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Will the Right to Farm Act prevent my township from enforcing bans on farm animals in residential districts? What about regulations on farm equipment?

The RTFA will only preclude enforcement against the animal or equipment in question if several factors are met, and it is unlikely that these factors would be met in a residential neighborhood.

The Right to Farm Act’s (“RTFA”) protections only attach if a supposed “farm” meets the following requirements:

  1. qualifies as a “farming operation;”
  2. is engaged in the commercial production of “farm products;” and
  3. is in compliance with any applicable Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (“GAAMPs”).

For the first two requirements, because the RTFA only protects the commercial production of farm products, this means that its protections will only extend to operations where farm products are being sold for a profit—the RTFA would not, for example, protect the raising of nondomestic animals to be used as personal pets or for personal consumption. Additionally, the RTFA protects only those conditions or activities that are necessary in connection with the farm operation. Just because there is a farm operation on the property does not mean a resident is entirely exempt from any local requirements and can use whatever equipment or machinery they like.

For the third requirement, things like livestock operations are subject to Site Selection GAAMPs, which establish four categories of sites, ranging from sites normally acceptable to sites that are not suitable. Factors considered include the agricultural or residential nature of the surrounding area as well as the number of non-farm residences in the vicinity. Under this criteria, a bona fide “farm operation” that meets all the requirements above may nevertheless not be protected under the RTFA if it is in a residential neighborhood or is adjacent to otherwise incompatible land uses. However, GAAMPs are updated yearly and contain a myriad of complex requirements, so it may be worthwhile to consult with your attorney before proceeding.

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