It’s getting to be a regular, sad story – governments drunk on power, corrupt by the business interests which keep the “elected” in power, hammering Mom and Pop Americana who are simply trying to make a living.
Enter Mark Baker, owner and operator of Baker’s Green Acres. Baker left the military about nine years ago so he and his wife could start their small farm, which is located in Marion, Mich. “Since then,” National Public Radio reports, “he’s put a whole lot of love, money and time into developing tasty charcuterie: salted and cured pork, derived from his hybrids of Russian boar and the heritage breed Mangalitsa.”
The affable Baker says his chefs “love it.”
“They like the dark red meat, the woody flavor and the glistening fat,” he says.
Big Brother says ‘no can own, operate’
Well, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is no fan of Baker’s cured meat; in fact, the agency says his herd is an invasive species – just added to the “invasive species” list, in fact – and now it must be destroyed. Oh, and for kickers, Baker will owe the state a whopping $700,000 in fines. He also faces jail.
“According to the agency, there are two species of pigs: Sus scrofa, or Russian boar, which are the subject of the order; and Sus domestica – domestic pigs, the source of most bacon and ham,” NPR reports. In an August 2012 ruling “the agency listed eight visual characteristics they argue are common to Russian boar and their hybrids. The wording indicates that a pig with just one of the listed characteristics could potentially be identified as a Russian boar or Russian boar hybrid.”
In other words, the agency says Baker’s herd is feral and, as such, illegal.
After the initial order in August, “Baker voluntarily complied with the order by slaughtering his herd of Russian Boars,” reports the Clare County Review. “The Mangalitsa pigs however were not slaughtered. The DNR eventually informed Baker that the Mangalitsas were exempt from the ISO ruling.”
Baker has roughly 70 of the Mangalitsas; the Michigan DNR has fined him 10 grand apiece, hence the $700,000 figure.
Ed Golder, who is the public information officer for Michigan’s DNR, told NPR that “these invasive swine are nothing more than Asian carp with legs. They will come in and devastate a natural ecosystem, and they will pose a serious threat to farms of all sorts.”
But many observers believe the agency has decided to come down hard on Baker and his wife, Jill, because of a lawsuit filed against it. Whatever the case, Baker’s day in court is Aug. 27; before then, he says he hopes that the Missaukee County Court judge will rule in his favor to allow a jury to be seated for his trial next month.
If he loses, he’s “done,” he says. “It’s over at that point.”
‘How can they be feral?’
Critics of the DNR’s pig regulation say it’s overly vague. If “the tail is either curly or straight, you can be a felon for owning that hog,” state Sen. Joe Hune said. Wildlife biologist Shannon Hanna, who is in charge of overseeing the agency’s order, in fact conceded that “of the characteristics in the ruling are similar to a domestic hog breed.”
But, she added, “It is highly unlikely that we would just pull one characteristic out of there.”
Unless, of course, the agency had it in for another feral hog owner/breeder. Who believes that bureaucrats running the agency wouldn’t eventually arbitrarily change their minds in the future? Who – or what – would stop them?
Indeed, the word “feral” in the order has Baker even more up in arms. The term means something is “wild” or “not domesticated.”
“How can the DNR say that the pigs that are under my control, livin’ in my barns – how can they say that they are feral?” he told NPR.
In March 2012, Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, reported that the Michigan DNR had threatened to kill Baker’s herd and others raising similar pigs:
The state has said it will “destroy” these pigs beginning in April, potentially by raiding local farms with government-issued rifles, then shooting the pig herds while arresting the members of the family and charging them with the “crime” of raising pigs with the wrong hair color. This may truly be a state-sponsored serial animal killing spree.
He went on to point out the ridiculous nature of the state’s position, noting that farmers and ranchers in Michigan have been raising these same pigs literally for decades.
You can track the progress of Baker’s case on his website here.