Mark Baker with one of his questionable pigs.Corporate hog producers and state agriculture regulators around the country are understood to be watching closely the legal case of Michigan hog farmer Mark Baker. 


What they are seeing is a highly tentative Michigan Department of Natural Resources, seemingly incapable of explaining what is wrong with the pigs Baker is raising, and was selling to high-end restaurants as recently as two years ago. That was before the DNR wrecked his business, along with that of many other farmers, with its Invasive Species Order, essentially banning wild, or “feral”, pigs, whether running wild or domesticated by farmers like Baker. The genetic traits listed by the order seemed to ban all pigs…. except the very few raised by corporate producers. 


Baker filed suit against the state, seeking clarification of the state’s order, and a judge rejected a state effort to dismiss the suit. He has also put on hold the DNR’s $700,000 fine of Baker for allegedly violating the ISO. 


At a hearing last week, an unusual scenario unfolded, in which the state appeared to want to let Baker off the hook, and Baker refused the vague initiative. In a video, Baker reported, “They say I have come into compliance. I have not done anything….When you hear that I have complied, I don’t want you to think I have broken under the pressure. I haven’t.” 


The state was seeking, once again last week, to have the case dismissed, but the state judge refused. The judge also refused a request from Baker for a jury trial when the case goes to trial March 11. 


According to Baker, a state prosecutor said the DNR determined from an earlier video, showing Baker holding a baby pig, that the pig was in compliance. “I don’t think they were wearing their bifocals. The pig I was holding up was a Mangelitsa,” which is one of the banned species. 

The state may have been confused as well by the fact that Baker reduced his pig herd a couple months ago to reduce his farm’s expenses. “We did, in fact, cull our Russian/Eurasian Boar looking sow and her daughters last December. However, we maintain our suit because the DNR has continued to deny us due process by refusing to define terms such as ‘hybrid,’ ‘domestic hog production,’ and ‘feral’ so that we can determine if our remaining pigs are legal or not. They continue to insist that how a pig looks determines its living arrangement.” 


“We won’t drop our lawsuit. We have not complied.”


On his web site, Baker made reference to the inconsistencies related to genetics: “They have never looked at our herd and have no real knowledge of their lineage. In all its vagaries, we are still unclear whether or not we are in compliance with the law. This is the question we had when this started and we continue to have.”


It seems reminiscent of the statement from U.S. Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart in a 1964 obscenity case, in which he stated that “hard-core pornography” was hard to define, but that “I know it when I see it.” 


A trial pitting Mark Baker vs. the Michigan DNR is set to go forward beginning Tuesday March 11, at the Missaukee County Courthouse, 111 Canal St, Lake City, MI. It’s scheduled to last four days. Everyone is invited to attend and show support for Mark Baker, and opposition to genetic purity laws for pigs that state regulators seem unable or unwilling to explain, except to say that they decide, on behalf of corporate producers, what is pure and what isn’t.