We learned an interesting thing recently.  The State of Michigan decided that our nice, quiet, well-behaved Mangalitsa pigs are an invasive species of hog and pose a threat to the natural environment and therefore must be removed from Michigan/destroyed.  In a declatory ruling (meaning that they didn’t go through the legislature and studiously ignored our representatives) the Department of Natural Resources identified  “sus scrofa” as an invasive species.  “Sus scrofa” are hogs that live in the wild, defined by the legislature as outside the husbandry of humans.  They are the root stock of our domestic breeds, and therefore many heritage breeds carry some similarities (for example, Mangalitsa piglets are striped).  The DNR will  identify these animals based on phenotype (visual characteristics) and list such a broad set of descriptions that the only hogs not identifiable as “sus scrofa” are white breeds most commonly raised in CAFO hog barns.  Hmmm…..  To clarify, they identify 8 breeds as “sus domestica” (identified by wikipedia as a subspecies of the wild boer, and defined by the MI legislature as hogs under the husbandry of man/humans).  Good luck finding out if the hogs your farmer is raising are on the list or not.  Both our legislator (Darwin Booher) and a group of interested growers attending a DNR sponsored session asked for the list.  Both were denied.

All this begs the question, why? With all the genetic diversity celebrated in small scale hog production, where heritage breeds flourish, why is a government entity seeking to squash this healthy variety and limit the genetic pool to only 8 breeds (providing they don’t discover one or more of these 8 are also invasive–see the ending clause)?  Why are they seeking to inhibit small family farm hog production when agriculture and small farms are the happening things in Michigan right now?  The answer to these questions lies in looking at who benefits from this action.  From our inquiries, the driving force is the Michigan Pork Producers Association, encouraged by the American Pork Producers Association.  Hmmm….  Which breeds are allowed, again??

The DNR identifies sport hunting farms as their target, but they paint with such a broad brush (a double wide roller, perhaps) that food producers are in the sights as well.  That affects you, because small farms need these breeds that can be raised outside, on pasture, foraging for a share of their food.  The white breeds that are “acceptable” are really adapted for hog house production.  We know this because we’ve raised some of both kinds and have seen the value of the heritage breeds in heritage production systems.

This will be  an interesting situation to keep up with.  It significantly impacts small farms and those who value heritage foods.  Outcry seems to be making an impact as the governor has shifted from unequivocal support of the DNR ruling to comments that perhaps the legislature could come up with a better solution.  Court challenges are planned.  Let your legislators know what you think, continue to encourage your local farmers, and stay tuned………