California’s Department of Food and Agriculture has targeted a second goat-milk-producing herdshare for shutdown.
Green Uprising, a farm with eight milking goats and 27 shareholders, in Mendocino County, said it received a cease-and-desist order last week. Like Evergreen Acres in San Jose (discussed in my June 29 post) the operators say they are abiding by the order, and hoping to challenge the orders legally.
The CDFA is making no bones about its determination to crack down on herdshares. When I inquired into the San Jose situation, Steve Lyle, the public affairs director of the CDFA, said in a statement, “Any distribution of dairy products that is commercial in nature is subject to California licensing and inspection laws.”
What is commercial in nature? “The department considers any distribution beyond a private residence that is producing exclusively for the residents’ own use as subject to regulation.”
He noted that CDFA is “interested in working with the operators of the farm to bring them into compliance with state law.” That means making sure they have the required buildings and equipment of a commercial dairy.
All of which raises the question: should the herdshares shut down, or should they defy the unofficial orders (unofficial in that cease-and-desist orders have no judicial backing).
I think they should defy the orders. From the scant evidence we have, those who defy regulatory orders make out okay, while those who go along and shut down, well, they stay shut down. Rawesome Foods, a food club in Venice, CA, opened the day after its June 30, 2010, shutdown in a raid, and remains open today. Same with Vernon Hershberger, the Wisconsin dairy farmer, who cut the seals placed on his coolers by the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. The Minneapolis food club, Traditional Foods Minnesota, tried to work things out with regulators after its shutdown a year ago June, and remains shuttered to this day.
I know it’s easy for me to write all this defiance on a blog, while real farmers put their rear ends on the line. So I’ll add a proviso: the shareholders and food club members should agree to provide legal backing to their producers. That could mean anything from hiring top-notch local legal help to insisting their names are added as defendants in any legal action (and making that claim before a judge if the prosecutors don’t do it).
Consumers have to do more than go out and wave a few placards (not that that isn’t important). They have to put themselves on the line as well. There is strength in numbers.
Moreover, there is publicity value. The dynamics suddenly change, and the episode becomes something to be covered by the media.
It’s hard to know what the big brave enforcers directing this assault on tiny farms and their shareholders will do if they see ordinary people putting themselves in harm’s way, and making real financial commitments, but it certainly will give them pause. The bullies like to isolate their victims, make them feel as if they alone will bear all the burdens.
In this war, the enemy will continue to up the intimidation quotient. To the extend the targets go along with the bully’s demands, they lose.