Michigan bans heritage pigs by Sen. Darwin Booher
When Mark Baker retired from the Air Force after protecting our
nation for 20 years, he never thought he would be fighting his own state
government to protect his family’s livelihood. Unfortunately, that’s
what is happening now.
[See video by Mark Baker below; image of Mangalitsas from Food Channel]
Four years ago, Mark, his wife and six children began raising
Mangalitsa and Russian swine at Baker’s Green Acres farm. The breeds are
two of the many types of heritage hogs, and there is a tremendous
market for niche animals like these pigs for small farm operations.
However, Mark and other farmers that raise heritage swine are being
told by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that they
must get rid of them by April 1.
In December 2010, the Michigan DNR
issued an invasive species order (ISO) to make certain types of swine an
invasive species, which prohibits farmers from raising them on their
farms. The order became effective on Oct. 8, 2011 and affects all
heritage hogs in Michigan. Even potbellied pigs, which are often raised
as pets, may now be considered an invasive species in Michigan.
It’s ironic that just a week after the ISO’s effective date, Traverse
City hosted Pigstock, a four-day course about Michigan Mangalitsa pigs.
The course taught about breeding and husbandry practices, methods of
processing, and charcuterie. Chefs from throughout the Midwest attended
the conference. Now, the DNR’s order jeopardizes not only this
conference, but the economic opportunities for small farm operations
that raise heritage pigs.
The DNR’s thinking is irrational. The department says we must ban
certain pigs because the state has a feral hog problem (pigs running
at-large or outside a fence). But since all pigs outside of a fence are
feral and the DNR cannot genetically differentiate between swine, the
department decided to ban certain pigs in Michigan simply due to their
In December 2012, the DNR issued a ruling describing the
characteristics that pigs cannot have or they will be considered an
invasive species. Hence the Mangalista, along with many other breeds of
swine that look different, are now considered invasive.
The politics of all of this – let’s call it pig politics – has been nothing less than amazing.
The small farmers I have talked to wonder why the DNR is singling out
their pigs and joining forces with the Michigan Pork Producers
Association on this issue. They believe the association wants all pigs
to be raised in confinement facilities, and the best way to achieve that
is to make it illegal to raise certain swine, especially those offering
alternatives to the white pork raised in confinement.
In a Nov. 2, 2010 Traverse City Record-Eagle story, Agriculture
Commissioner Don Coe said the Mangalitsa pigs can be grown locally, “not
in large feedlots, but humanely, on small farms, the way they used to
I believe it was a mistake for the DNR to involve itself in an
agricultural issue that is not associated whatsoever with its mission.
The DNR is charged with management of game and wildlife owned by the
public – not the regulation of privately-owned animals. That is the
responsibility of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural
My legislative colleagues and I have repeatedly asked the DNR to
revise the ISO so it will not apply to pigs that are raised by people.
We specifically asked DNR Director Rodney Stokes to rescind the order or
revise it to apply only to pigs running wild outside a fence. Governor
Snyder could also require it to be changed. Unfortunately neither has
This is a perfect example of government and bureaucrats moving their
own agendas forward with total disregard for the law, private property
rights and the Constitution.
Most importantly, it leaves Mark Baker – a man who has served our
country honorably – little choice but to take action on his own to
protect his family’s way of life from an overzealous state department.
Beyond Mark, there are farmers all across Michigan that the DNR dictates
must depopulate their animals because they are invasive species simply
based on looks.
I oppose the DNR’s actions and will continue to stand up against this state government overreach.
I encourage you to contact Governor Snyder and DNR Director Stokes
to express your opposition to this type of government behavior. Ask
them to rescind this order and stand up for the small businesses that
are providing choice in Michigan’s food industry.
Feb 2012 Video by Mark Baker, described in Sen. Boohar’s OpEd: