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Farm Family Threatened with $700,000 Fine for Raising Pigs

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Falls Church, VA, July 8, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- 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 March 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 2:00pm 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, threatening the livelihood of small, family farming operations. 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 a "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. "This order denies consumers access to the 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.

For additional information on the events, www.bakersgreenacres.com/?p=2332

Farm Food Freedom Coalition wants to ensure that America's treasures, our independent farms and ranches, are able to thrive. We aim to preserve our agricultural heritage and the future availability of traditional, farm fresh foods. Americans want and deserve the freedom to choose natural, unprocessed foods for generations to come. Visit our website: www.farmfoodfreedom.org.

The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund defends the rights and broadens the freedoms of family farms and artisan food producers while protecting consumer access to raw milk and nutrient-dense foods. Those concerned can support the FTCLDF, a U.S. based 501(c)(4) nonprofit, by joining or donating online at www.farmtoconsumer.org or by calling 703-208-FARM (3276).

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CONTACT: Contact: Pete Kennedy, Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, 703-208-FARM, pete@farmtoconsumer.org. Liz Reitzig, Co-founder, Farm Food Freedom Coalition, 301-807-5063, lizreitzig@gmail.com

Source:Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund