Written by Tyler R. Etter
On August 20, 2015, Pennsylvania’s Mount Joy Township (Adams County) amended a zoning ordinance that was found to be in violation of the state’s Right to Farm Act. Review of the ordinance was first requested in March of 2014, with a finding of violations in September.
The Pennsylvania Right to Farm Act is designed to protect normal agricultural operations from local regulations that exceed the state’s regulations on activities. The ordinance in question forbade farmers from using on-site slaughtering operations. Further, the ordinance required 50 acres minimum for a farm-related business, well in excess of the state’s requirement of 10 acres.
In May of 2015, the Attorney General Kathleen Kane sent a letter of recommendations to the township to correct the violations of the Act, which the township appeared to have taken into consideration for the revisions. The revisions consisted of the township adopting the definition of “normal agricultural operations” as used by the Act. Second, the revisions allowed for the processing and sale of poultry on a farm, originally not permitted, which gave rise to the review of the ordinance.
Everett Ramsburg, the farmer that initially requested the review, stated that he doesn’t believe that the township would have acted without the pressure applied by the attorney general. Susan Smith, the township solicitor, denied that the Attorney General’s letter was in direct relation to the changes made to the ordinance, but stated that the specifics “may have been influenced” by the letter.