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Right to Farm: Site Selection for New and Expanding Dairy Farms   

Roberta Osborne, Extension Dairy Educator 
Gerald May, Extension Air Quality Educator
Steve Mahoney, Michigan Dept. of Agriculture and Rural Development

Have you built a new livestock barn since June of 2000 for herd expansion? Do you have plans to build a new manure storage unit in the near future? We ask these questions because dairy producers need to understand how following the Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs) for Site Selection and Odor Control for New and Expanding Livestock Production Facilities (Siting GAAMPs) maintains the protection from nuisance lawsuits provided by the Michigan Right to Farm Act. Farms that move ahead with construction projects without first getting Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) site verification risk losing the protections provided by the Right to Farm Act and in some cases may be forced to shut down the facility.

Major Changes in the Farm Act
The authority for these GAAMPs and the preemption of local ordinances that extend or conflict with GAAMPs, were the two major changes made when the Michigan Right to Farm Act (PA 93 of 1981, as amended) was amended in 1999, and gave MDARD the authority to oversee the site selection process. The Michigan Ag Commission approved the first set of Siting GAAMPs in June of 2000.  As recently reported in the Right to Farm Program Fiscal Year Report 2010, since June 2000 a total of 335 farms have utilized the Site Selection GAAMPs in choosing the best site to construct new or expand existing facilities. These GAAMPs provide a planning process that can be used to properly plan new and expanding facilities, increase the suitability of a particular site and enhance neighbor relations. Key aspects of the site selection process include:
•  Determining the appropriate property line setback by identifying the number of non-farm houses near the proposed site.
•  Identifying non-farm residences within the MI OFFSET odor footprint.
•  Documenting that manure storage has been designed and constructed according to acceptable standards.
•  Determining that manure produced by the expanded/new herd is appropriately utilized through land application or other processes.
These and other site verification requirements are contained in the MDARD Site Verification Checklist available at: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/MDA_SitingChecklist_116499_7.pdf.

The MDARD’s review and approval of the construction project is required when the size of the facility at the end of the project exceeds predetermined size limits based on the number of animal units housed at the site. Category is determined by the number of non-farm residents within a given distance of the site and the distance is determined by the number of animal units housed at the proposed location. Below is an example of one table in the GAAMPs. As the number of animal units housed at the site increases so does the perimeter around the facility where non-farm residents are counted to determine the site category, the property line setbacks increase, and the need for MDARD site review and verification is required.


Additional tables in the Site Selection GAAMPs cover Categories 1 and 2 sites for new and expanding operations and are similar to the sample shown above. The setbacks vary depending on whether it is a new facility or an expansion. Each table has its own set of standards for non-farm residents, property line setbacks, and the requirement for MDARD site review. It should be noted that owners of projects not requiring MDARD verification are still expected to collect all the required information and self-determine if the site meets GAAMP standards. Owners of these sites may request MDARD verification for their own peace of mind. 

Proceeding with Verification
The approval or verification process begins with a livestock producer submitting a Verification Request to MDARD. If the farm owner requests MDARD siting assistance, then MDARD staff will visit the site prior to any steps being taken, as a preliminary site evaluation. MSU Extension Educators may also be invited to the early site visits. Often times these early visits can determine if the site has potential and if there are any extenuating circumstances the owner will need to consider during the application process. The site verification request requires the farm to provide the following items.
•  A completed Site Verification Checklist. The check list is available at: http://www.                         michigan.gov/documents/MDA_SitingChecklist_116499_7.pdf. 
•  Detailed site plan.
•  Manure Management System Plan.
    A key aspect of the Manure Management System Plan (MMSP) is to show that the expanded or new operation will      have adequate land base for manure that will be produced.
•  Construction drawings and specifications for the manure storage structure.
•  The results of a subsurface soils investigation when the project includes a manure storage structure.
•  A topography map and a soil map.
•  Proposed Category 1 sites which do not meet all property line setbacks or will house more than 1,000 animal units; and all Category 2 sites must submit an Odor Management Plan including the results of the Michigan OFFSET Model for the site.

Based on the dimensions of the animal housing and manure storage facility MI OFFSET results provide an odor footprint for the site estimating the number of non-farm residents who will notice recognizable odors 5, 3,and 1.5 percent of the time. On a case-by-case basis, MDARD may adjust property line setbacks based on the results of the Odor Management Plan.

The OFFSET model helps producers determine the appropriate location of the facility in order to minimize the impact of the livestock facility on near-by residents. It also allows producers to see the beneficial effects of various methods of odor mitigation technology such as bio-filters or manure storage covers including natural crusts, straw and synthetic covers.

In addition, all new manure storage structures need to be built using USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) or Mid-West Plan Service (MWPS) construction standards. Designs approved and stamped by a professional engineer (PE), to indicate that the manure storage facility meets these standards, must be submitted to MDARD with the site verification request. To ensure the integrity of the project, the PE must monitor the construction of the manure storage structure and provide the owner as-built documentation the facility meets the design standards indicated in the drawings. The MDARD will review the as-built documentation during the agency’s post-construction visit. The MDARD will conduct a pre-construction inspection and review the Verification Request with the producer to determine if all of the requirements were met. A pre-population inspection will be scheduled once the facility has been constructed.  

Siting GAAMPs provide a planning process that can be used to properly plan new and expanding facilities, increase the suitability of a particular site and enhance neighbor relations. They help ensure high environmental and social standards so that the Michigan livestock industry can continue to grow. For additional information, feel free to contact Roberta Osborne (rosborne@msu.edu) or Steve Mahoney (mahoneys@michigan.gov ).

To learn more about Site Selection GAAMP and to download an application form, go to: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mda/2011_DRAFT_SITE_SELECTION_GAAMPs_339407_7.pdf.
Michigan Dairy Review is published and mailed to all Michigan dairy farmers and individuals working in allied industries. With its ever increasing on-line presence, the MDR target audience has spread beyond Michigan and the U.S.; today electronic subscribers are located in places such as Australia, The Scandinavia, Italy, Mexico, Ireland, Peru, and New Zealand.  

The MDR is the primary communications vehicle for research findings, extension programming, and teaching between faculty and staff in MSU dairy programs and the dairy industry. The MDR web site is paid for by the C. E. Meadows Endowment.

January 2012 Topics

Calving Pen Alternatives

Intensified Feeding Programs for Calves

Right to Farm: Site Selection

Treatment of Milk House Wash Water

Diagnostic Tests and Strategies for BVDV

Landowners: Oil and Gas Leases

Livestock Gross Margin [Pt 2]

Social Secuurity Basics [Pt. 2]

What BOTF Participants are Learning

MSU at Nationals Dairy Challenge

2012 Winter Dairy Program