By Cathy Taylor
McBain farmer Mark Baker and his heritage hogs are back in the news once again—this time to a tune of $700,000 in fines.
In a story originally covered by The Marion Press back in January, McBain farmers Mark and Jill Baker continue to be targeted by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources by declaring that Baker’s Mangalitsa pigs are feral and are therefore in violation of the DNR’s Invasive Species Order. This time around however, the Michigan Attorney General’s office is requesting that Baker be fined $700,000—that’s $10,000 for each heritage pig that he currently owns.
The Baker family’s dilemma began back in August of 2011, when the Michigan DNR issued its Invasive Species Order as part of the Natural Resources Environmental Protection Act. The order stated that possession of feral pigs in the state of Michigan is prohibited, and anyone knowingly in possession of such pigs could be subject to fines and imprisonment.
Based upon the DNR’s guidelines for determining whether a specific pig is included in the ISO ruling, one of nine physical characteristics must be present. They include: bristle tips that are lighter in color than the rest of the hair shaft; dark coloration of the distal portions of the snout, ears, legs and tail that are dark brown to black in coloration, and lack light-colored tips on the bristles; coats that are wild/grizzled, solid black, solid red/brown, black and white spotted, black and red/brown spotted; underfur that is lighter in color than the overlying dark brown to black bristles; light grayish-tan to brown base coat with a dark brown to black spinal stripe and three to four brown irregular longitudinal stripes with dark margins along the length of the body.
To make the distinction between domestic and feral pigs even more vague, the ISO also stated that feral pigs can possess either straight or curly tails and either straight, erect ears or folded floppy ears. The DNR also reserved the right to determine whether a pig is indeed feral by their basic skeletal appearance. They claim they can distinguish between a domestic and a feral pig by the length of the tail, the head and body length, the hind foot length, the length of the snout as well as their shoulder height.
The DNR also included one more guideline, simply stated as…”other characteristics not currently known to the MDNR that may be identified by the scientific community” at any future time.
When the DNR order first came down, the Bakers owned hundreds of Russian Boars and Hungarian Mangalitsa swine. In March of 2012, the DNR ordered Baker to depopulate his pig stock. Baker voluntarily complied with the order by slaughtering his herd of Russian Boars. The Mangalitsa pigs however were not slaughtered. The DNR eventually informed Baker that the Mangalitsas were exempt from the ISO ruling. Baker currently possesses roughly 70 of the swine on his property.
Last week the DNR and the Attorney General’s office filed a motion for a Summary Dismissal of the lawsuit initiated by Mark Baker against the DNR , as well as the DNR’s countersuit against Baker. The DNR claims that Baker has forfeited his right to a jury trial because he admitted to breaking the law by possessing pigs that were prohibited by the ISO. The hearing is scheduled for 2 pm on Friday, July 12 at the Missaukee County Courthouse.
So what has the DNR up in arms again? Many believe that the lawsuit against the DNR initiated by Mark Baker and his family might have something to do with it, coupled with the fact that Baker will not sit by idly and let the DNR take away his Constitutional right to live free from governmental persecution.
Many also believe that the DNR does not want the case to be heard by a jury—a panel of men and women that could very well be sympathetic to Baker’s plight. Several weeks ago the DNR offered Baker an out-of-court settlement. It stated thusly—kill all of your pigs and you won’t get fined $10,000 per animal. The DNR also added that they would not fine anyone buying pigs from Baker and they would not pursue felony charges that could very well land Baker, his wife, his eldest children and his employees in Federal prison.
According to Baker’s website, Baker’s Green Acres.com, this is just the latest in a string of intimidation ploys in an effort to coerce the judge to uphold their Invasive Species Order. They want the judge to uphold their order without anyone questioning its Constitutionality, rationality and intent.
Baker is hoping that the Missaukee County Court judge will rule in his favor, allowing for a jury to be seated at the trial that is currently scheduled for August 27, 2013.
In actuality, Baker may only see his case go to trial when pigs fly. The DNR’s strategy seems to be to prolong the misery until Baker either gives up the fight or they literally “starve him out” by depriving him of his livelihood.
In either case, Baker is not backing down from the DNR’s tyranny. He is urging the public to attend the Summary Dismissal at the Missaukee County Courthouse this Friday.
The Baker family is also hosting “A Celebration of the Farm at Baker’s Green Acres,” a hog roast fundraising event at their home on Saturday, July 13. The public is invited to visit their farm and get an up-close and personal view of his Mangalitsa pigs. The event will run from 10 am until 9 pm and will include food, fun and a silent auction on the premises.
For more information about the Baker family or the fundraiser, call 231-825-0293, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.