BakerFamily

Michigan’s Gone Hog Wild: Update on Mark Baker’s Case Against the DNR.

BakerFamily

Baker Family

After the Michigan DNR, prompted by BigAg, outlawed heritage hog breeds by administrative fiat in late 2011, a handful of Michigan farmers fought back against the DNR’s attempt to destroy their livelihood. An important hearing in Mark Baker’s case will be heard on July 12 at 2:00 p.m. in the Missaukee County Courthouse. I will be there, together with dozens of friends in the food rights movement from around the country.

Mark and Jill Baker raise Mangalista hogs to support their family. Their livelihood has been under attack for well over a year and a half now. As first chronicled in this blog post from last April describing the DNR’s aggressive tactics under color of – but violating the rule of – law, the Michigan DNR has attacked heritage hog farmers under the guise of protecting the public from feral pigs – in other words, “public safety” (a term I inherently distrust because of how it has been used to justify all sorts of abusive government actions). Never mind that the Bakers’ pigs are managed on the Bakers’ farm under accepted animal husbandry practices, so are not “feral” under any feral pigsdefinition of that term. Never mind that the definitions used in the ISO are so vague as to be capable of outlawing all pigs. The problem is, unless the pigs are kept in a CAFO as favored by BigAg, they must go. Mark Baker and others closely associated with the case have said that this blog post captures the legal issues underlying this action quite well, so I invite you to click through to it.

The Baker Family has been through a lot in the time since the DNR’s Invasive Species Order (ISO) was issued. They have masterfully chronicled their journey on their blog at www.bakersgreenacres.com. There is much more detail on their blog, but here are some of the highlights from 30,000 feet:

  • December, 2011 – The Michigan Pork Producers helped the DNR craft an Invasive Species Order and declatory ruling outlawing heritage hogs in favor of CAFO hogs. Under the ISO, targeted pigs could be destroyed by the DNR without compensation to the farmer.
  • February, 2012 – The Bakers filed a complaint against the Michigan DNR in the Circuit Court for Missaukee County, seeking among other things:
      1. a declaratory ruling that the DNR exceeded its authority in issuing the ISO; that the ISO is unconstitutionally vague; that the ISO is unconstitutional because it violates separation of powers, due process, and equal protection principles, and as the taking of property without compensation; and
      2. an injunction against enforcement of the ISO.

Without the declarations and the injunction sought through this action, the Bakers, along with all Michigan heritage hog farmers, are operating in a state of untenable uncertainty over whether they are subject to severe fines and jail time and their pigs are subject to possible execution by a tyrannical state.  

  • October 15, 2012 – Court hearing on the sole issue of whether the ISO is unconstitutionally vague.
  • November 19, 2012Decision is handed down by Judge Solka, denying the Bakers’ motion for summary disposition on the issue of whether the ISO is unconstitutionally vague, but holding that the Bakers have standing on the remaining claims from the complaint.
  • December, 2012 – The Bakers discover that their hogs are essentially embargoed because they cannot get them processed at a USDA-licensed facility due to the “feral” label attached to them by the Michigan DNR.
  • Spring, 2013 – DNR filed for an injunction ordering the Bakers not to sell live pigs to in-state buyers and offering the Bakers the “choice” of killing all their pigs or paying up to $10,000 per animal, to the tune of $700,000 for the Bakers’ 70 hogs, plus up to 4 years in prison for the Bakers, their employees, and their customers.
  • June 2013 – The Michigan DNR and Michigan Attorney General’s office file a new Motion for Summary Dismissal, with a counterclaim against the Bakers for the $700,000 fine described above.
  • July 2, 2013 – The Baker Family posted this excellent video updating us on the events and introducing us to the family:

  • July 12, 2013: Date set for a summary disposition hearing on the remaining issues.

The case is scheduled to go to trial in late August, assuming the case is not disposed of at next Friday’s hearing.  This makes the hearing very significant. I will be in attendance, along with dozens of other food rights activists from around the country.

Amy Salberg and Mark Baker at Hershberger Trial Event

Amy Salberg and Mark Baker at Hershberger Trial Event

Please join us there and join the team fighting the good fight for food rights! I can tell you from personal experience meeting many people at the Hershberger trial and related events that it is a very welcoming bunch. Here’s a link to the Facebook event page, where you can find more information about the hearing, who’s attending, the party at the farm on July 13, carpooling, and accomodations: https://www.facebook.com/events/512213118828522/ . I hope to see you there!

Of course, all of this has placed a severe financial strain on the Baker family. If you are in a position to support them, I truly implore you to do so. I look at any support I provide to the pioneers in food freedom, whether in terms of pro bono time or direct contributions of money, as not only helping those fighting the good fight (which is important), but also preventing future battles for the same rights. The Bakers took a proactive approach against the DNR that could reap benefits for all of us. I invite you to support them with me. There is a link on their web site at www.bakersgreenacres.com to support their legal defense fund.

- Amy Salberg, The Real Food Lawyer

14 thoughts on “Michigan’s Gone Hog Wild: Update on Mark Baker’s Case Against the DNR.

  1. Carol

    I think we can all agree that feral pigs are a big problem. Has there been any talk of a compromise solution where the hogs are marked and if any are found in the wild it would result in a steep penalty for the farmer?

    I saw an interesting TV show while in Denmark. There was a farmer who raised red deer in England. He set up his own small slaughtering facility on his farm and because the animals weren’t stressed by transportation, they yielded a better tasting meat.

  2. William and Marion Burgess

    Beautiful farm family and that is how it should be. kids learning to work and appreciate what they have and can produce. This is such an overreach by the Goverment that can’t even handle their own lives.
    Hard working Americans should not have to deal with such stupidity.
    We will be praying that this family will get the support they need and this will end for them and anyone else that is being treated is such a manner.
    God Bless.

  3. Lionel

    Carol says: “I think we can all agree that feral pigs are a big problem.” A big problem where? As Mark and other local farmers have said, they’ve never seen any of these mythical, ferocious feral pigs anywhere. But that’s not the point, unless we want to bring in straw-man arguments.

    The issue is not, and has never been, feral pigs. It’s a simple case of BigAg wanting to squash family farms, using willing government bureaucrats to bully them out of business.

    It doesn’t sound like you’re familiar with this issue beyond superficially reading this article, so I suggest to dig in a bit deeper.

  4. Mack

    I’ve looked at several different states definitions of “feral” pigs and they all say a feral pig is any pig living in the wild, not any specific breed. Everyone agrees that feral pigs are an environmental disaster and every effort must be undertaken to wipe them out.

    I have not seen any mention of the farming technique used here to raise these pigs. So long as Baker is able to keep his pigs from getting loose and running free off of his farm then what is the problem?

    One point of order, federal prison time was listed as one of the potential punishments but this is an agency of the state of Michigan, so prison time would be in a state facility. Accuracy does matter when someone is being threatened with legal action and we want the public to take an interest. I hope I do not offend anyone by pointing this out.

    I will pray for the Bakers to prevail.

  5. Real Food Lawyer Post author

    Mack, you’re right on all counts. Michigan is (so far) the only state to designate animals who are subject to accepted animal husbandry practices behind fences as “feral.”

    Mark’s farming technique may be seen in the videos on his web site at http://www.bakersgreenacres.com, which clearly shows that the pigs are kept on the farm through fencing. I’ll be at the farm tomorrow to Saturday and can post my own impressions then, but I know Mark and I have no reason to believe he is being disingenuous in his videos.

    Thanks for the catch on the “federal” prison thing. I’m not sure how that adjective snuck in there, but you’re right – the state couldn’t put Mark or anyone else in federal prison. When I came back to the post to see what you meant (thinking the word “feral” had somehow morphed into the word “federal” somewhere in the post), I was surprised to find the word appearing right before the word “prison,” so I appreciate you bringing it to my attention and have now removed it so the post is accurate.

    - Amy

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  7. Lynn Nye

    We raise Heritage Berkshire Pork on pasture in SE Michigan and of course have been aware of this issue and followed it closely. We would like ‘everyone’ to understand that the lead in your article “outlawed heritage hog breeds” statement is not a fact! We have corresponded with the Michigan DNR and are operating ‘full steam ahead’. We of course understand that the Baker’s, or anyone who’s livelihood is threatened is going to do whatever it takes to protect it. However …. it’s always better to stick with the facts.

  8. Real Food Lawyer Post author

    I’m not certain what you mean, Lynn. What would you call it when the DNR issues an invasive species order declaring a particular breed of pig to be “feral” (by phenotype, rather than by location or temperament) and when the USDA processing plants will, therefore, not process them, so that it is neither legal to have them nor to sell them within Michigan? It sounds like whatever breeds you have are not under attack, which is great! But one of the breeds used to create the heritage hogs raised by the Bakers is very much under attack.

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