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Farm Family Threatened with $700,000 Fine for Raising Pigs

7/11/2013 4:59:00 PM

Tags: heritage livestock, agriculture policy, Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, Pete Kennedy, Mark Baker

Under the ISO, possession of prohibited swine in Michigan carries penalties of up to two years in jail and fines of up to $10,000 per violationNow that Mark Baker has turned down the "offer" made by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to settle his case to overturn the swine Invasive Species Order (ISO), DNR is seeking to have a judge fine him $700,000. DNR believes Mark has 70 “illegal pigs” being raised in violation of the ISO.

Under the ISO, possession of prohibited swine in Michigan carries penalties of up to two years in jail and fines of up to $10,000 per violation, so the state is asking for the maximum fine allowed under the law. DNR basically issued Mark an ultimatum this past spring: give up the fight or face civil penalties [see "Michigan Attacks Heritage Hogs; Farmers Fight Back"].

In February of 2012, Baker filed suit against the state of Michigan for loss of livelihood due to the ISO. The latest hearing in his case is set for Friday, July 12 at 2:00 in Lake City at the Missaukee County Courthouse. Supporters of food rights from around the country hope that the hearing will lead to a dismissal of the fines. A trial is also set for August 27, 2013.

The ISO supposedly was issued so the state could get rid of feral pigs; but the way DNR is interpreting the order, it could be applied to any domestically raised hog. In December 2011 the DNR issued a Declaratory Ruling stating it would determine whether the pig was a prohibited swine based on its physical characteristics instead of whether it was actually feral (i.e., running in the wild outside and not under the husbandry of humans). Under the Declaratory Ruling, which has the force of law, DNR can ban a pig with “straight tail” as well as a pig with a “curly tail.” On April 1, 2012, enforcement of the ISO went into effect.

“Because of the ISO, I have not been able to process or sell any pork in Michigan since April 2012 or sell the live pigs. This threatens the viability of my farm, my income and the health and well-being of my family,” Baker says. “The ISO is a threat to genetic diversity and freedom of choice as well as the ability of small farms to make a living. This order denies consumers their rights to access foods of their choice and violates property rights and the right to make a living. Farmers and other hog owners in Michigan must either get rid of their now ‘prohibited’ property or become felons.”

Mark Baker, a retired Air Force veteran, is currently being represented by Attorney Michelle Halley; she successfully handled the case for Randy Buchler [see "Help Save a Michigan Family Farm"]. As a member of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, Mark requested financial assistance with his case.

The fight to strike down the ISO is winnable; with your help, the chances of success increase. To donate toFarm To Consumer the Fund to help with litigation in the Baker case and other cases it’s involved in, go to www.FarmToConsumer.org/donate. The Fund is a true grassroots organization that relies heavily on membership fees and private individual donations to pay our expenses. For information about tax-deductible donations, go to www.farmtoconsumer.org/PIL.

Photo by Baker' Green Acres



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