For Immediate Release
More about Mark Baker
About the Michigan swine ISO
Farm advocates to gather for a court hearing of the Bakers
Falls Church, Virginia–(July 8, 2013)–The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), through the Michigan Attorney General, is asking the judge hearing Mark Baker’s case to fine him $700,000. DNR believes Mark has 70 “illegal pigs” being raised in violation of an invasive species order (ISO). Possession of prohibited swine 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 for raising what the state deems the wrong breed of pig.
In February of 2012, Baker filed suit against the state of Michigan for loss of livelihood due to the ISO. Supporters of food rights from around the country will gather at the Missaukee County Courthouse in Lake City, Michigan at 2:00 pm on July 12, 2013, for an initial hearing in the case. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF), a farmer advocacy group, has provided funding for legal representation in the Mark Baker case.
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.”
Baker and supporters hope that the hearing July 12 will lead to a dismissal of the fines and determine whether there will be a jury for the trial on August 27, 2013.
|Mark Baker with Senator Darwin Booher in 2012 [Photo: HarteIsOnline.com]|
Mark Baker filed a complaint in February 2012 against the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) over the impending implementation of an Invasive Species Order (ISO) that prohibited certain swine. The ISO was supposedly issued in 2010 to control the feral pig population in Michigan and went into effect April 1, 2012. DNR issued a Declaratory Ruling in December 2012 which made it clear that most any pig in Michigan–except those of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs)–would be considered prohibited based on physical characteristics.
As a member of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, Mark requested financial assistance with his case. He is currently being represented by Attorney Michelle Halley; she successfully handled the case for Randy Buchler. The Fund is not an insurance company and cannot guarantee representation on all legal matters; possible representation is just one of the benefits of membership.
Anyone wanting to make a contribution towards legal expenses can make a donation online or send a check to:
8116 Arlington Blvd, # 263
Falls Church, VA 22042
Prefer to make a tax-deductible donation? For details, go to farmtoconsumer.org/PIL