Farm Regulation in Michigan Could Potentially Harm Indiana Farmers

By Rachel Martin

March 25, 2012 Updated Mar 25, 2012 at 7:08 PM EDT

ROANOKE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – The Michigan DNR is expanding its Invasive Species Act to include farmers and the swine they raise. A local farmer says it could affect Indiana as well as the culinary industry.¬

Eshelman says he's giving Indiana a "heads-up"

“It seems unfair and unjust,” said Eshelman. “We wanted our customers to know what was going on in the food industry and also a little head’s up in Indiana to make sure that kind of law doesn’t come here and start infringing upon the local food movement and discouraging farmers to grow great foods like ours, and consumer who are interested in local foods.”

In Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has now imposed the Invasive Species Act, issued in December 2010, on farmers. That means by April 1, farmers must destroy heritage, or "wild", breeds of swine or they will be violating the law.

Eshelman owns Joseph Decuis farm and restaurant in Roanoke, Ind., an establishment known for its top quality beef and pork.

“For the restaurant we serve foods that we raise on our farm, but also we source foods from like-minded farms,” Eshelman said. “One of our like-minded farmers is under attack, and actually he’ll be put out of business.”

That farmer is Wshelman's friend, Mark Baker in Marion, Mich. Baker retired from the Air Force after 20 years. His State Senator, Darwin Booher, says, “after protecting our nation for 20 years, he never though he would be fighting his own state government to protect his family’s livelihood.” Baker, like Eshelman, raises a species the Michigan DNR considers "feral"—the Mangalitsa pig.

The Michigan DNR wants to outlaw pigs that fit the description of “wild” or “feral” pigs, like a dark wooly coat, erect ears, and a straight tail—which happens to fit the description of the Mangalitsa pig.

“Mangalitsa is not a feral pig,” Eshelman said. “It’s one of the most high sought after pork products in the world. It’s kind of like calling Secretariat, the race horse, a mule or a wild horse, and you’re going to get rid of wild horses. It’s just ridiculous.”

Aaron Butts, Executive Chef at Joseph Decuis, says this kind of regulation on Indiana would not only hurt farmers, but also the culinary industry.

He says if Indiana’s DNR implemented that regulation, Joseph Decuis would have to outsource pork, most likely from confined animal farming operations or CAFOs—which are exempt from Michigan’s Invasive Species Order.

“It’s definitely a big part of what we’re known for. We’re known for quality and how we source our ingredients, and the farm is a huge part of the restaurant. People respect the fact that when they come in they know where their food’s coming from.” Butts said. “I could get a lot of pork for a lot less cost, but it’s not going to be good, and our customers aren’t going to come for that. They’re not going to settle for that.”

Eshelman and Butts say they have theories on why Michigan is imposing such laws.

“I think it started out as feral pigs are out in the wild and they tear up farms and crops. There are parts of the country where that’s an issue, so you really have to do something about that,” Eshelman said.

“With Michigan, it seems the government is trying to move them in opposite direction of where we should be going,” Butts said. “They should be supporting the local agriculture, preserving these heritage swine breeds. They’re [farmers] doing everything right, and they’re trying to say ‘no you can’t do that anymore’.”

But, could a law like that be regulated in Indiana?

“The Indiana Department of Agriculture has been awesome to work with and they really try to foster and push locally raised foods and family farms, so I would be surprised but you never know,” said Eshelman. “But what would happen is, they’re just going to wipe out a whole lot of family farms.”

Indiana’s NewsCenter tried contacting Michigan and Indiana DNR, but no one was available for comment Sunday.

To learn more about what’s going on in Michigan and read Mark Baker’s story visit “Baker’s Green Acres” under News Links on our homepage.

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