House Bill 6458, introduced by Reps. Gabe Leland, D-Detroit, and Mike Huckleberry, D-Greenville, is the latest assault on private property rights to come out of Lansing. The bill exempts property owners in Michigan cities with a population of 900,000 or more (read: Detroit) from protection under Michigan's Right to Farm Act.
Michigan, once largely a rural state, became increasingly urbanized during the 20th century as suburbs spread to formerly rural lands. The growth of suburbs brought with it the inevitable conflict between farmers and new residents who did not appreciate the odors that often accompany farming. As a result of land use conflicts, the Right to Farm Act was enacted in 1981 in order to protect farmers from nuisance lawsuits if they followed Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices that were developed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture.
Detroit has an official unemployment rate of 25.5 percent, but the actual number of unemployed Detroiters is higher, given the number of people out of work who have stopped looking for jobs and are not part of the official count. Residents of Detroit, regardless of their employment status, should be allowed to grow their own food and to sell or barter food they have grown that is excess to their needs. If HB 6458 becomes law, a basic right to use one's own land to grow food will become more difficult. With the pressing economic problems facing the state, it seems that lawmakers in Lansing would have more important things to do than regulate gardens.