Grist.org has now picked up the story of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources ban on hogs displaying feral characteristics. I covered the juicy bits last week, but I left out the conspiratorial parts concerning the role played by the Michigan Pork Producers Association (PPA) in implementing the order. Via Grist:

In a recent post on Take Part, Clare Leschin-Hoar spoke with Sam Hines, executive vice president of the Michigan Pork Producers Association, who fully admits that his organization, and the massive industry they represent, is involved in the order.

Hines says they’ve trapped a number of feral pigs and have tested them for diseases, including pseudorabies.

“It’s not something that humans would get, but it’s devastating to some species of livestock. If that virus gets disseminated to the domestic or commercial swine herd in this state, we would become quarantined. It would be economically devastating to our producers,” he said.

But so far, he admits, the transfer of pseudorabies from feral pigs to domesticated hogs has not occurred.

This is the website for the Michigan Pork Producers Association. You can click through, but in order to get my point all you need to see is the banner picture from their website:

This is an aerial shot of a CAFO, over-layed on top of a picture of a packed group of landrace hogs, standing on a concrete floor behind the bars of a cage. This picture is entirely antithetical to the idea of heritage breed cultivation, and it should sum up the  perspective of the organization which helped to draft the Invasive Species Order.

I am not one to entertain paranoid conspiracy theories, so I do not think the PPA sees the sale of a few heritage-bred pigs as a mortal threat to the business interests of its constituents. The commodity culture does not yet feel threatened by the minuscule market share of dispersed and disorganized heritage-breed producers. Let’s play nice and concede that their support of the Order stems from some sincere desire to protect their business from cross-over diseases which infect wild hogs.

But after looking at this picture, there can be no doubt why the DNR’s order was written with such stunning, obnoxious broadness. The Michigan PPA is proud to show pictures of CAFOs and pigs on concrete behind bars. The organization represents a commodity culture with a tin-ear for what is important to a certain type of consumer, and they will unabashedly, proudly even, put their deplorable agricultural ethos on display right on the front page. To members of the PPA, heritage breeders as weirdo dilettantes, a novelty act, and they just don’t understand the kinds of markets the heritage breeders are trying to develop. They look upon heritage producers with ridicule, if they even look at all.

You do not need to invent a conspiracy theory to resent arrogance like this. For the time being, the commodity culture is the one with a seat at the table, calling the shots and drafting the regulations. With a crew like the PPA drafting the DNR order, is it any wonder why it failed so miserably to account for the business needs of small scale farmers?

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