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Michigan Agency Creates Hardship for Heritage Pig Farmers, Hunting Preserves say Legal Experts

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Factory Farming & Food Safety page and our Michigan News page.
Falls Church, Virginia -- Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is using the state Invasive Species Act to expand its jurisdiction beyond hunting and fishing to farming operations. Their controversial Invasive Species Order (ISO) prohibits certain pigs the agency deems "feral." The way it is enforcing the rule even domesticated pigs under human husbandry are suspect. Farmers, ranchers and game preserves with successful small businesses are now threatened with economic and criminal sanctions, based on the physical characteristics of their swine.

Implementation of the ISO, as of April 1st, not only takes private property without compensation it also denies farmers of fundamental private property rights and the right to make a living. It will reduce or eliminate customer access to heritage breed pork, a product that has become increasingly popular with health conscious consumers and restaurants across the state.

The ISO allows DNR to seize and destroy pigs raised by Michigan farmers; Michigan DNR has publicly stated they will not compensate farmers whose pigs are destroyed. Possession of prohibited swine after April 1, 2012 is a felony with penalties of up to two years in jail and $20,000 in fines.

Attorney Joseph O'Leary is suing the DNR on behalf of four of the aggrieved business owners. He explains, "Wildlife is owned by the state; it is the role of the DNR to regulate and control state property. Livestock on farms is privately owned and properly belongs in the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture. When a governmental agency blurs these lines, people had better wake up and take notice because at that point we are all in a lot of trouble."

Game preserve owner, Greg Johnson, reports that these special interest groups find it easier to get their way by pressuring state employees, rather than representatives elected by the people. "The DNR is waging a propaganda campaign of outright lies, which has already driven many farmers out of business. We are not swimming in feral swine--there is no feral hog problem in Michigan." Johnson reports his business has already dropped in half as a result of the state led smear effort, and the three dozen or so private hunting preserves have dwindled down to a handful. 
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