Letter: Get facts straight on feral pigs

I am writing in response to the misleading article regarding the state's wild pig issue (“Hog farmers snort at Michigan’s boar ban,” Feb. 21). I was very involved with this issue during my time in the Legislature, as I visited many of the farms, and am, myself, a lifelong farmer. It is easy to assume the Department of Natural Resources has no bias, just facts, and is the more reliable source, but I have seen this isn't true.

The article correctly stated there was an order in 2010 to ban certain pigs, but didn't mention it was put on hold for six months to give the Legislature time to create a permit and allow the DNR to regulate them. The DNR had its own preferred version with high fees and onerous rules, and some DNR staff and special interest groups worked to see the compromise I sponsored fail so the original ban would go into effect.

I realized this issue was not really about a feral swine problem in Michigan, since laws already existed for feral pigs that were not being enforced. Instead, the debate was really about government control of farms, ranches and competition with other pork producers.

The article continues the myth these pigs are more prolific, hardy, vicious and destructive than any other animal—breaking down any fence, avoiding traps and spreading disease. It uses one farm's sales pitch as supporting evidence. Most businesses talk up their products, but hyperbole and sales pitches don't make facts. The real fact is that good fences really do stop them. These ranches and farms would go out of business otherwise. Traps are also effectively used by both the USDA and the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy. And furthermore, these farmers regularly tested all their pigs to be disease free.

The article also suggests that the 2010 ban on these pigs is the cause for the decrease in wild pigs since 2010. However, according to the DNR’s own expert’s testimony, the largest number of feral pigs didn't come from legal in-state game ranches, but from illegally imported out-of-state pigs that were already wild. He also testified to a maximum population of 1,800 feral pigs. The ban may have stopped the bad actors from these already illegal imports, but it didn't allow the good businesses to continue.

The DNR and interest groups justify their practices and existences at the expense of the taxpayers, especially now in the legal battles. But these ranches were significant contributors to our local communities by supplying restaurants and bringing hunters from around the world.

Our state government made intimidating, surprise visits to these farms and ranches and eventually took previously legal, private property without due process or compensation. They may not have killed the piglets themselves, but they did force the farmers to do so. Their actions hurt small family businesses and dreams.

Former state Rep. Ed McBroom