When last I reported on the case of Morningland Dairy–the Missouri cheesemaker with listeria monocytogenes in a few cheese samples, but no illnesses–a judge had sided with the state in arguing that the entire $250,000 of inventory should be destroyed.
It wasn’t the judge’s decision that raised eyebrows–after all, judges tend to believe the regulators first and foremost–but rather the judge’s reasoning. Even the state hadn’t alleged disease in any of Morningland’s cows, or unsanitary conditions on the farm…yet the judge concluded some cows had mastitis and that the facilities were “unsanitary”.
The judge’s surprise reasoning now has the parties to the suit wrangling over a possible appeal. Morningland Dairy and its legal representative, the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, are now trying to convince the judge, David Dunlop, to order a new trial or to reverse his original decision. Not an easy task in any event, to convince the judge to go against the regulators, but that he made the wrong decision.
The state of Missouri, not surprisingly, now sees the judge’s decision as eminently reasonable, despite the fact that it introduces information the state never raised as concerns. The state is arguing that FTCLDF can’t introduce an affidavit from the owner of Morningland, Denise Dixon, to buttress its case, or of a state inspector who didn’t find mastitis or unsanitary conditions.
It’s a messy legal situation, with the parties introducing legal briefs to counter the other…and convince the judge. The state at one point accuses Morningland, in introducing Denise Dixon’s affidavit, of an “insidious attempt to re-litigate issues already testified to and resolved at the trial.”
The FTCLDF replies that, “Nothing could be further from the truth. Ms. Dixon at trial did not testify to their procedure for banding cows that produced abnormal milk, for separating that milk, and that 75% of the cows that were culled were not even being milk or housed at the Dixon’s at the time.”
The FTCLDF concludes, “Rather than relying on evidence of mastitis, the State relied on somatic cell ount test results and the Dixon’s culling of the herd to insinuate there was mastitis in the herd at the time Morningland maufactured cheese. However, and as described in Morningland’s motion for new trial and with all due respect to the Court, the Court’s use of these somatic cell test results and subsequent culling constituted a classic case of the fallacious argument known as post hoc ergo propter hoc. A somatic cell count in excess of 750,000 for three non-consecutive months out of sixteen months does not constitute evidence of mastitis. Likewise, culling of a herd for financial reasons also does not constitute evidence of mastitis.
“To further reinforce Denis Dixon’s trial testimony that some animals were culled because her family was ‘financially stricken’ she provided an affidavit. Denise Dixon’s affidavit provides further evidence that, with respect to the Court, the Court’s conclusion that there was mastitis in the herd is an example of post hoc ergo propter hoc.” (Simplified, A occurred, then B occurred, therefore A caused B.)
All this because the judge decided to become what I would term an armchair scientist. It’s difficult to imagine a judge overruling himself, but as we sometimes say in sports, “The game isn’t over till it’s over.”
Two additional towns have approved the Food Sovereignty laws developed out of coastal Maine.
What may be the first town outside of Maine to approve such a law is Sandisfield, MA. Brigitte Ruthman, who has been battling with Massachusetts regulators over the legality of her one-cow herdshare, reports that her town earlier this months “adopted a resolution as follows…..’We the people of the town of Sandisfield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, have the right to produce, process, sell, purchase and consume local foods thus promoting self-reliance, the preservation of family farms and local food traditions.'”
And Deborah Evans, one of the original promoters of the Food Sovereignty idea, says the Maine town of Trenton just approved the ordinance as well, by a 29 to 25 vote.
That makes a total of five towns–four in Maine and one in Massachusetts–to approve the ordinances. I understand others are waiting in the wings.
Finally, there’s one other item from the Washington demonstration to support Amish farmer Dan Allgyer last Monday that I wanted to share. It’s a poem by Jonas Stoltzfus, a Pennsylvania farmer and head of the Pennsylvania Independent Consumers and Farmers Association (PICFA) , who arrived late to the demonstration and did his reading after many people had departed. Ii is entitled, “Leave Us Alone”:
We don’t need your license, permission to be,
In the home of the brave and the land of the free.
No permits are needed, it’s easy to see
All we ask of you, is just leave us be.
Our forefathers left Europe many years ago,
And came to America, to plant and to grow.
In Europe persecution is what drove us out,
They hammered us bad with government clout.
They beat us and hung us, some were skinned alive,
And boiled up in oil, like a bunch of French fries.
We were drownded and pounded, to make us submit
To the official religion, how they interpreted it.
But we fled to America, to the land of the free
To put down new roots, and it worked, you can see.
We’re peace-loving people, small farmers most,
But now again seems, like we’re government toast.
It looks like we’re fallin’ on hard times again.
This time seems the leaders, are trying us to skin
By economic pressure, make us change our ways,
Make us comply, to the regulation daze.
For years we’ve sold food to all who would buy,
Do our best to keep it whole, we always would try
So now all we’re asking, in our place in the sun,
Is just for some peace, and just leave us alone.
Just leave us alone, is all that we ask,
Let each of us get on, with what is our task.
We get up each morning, and do our own thing
As we’re working along, sometimes we sing.
We’re producing the food that many folks like,
Most of the stuff does a body real good.
Maybe some of our bakin’ is just a tad sweet,
But the bread that we bake, is a pleasure to eat.
And all that we ask, is just leave us be
Is that just too hard? Something you can’t see?
We’re the small time farmers, in love with our land
And the animals we raise, with a skilled, gentle hand.
We pasture our stock, cows, chickens and pigs,
Sheep, horses and goats, green grass they all dig.
People come to our farms, they line up to buy
The stuff we produce, we can look in the eye
Of each of our customers, friends, neighbors too,
And be sure it’s the best, I’m just tellin’ you.
We’re like the King’s food taster, in those days of yore,
who checked out each thing, makin’ absolutely sure,
There was nothing that threatened, the life of the king.
And all that we ask, is to leave us alone
As we grow food to eat, boil the broth from the bone.
We pay our school taxes, then have our own schools
And most of the time, stick close to the rules.
We take stuff to market, veggies, milk, cheese and meat,
And meet with our customers, a firm handshake to greet.
We take care of each other, no public welfare we need,
Just leave us alone, is now what we plead.
We don’t want your handouts, no bailouts we need
Just leave us alone, we now again plead.