Friday, January 31, 2014
Feds threatening Michigan family farm with armed raid
Mark Baker, owner of Baker's Green Acres, told Natural News in an interview that he was informed recently by a former business associate that local state and federal agriculture officials have been forbidden from contacting him because he is potentially dangerous.
In particular, he said, one USDA field agent whom the associate identified as Tom Gallagher, allegedly labeled Baker, a disabled U.S. Air Force veteran, as a "gun-wielding lunatic" and said agency supervisors have made it clear that only "armed DNR [Department of Natural Resources] agents" are allowed to visit Baker's property.
"[H]e stated vehemently that he and any other MDARD [Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development] employee[s] were expressly forbidden from visiting or in any way contacting Mark Baker or Baker's Green Acres," Baker said in a letter to the Missaukee County Sheriff's Department, informing law enforcement officials of the incident. "This was an order that 'came down from the top.' He also stated that only 'armed DNR agents' would visit our farm and that [I] was portrayed as a 'gun-wielding lunatic.'"
"I consider this to be a threat to me and my family," Baker, who retired from the Air Force, wrote.
Heavy fines and and a longstanding dispute
Baker's troubles with state and federal officials began in 2012 when the Michigan Department of Natural Resources issued new guidance on what constitutes feral - wild - pigs. A December 2011 "Declaratory Ruling" issued by the MDNR listed nine traits which redefined Baker's pigs - and thousands of others across the state that were being raised by other farmers - as "invasive species," which, as such, must be destroyed.
But Baker says he and other family farmers in the state have been raising the same species of pigs for decades; they believe that the Declaratory Ruling, which was issued following a petition by the Michigan Animal Farmers Association, was arbitrary and made in deference to the conventional pork industry as a way to destroy competition.
Baker has thus far defied the order, drawing a $700,000 fine and, apparently, the ire of agriculture officials. He says he is scheduled to take the issue to court in March, where he is confident that he will be vindicated.
In the meantime, however, he believes that Gallagher's comments are an indication that the "threat level is increasing," and he says he fears that a further escalation of tensions - already thick in the area - is taking place, albeit needlessly.
"I spoke to (Missaukee County Sheriff James) Bosscher a couple of summers ago when all of this started," Baker told Natural News. "He wasn't interested."
"He can diffuse all of this," Baker continued, "but he refuses to do so."
No word from the sheriff's department
Baker said his recent letter to the sheriff's department was accompanied by a formal police report.
"While there is no specific time frame, the fact that the only contact I would have from the state government would be at the business end of a loaded weapon held by someone who's been led to believe I'm out to hurt him/her (that's what 'gun wielding lunatics' do) is disconcerting," the letter said. "I have never expressed sentiments of bodily harm towards any government agent. The government, however, has a track record of painting a picture of a suspect and then acting on their suppositions with no regard for the facts. Often they disregard local law enforcement, who may have a true knowledge of a 'suspect' in their pursuit of their goal. This is disturbing and I take it very seriously."
I am requesting written assurance that myself and my family are safe from an unannounced, SWAT team style raid. We have no intention of engaging the DNR on such a physical threat level. ... We have chosen a civil route to resolve this conflict and are seeking written assurance that they have confirmed an equally civil approach to you. I am also requesting written confirmation or denial of the no contact orders.
Thus far, he says, he has received no such assurances - no word at all, in fact - from the sheriff's department.
Nevertheless, he's looking forward to settling the matter - in court - and soon. "They've just about put me out of business," he says.