In a battle that’s been going on for at least a year, a Michigan pig farmer is facing $700,000 for refusing to buckle against an odd and overreaching law. In that state, in an effort to control what they say are feral hogs running amok, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has banned all “heritage hogs”. Basically, this means that if you aren’t running a large-scale hog farm and raising cookie-cutter pigs like the big boys of the pork industry, you risk fines and eventual shut-down.
According to a report last year from State Senator Darwin L. Booher, heritage pigs are niche animals that have grown in popularity among small farm operations. Mark Baker, a farmer and retired Air Force, raises two types of heritage hogs—Mangalitsa and Russian swine—at his small farm.
Despite what the DNR’s law would have people think, these pigs are penned and reportedly well taken care of; they are not running all over Michigan like wild boars or impregnating mainstream swine on traditional pig farms.
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The DNR issued something called an Invasive Species Order (ISO) in December 2010, saying that certain types of pigs are invasive and can’t be raised on Michigan farms. Whether it’s their lack of knowledge regarding swine or a desire to take out the little guys, the ISO included all breeds of heritage pigs, including even potbellied pigs which many people keep as pets.
Two years later, in December 2012, the DNR clarified their ISO, describing the physical characteristics that deemed certain pigs as being feral. While they say their ISO is designed to control the state’s feral pig problem, their ISO listed nearly all characteristics that make certain heritage breeds look different, which has nothing to do with them being “feral” (wild or undomesticated).
Heritage pig farmer Baker was given a certain amount of time to get rid of his swine. He refused. Now, he faces $700,000 in fines for “harboring” 70 heritage pigs. He is fighting the DNR’s rule in court, arguing his pigs are not invasive, nor feral, and the over-reaching rule is poorly written. In the meantime, he’s holding on to his pigs.