Michigan’s small farmers took another big loss, this time to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which used the state’s Invasive Species Act to gain jurisdiction over small pig farming operations. The DNR’s Invasive Species Order (ISO) went into effect on December 13, 2011 and says that some pigs, descending from Russian boars, are automatically considered “feral pigs.” Even pigs that have been domesticated and cared for under human husbandry on small family specialty farms are now considered feral, according to the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.
“The DNR has strayed into the unfamiliar territory of agriculture regulation. Given the nebulous and open ended description by which pigs are targeted, farmers fear for their futures,” the president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund noted when the fight first revved up.
After a long legal battle between the Michigan DNR and Russian breed pig farmers, the small farmers have lost a major battle. One pig ranching operation, Baker’s Green Acres, a farming operation raising Mangalitsa pigs, was running a very successful small farming business in Michigan, appealing to a niche group of consumers who were purchasing exotic breed pork for its health benefits. Farmer Mark Baker did reach a settlement with the DNR last year, so according to 9 and 10 News, he doesn’t expect the DNR to come after his pigs, but he remains uneasy. DNR Public Information Officer Ed Golder says it’s too early to be able to say how the DNR will choose to enforce the newest ruling.
An old Baker’s Green Acres video explains why some consumers prefer exotic breed pork to the pork traditionally found in grocery stores.
Of course, the Michigan Pork Producers Association and other large agriculture entities in Michigan have supported the DNR’s fight against exotic breed pig farmers. Michigan consumers will now have few options for their pork purchasing besides the meat of pigs raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The Michigan DNR says that swine such as Russian boars, are already running wild in the state. The DNR says that all actual feral swine at large in Michigan came from Russian boars once under human care. Of course, one thing that is not mentioned about how wild pigs came to settle in the American wilderness is that over a century ago, pigs were often transported by hog drives across a less-tamed countryside. Additionally, wild boar were once deliberately introduced. More than farming mishaps, wild pigs that have escaped from human care usually fled large hunting preserves.
The Russian breeds of pig have been called a four-legged Asian carp.” With high resistance to the elements, if the pigs escape, they are able to survive in the wild easily. Heritage breed pig farmers will not suffer, according to the DNR, “unless they own a Russian boar or a hybrid of a Russian boar.”
“The DNR’s approach to its task rests on rational grounds,” the appeals judges Kirsten Frank Kelly, Elizabeth Gleicher, and Deborah Servitto stated, finding the DNR’s ban constitutional, according to the Detroit Free Press. “The evidence presented by the DNR substantiates that the pigs identified in the (order) threaten the environment even though many of them are currently caged.”
“Plaintiffs’ insistence that their Russian boars are not ‘wild,’ and therefore incapable of ravaging the environment, does not alter our analysis,” Judge Gleicher said.
Michigan’s DNR has come under public scrutiny over its feral pig ban repeatedly. Earlier this year, for example, the ban on feral swine resulted in a family’s pot bellied pig getting shot by a DNR officer who thought it was a wild boar.
The Michigan DNR also ended up in hot water recently over the sale of land that was said to be protected by an 1836 treaty between the government and Native Americans.