This Looks like a Farm...?
Do Yourself a BIG favor..... Before you buy any property , ALWAY$.... ALWAY$ get a copy of the local Zoning Ordinances !! FIR$T....
You just bought 10 acres and you want to start a compost operation.... probably NOT OK with the local government. Put up 5 hoop houses.... not so fast says the city!
Make sure the land your planning to farm is Zoned Agriculture by your local government.
Your property may look like a farm but unless it's zoned as agriculture NONE of the Right to Farm Act applies to that property. None of the GAAMP guidelines do either.
-I can show you an example of a 6,000 acre farm that is entirely within the city limits-
• Get the local zoning ordinance and ask lots of questions.
• The state tax code really has the last word. See your local tax assessor.
• Not all local zoning administrators will welcome a new agricultural business or be helpful.
• A smile will go a long way. Your pleasant attitude will be a nice contrast to the usual encounter these officials have with the public and say thanks..... a lot!!
• The Michigan Department of Agriculture is a great resource of information, they will be helpful in getting your farm business out of the ground. There is the local Extension office in every county seat - https://www.canr.msu.edu/agriculture/
Don't assume that just because Michigan has a Right to Farm Act (GAAMP's) on the law books that you're free to farm anywhere.... anyway.
The GAAMP's guideline have become a MOVING regulatory TARGET, changing nearly every year.
Read every page CAREFULLY, Here - MDARD
The local zoning ordinance, health department, property tax assessor and state income tax law all have an direct impact on your land use, especially the ability to create and sell value-added products from your little shop located on your property. In most townships, your neighbor cannot sell their sweet corn from your fruit stand, and God forbid if you slice open a watermelon for your customers to sample. The Department of Agriculture man will FAINT.
In Branch County, Michigan theie are zoning regulations in 16 townships, two cities and two villages. The county health department, the Michigan Department of Treasury, Department of Agriculture and the IRS all have some impact on what is a Farm and who is a Farmer.
Here are just a few examples from different townships in Branch County of what a farm is;
- FARM: All of the contiguous neighboring or associated land operated as a single unit on which bonafide agriculture is carried on directly by the owner-operator, manager, or tenant farmer. A farm shall be considered five (5) or more acres.
- FARM: Any parcel of land containing at least (40) acres which is used for the raising of agricultural products, livestock, poultry or dairy products for gain, and uses incidental thereto. Farm includes a farm dwelling and necessary accessory farm structures within the property boundaries and the storage of crops produced thereon, as well as equipment used in farming operation.
- FARM: Any parcel of land containing at least twenty (20) acres which is used for gain in the raising of agricultural products, livestock, poultry or dairy products. It includes the necessary farm structures within prescribed boundaries and the storage of farm equipment used. It includes the raising of fur bearing animals.
- Agricultural District: Farms for both general and specialized farming, together with one farm dwelling and buildings and other installations necessary to such farm including temporary housing for migratory workers provided such housing and its sanitary facilities are in conformance with all requirements of the Branch County Health Department and/or any federal, state and or local regulating agency having jurisdiction.
- Three Townships in Branch County, Michigan have no zoning, therefore no FARM description is necessary. One of our villages simply says that a farm is whatever the state statutes set forth.
Even though it isn't absolutely necessary that your location be in an agriculturally zoned district, it makes the process of starting up much, much easier. Below is an abbreviated version of the Michigan Department of Agriculture guidelines. This is another example that Farm means different things to different officials at different levels of government.
The Michigan Right to Farm Act makes no mention of what is the minimum acreage required to be considered a farm. However, The Michigan Department of Agriculture says that Farmland means 1 of the following:
(i) A farm of 40 or more acres in 1 ownership, with 51% or more of the land area devoted to an agricultural use.
(ii) A farm of 5 acres or more in 1 ownership, but less than 40 acres, with 51% or more of the land area devoted to an agricultural use, that produces a gross annual income from agriculture of $200.00 per year or more per acre of cleared and tillable land.
(iii) A farm (of any size) designated by the Department of Agriculture as a specialty farm in one ownership that has produced a gross annual income from an agricultural use of $2,000 or more.
The bottom line is really set by the income tax code. Both federal and state government have filing schedule for farm income and these filed income taxes are always accepted as proof that your farming. Paying income tax on farm income will usually save you money on your property tax. This is one time the IRS can save your bacon!