Mark Baker, a Michigan hog farmer and United States Air Force veteran, faces state-sanctioned extermination of his hogs along with fines, felony charges, and prison time. According to a declaratory ruling issued by Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources, Mr. Baker’s hogs are considered “feral”. As of April 1, 2012, Mr. Baker’s hogs can fall victim Michigan DNR agents’ guns deemed as “invasive species”.
What makes Mark Baker’s hogs so dangerous, you might ask? Well, Mr. Baker carefully selected his hogs for certain characteristics. He raises his hogs the way they’re meant to live — in the dirt. He wanted hogs that could deal with harsh Michigan winters, and he wanted to provide a product to his customers that yields high lard and rich, dark red flesh. Since the breed he picked shares characteristics with “wild hogs” (like coat color and texture, tail configuration, nose shape, etc), starting April 1, Michigan DNR agents can come onto small family farms across the state, kill the naturally-raised hogs, and arrest the farmers. These farmers will face felony charges punishable by up to four years in prison — for farming HOGS!
When I look at injustices like this, my first thought is, “Follow the money!” Large, factory farms in Michigan (and many other states across the nation) feel threatened by these small farmers who provide a better product. Now, the reality is that small farmers with their superior product will never gain ground over factory farms with their inhumane farming practices. Much like the mainstream dairy lobby (which feels threatened by raw milk), commercial, large-scale hog producers fear the little guys, so they’ve successfully lobbied in the state of Michigan to destroy the livelihood of farmers like Mark Baker.
Small, family farms are being attacked on multiple fronts as commercial producers question their own business practices. While small farms fill an important niche (as people search for healthier, locally-produced, ethically-raised food), they’re never going to get the same kind of revenue. You’d never know that to hear the lobbyists tell it though, and that’s why these small, most family-owned farms are under attack.
For some background on Mr. Baker’s story specifically: