Mark Baker claims the pigs he raises on his Osceola County farm are better tasting and healthier than most pork on the market, but a recent change in Michigan’s invasive species law has him worried that the state will take his product and threaten his livelihood.
“They’ve identified me as a felon,” Baker said from his family farm, Baker’s Green Acres, in Marion.
Baker, who said he has about 30 heritage sows which have about 12 offspring each year, said the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wants to inspect the pigs to see if they are same breed that was banned in Michigan under the state’s invasive species list, which made it against the law to possess or raise feral pigs.
The law, which went into effect on April 1, prohibits several types of wild pigs that fall under the species sus scrofa linnaeus, including wild boars, hogs and swine; feral pigs, hogs and swine; Old World swine; razorback; Eurasian wild boar; and Russian wild boar. The DNR says the non-native swine are capable of decimating forests, farmland and small waterways, and are known to carry diseases and parasites.
The change doesn’t include the species (sus domestica), which is involved in domestic hog production.
Baker said the breed he produces is a better “red meat” than traditional “white-meat pigs that are raised indoors, packed close together and lack exposure to sunlight.
“I sell them to some of the best restaurants in Michigan, and (in) the United States,” he said.
Concerned about losing his animals under the state law, Baker said he contacted his state senator to address the issue.
State Sen. Darwin Booher (R-Evart), who has introduced several bills in attempts to deal with the DNR’s listing of feral swine on the log of prohibited invasive species, is now pitching another, Senate Bill (SB) 1235, that would give the state Legislature the authority to change the state’s invasive species list with the recommendations of the state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development after it consults with the DNR.
Currently, the list is maintained by the Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC), which has the authority to add or remove plant and animal species on the list after consulting with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and notifying the state Legislature.
Kara Butters, Booher’s legislative director, said SB 1235 was drafted after the senator heard concerns about the invasive species list from constituents in the state.
Butters said allowing the state Legislature to maintain the list would allow more public input into the process of controlling invasive species and quell concerns about what is legal or illegal to possess.
Great Michigan, a consortium of environmental, conservation and public health groups in the state, opposes the bill, claiming it would strip the NRC of its authority and ability to act quickly to stop the spread of invasive species that could harm the state.
State Sen. Mike Kowall (R-Commerce, Highland, Milford Township, Milford Village, Walled Lake, Wixom, Wolverine Lake, White Lake, Orchard Lake, West Bloomfield), a co-sponsor of the bill and member of the state Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee, said the bill gives some decision-making authority to the state Legislature and the public.
“The Legislature is the deciding process, and that’s where the decision making rests … We find sometimes that we are losing that decision-making process,” he said.