Farmer says food inspection looked like a 'raid'

Dec 23, 2015

Mark Baker has been on YouTube the last week briefing his supporters about an effort by the state to inspect his farm with a warrant.

Food inspectors used a warrant signed by a judge to visit a farm near Cadillac last week. State police troopers were also on hand for the inspection of Bakers Green Acres last Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Jennifer Holton, called the inspection “routine.”

But the farmer, Mark Baker, characterized it on his YouTube channel as a “raid.”

“They pulled in like it was a raid,” he says. “Like we were going to run the other way or flush drugs down the toilet.”

Baker fought the state in court for years over rules meant to ban certain types of pigs in Michigan as an invasive species. He believes the visit last week was harassment because of that previous dispute which ended for him last year.

Holton says the inspection was triggered by the fact that Baker was selling cured meats. Inspectors took a piece of prosciutto from a restaurant in Traverse City that had come from Bakers Green Acres.

In an email message, Holton did not directly accuse Baker of operating illegally but said:

"If the cured meat and sausage products are being offered for sale, they must be produced from animals slaughtered under USDA inspection and for the cured meat products only sold to retail customers after variance approval by MDARD."

Holton says the department wants to "help facilitate Mr. Baker's business to operate under the same rules and regulations followed by others."

Baker says his processing facility is approved by the USDA and his commercial kitchen is approved by the State of Michigan.

He says if there was a problem or question they could have discussed it over the phone.

“They have yet to ask me anything,” he told IPR.

He complains on YouTube that the warrant gave inspectors three days to go through his food operation.

“For a tiny violation that could have been corrected with a phone call,” says Baker

Jennifer Holton says the state will get an inspection warrant when a farmer has previously had concerns about the state violating private property rights. She says police typically accompany inspectors with a warrant.

The inspection never actually happened. Jennifer Holton says Mark Baker wouldn’t allow it. Baker says he asked inspectors to wait so he could have some witnesses come and watch what they did. He says inspectors left before his friends arrived.