Mark BakerYou listen to Mark Baker of Bakers Green Acres vent about his run-in with the state of Michigan over its plan to ban heritage breeds of pigs, and he could be a raw dairy producer. There’s the same amazement-turned-outrage that his own government could be coming down on small farmers like him producing nutritious tasty food.

Interestingly, the fact that he isn’t a raw milk producer probably gives him more credibility. Nothing weird about pork, after all, most everyone eats some at one time or another.

But what’s really going on here? Something not all that different from what goes on in the dairy industry, or the chicken and beef industries. An article on the web site of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund explains the legal and farm situations very clearly.

Obviously, the state and Big Ag’s Michigan Pork Producers Association don’t like small farms raising nutrient-dense food. But why? Because these outfits want total control of the market, in particular, control of the sources of supply. Here are three ways they seek to gain control:

1. They try, in this case, to limit the specie options. In the dairy arena, they try to eliminate an entire category of food (raw milk, and products made from raw milk). Of course, it’s the species diversity and the raw milk that growing numbers of consumers truly want, and are willing to pay extra for. To anyone who says the MI Pork Producers Association is trying to limit competition, the organization will reply that, no, any farmer can produce the one or two species that are still allowed. But, of course, small farms that are limited to producing the same breeds as the big producers have no way to set themselves apart, and are forced to become part of the commodity economy. You want American Species Pork at $3 a pound or $6 a pound? If pork-is-pork-is-pork, then you’ll insist on it at $3 a pound.

2. They want to force small pork producers to remain serfs forever, as part of the Big Ag vertically-integrated marketplace, where prices are dictated by the major processors. Small farmers who sell direct to consumers threaten the vertically integrated industry model, where farmers have no pricing say.

Harper’s Magazine had an excellent article a couple months ago about “the new monopolies” and our society’s growing tolerance of monopolistic practices, compared to 50 and 60 years ago. The author described the marketplace for chicken producers, whereby a large producer “requires the farmers to procure from the company itself all the chicks they raise and all the feed they blow into the houses. Yet the quality of the chicks and the feed can differ tremendously, from day to day and from farm to farm…What’s more, the full-grown chickens are weighed after being trucked off the farm. The farmer is not allowed to see whether the figure on the scale is accurate—nor can he tell whether the chickens he’s being paid for even came from his farm. He is simply expected to take the money he is given and say thank you.” As I said, sounds a lot like the dairy processors as well.

3. They want to eliminate private membership contract options. It’s not just small farms they are after, but private hunting enclaves that stock heritage pigs. Now, these places may be distasteful because they they don’t necessarily promote animal welfare.

But it’s the private part that is important here. Food clubs and herdshares are being challenged by government lawyers, and the judiciary is going along, on the grounds they aren’t truly private. The more Big Ag can reinforce this argument,such as with private hunting clubs, the less chance of protection we’ll all have.

The Michigan hog situation is getting lots of attention online, and that’s good. It’s helping educate the public about the government’s real intentions in limiting food choice. Those intentions have nothing to do with safety, and have everything to do with protecting big business. Moreover, I’d make a large wager that the push by the MI Department of Natural Resources against heritage pigs isn’t just the random effort of one state bureaucracy. It’s a state doing some test marketing for the feds. If it works in Michigan, the program will go regional, then national.
The TV show, 60 Minutes, had a segment last evening about how the health dangers associated with sugar have become the nation’s leading public health challenge. (No April Fool’s joke, I gather.) Gee, even more than raw milk? Seems the scientists are coming to realize that sugar not only causes diabetes and heart problems, but also cancer. So how long before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration begins working to get rid of sugar? No, not in our lifetimes. Going after small dairy and pork farmers is so much more fun.