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Mike’s Musings- C’mon State, stop hassling pig farmer

Michael Wilcox, Publisher/Editor

Reporter Cathy Taylor broke a story in our sister paper, The Marion Press, a couple of weeks ago, about the plight of local farmer, Mark Baker and his ongoing battle with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the roadblocks they have placed on his ability to take his Mangalista heritage hogs to market.

Mangalista heritage hogs are considered by the DNR to be an invasive species, much like wild, feral hogs. In 2011, the DNR issued an ordinance that basically makes it a felony punishable by imprisonment and fines to won or possess heritage hogs.

Baker, and others, including our State Senator Darwin Booher, would suggest Mangalista hogs are quite the opposite of feral pigs. Mangalista pork is considered a speciality meat in high demand at upscale restaurants.

Baker claims his Mangalistas are extremely docile. Never has one tried to make a break for the wild. “They have a very tame demeanor,” he says.

The DNR apparently sees it differently. Although they recently ruled that the Mangalistas were legal and Baker was free to raise as many of the rare pigs as he chooses, the roadblocks to get the hogs to market are many.

For instance, Baker claims, no veterinarian will issue the hogs a clean bill of health for fear of losing their license to practice. Secondly there isn’t a USDA packaging plant anywhere in Michigan that will accept Baker’s pigs for processing and packaging for fear of being shut down. Baker’s only option is to ship the hogs across state lines, but guess what, the DNR has the final say as to whether that can happen.

And Baker also claims, the DNR refuses to provide him with any legal documentation that he can raise Mangalistas without fear of prosecution. He fears the DNR might change their position and he will lose the significant investment he has made in the rare breed of pigs.

The DNR is talking about invasive species, when they should be thinking about invasive government. Sure it is a great idea to move some of their vast resources to protect the public from the estimated 340 feral hogs that exist in Michigan. That 340 can be 3400 real fast. I personally have viewed the devastation caused by wild pigs in Florida. They are probably the most destructive animals on this planet.

But why is a government agency, charged with protecting and working with citizens and farmers, trying so hard, to keep Baker and his family from making a living. It is very clear, his pigs, are not a danger to others. It is very clear, as a Michigander and farmer, he ought to be afforded the rights of others- the right to raise farm animals without excessive government interference.

Let’s give Baker’s farm a clean bill of health. Let him raise his hogs in peace.