Michigan pig farmer Mark Baker got some strange holiday greetings from his state’s Department of Natural Resources late last week: a search warrant, served by regulators accompanied by state police. The warrant apparently had to do with a packaging issue discovered with one customer using Baker’s pork–a pretty severe action for one possible packaging problem.
Baker describes the warrant, and the response of his neighbors and friends in coming to his aid, in a video recorded last Friday. He says in the video that he was trying to “defuse” the situation by asking people not to congregate at his farm. He also said he had had his eight children taken from the farm because “there were too many people with guns around.”
This latest escapade by Michigan authorities is merely their latest effort to make life in Michigan a hell on earth for farmer and U.S. Air Force vet Baker. The state has been after him for the last four years for having the gall to want to raise pigs it considers feral, and illegal. When Baker in 2013 got a judge to uphold Baker’s right to raise his pigs his way, the state wasn’t pleased.
In fact, in a direct courtroom confrontation with pig farmer Mark Baker, recorded on video, assistant attorney general Hal Martin told Baker, “You don’t get it, do you?”
As I pointed out in a 2014 blog post, what Martin meant was this: You don’t get it that we have absolute power over you.
Michigan has merely been keeping its word. According to one supporter, “The state veterinarian put enough pressure on just about every butcher within a hundred mile radius of Mark and Jill’s and no one would process these pigs….The Dept. of Ag/USDA put enough pressure on all of the restaurants that bought from Bakers that none of them would continue to buy their meat.” These regulators are good at imitating the Mafia, and carrying out threats.
A month ago, the Bakers put out word on Facebook that they would appreciate receiving orders from people outside Michigan, and very quickly, orders poured in. The state enforcers likely didn’t take well to the possibility that Baker could continue to sell meat to the many people who appreciate what he does.
It’s also worth noting that Mark Baker’s state ranks dead last among the nation’s 50 states in “public integrity.” Michigan certainly hasn’t been a model of state economic development in recent decades. It seems to be much better at getting rid of employers who aren’t part of the corporate network than welcoming them.
That survey suggests that some states aren’t as bad as Michigan. Indeed, some states have over recent years become more welcoming to small farms, including small raw dairy farms. Or maybe the better way to say it is that they have become less hostile. States like Pennsylvania and New York seem to have come to realize that small farms not only pay taxes, but bring in often significant amounts of revenue, which circulates in local communities and helps create jobs.
Smart farmers are certainly learning not to trust Michigan as a place to set up shop. It works first and foremost to protect its corporate citizens.