith and Joe Hune, would eliminate some zoning and regulatory limitations on farms within the city, reports the Detroit Free Press
The Right to Farm Act — passed in 1981 and amended in 1999 — was originally aimed at protecting farm operations from city dwellers who move to the country and then complain about animals and smells.
The act, when used in cities, has traditionally made city officials nervous about commercial-farm operations because they would not be able to address residents’ complaints about noise, pollution, or odors.
“We’ve got a lot of open space,” Smith said. “This is one way to create economic activity [on it] without taking away the city’s ability to zone . . . and control conflicts."
Tonia Ritter, state governmental affairs manager for the Michigan Farm Bureau, said her group supports all types of agriculture, but is concerned about negative consequences that could result from opening the city for farming.
Meanwhile, Gary Wozniak, development officer for a Detroit nonprofit, says city farming is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to imagine our own future and make it happen.”
He said Detroit has an available workforce and people interested in agricultural business, and believes farming could be a boon to the city’s dying economy. Farming could lead to employment for thousands, said Wozniak, and could give new purpose to vast tracts of land that are available as the city’s population continues to decline.
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