Michael Schmidt greets regulators and police raiding his farm, on horseback, in 2012.

You look at the map showing raw milk availability in the U.S., on the site of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, and you realize how far this country has come in making raw milk widely available—so much so that only New Jersey shows up on the map as banning raw milk. And even there, private food clubs operate in suburbs and small towns around the state, each week or two distributing raw milk to members. 

But in Canada, which has allowed recreational marijuana nationally, ahead of the U.S., a wall of resistance remains against raw milk. It was as if an Ontario judge last year added an exclamation point to the country’s long ban, backed up by the threat of jail against raw dairy farmer Michael Schmidt, and essentially shut down his raw milk distribution. 

But we should have known Schmidt wouldn’t take the action lying down. Late last year, his wife, Elisa, and 20 or so of his followers filed a legal challenge in Ontario, arguing that the ban on raw milk is a violation of the Canadian constitution. 

And now, a court battle is under way. If the government’s all-hands-on-deck reaction is any indication, there is serious concern among the bureaucrats and the dairy cartel that controls dairy production and distribution in Canada that Schmidt and company mean business.  The milk marketing board, the cartel that controls distribution of pasteurized milk in Canada, has even inserted itself into the case, apparently to add another level of legal expertise to back up the government.

The half-dozen or more affidavits filed by Canadian bureaucrats and scientists condemning raw milk as unsafe even includes a 33-page diatribe from American John Sheehan, chief dairy honcho of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It concludes, almost laughably: “The US FDA encourages everyone charged with protecting the public health to prevent the sale of raw milk to consumers and not permit the operation of so-called ‘cow-sharing’ or other schemes designed as attempts at circumventing laws prohibiting sales of raw milk to consumers. To do otherwise would be to take a giant step backwards with public health protection.” Clearly, many of his colleagues at the state level in the U.S. pretty much ignore the FDA’s policy. 

Sheehan’s “encouragement” has been widely ignored. Given the growing acceptance of raw milk on this side of the border, the plaintiffs in the Ontario case sense they have a shot at overturning Canada’s long-standing ban of raw milk. They’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe that has so far raised more than $77,000 to fund legal expenses. 

The plaintiffs complain on their GoFundMe page that their opponents in court have sought ongoing delays in the case. But they note that “with every delay in our case, the scientific evidence just keeps getting better. In Canada there are not enough identified people consuming (raw milk), and no funders for such studies anyhow, but there are huge populations in Europe, and increasingly elsewhere, with legal access to raw milk.

“So with every passing year, including the dark year of 2018, the dairy laws become more and more antiquated. And every year, more people are turning away from pasteurized dairy products. Change happens to all of us, including to the establishment forces.” 

Michael Schmidt has been fighting this battle in one form or another—through government raids, a hunger strike, jail time, and fast-vanishing legal victories—for something on the order of 26 years. Support his GoFundMe campaign, and be prepared to join in on a large victory celebration that is very much overdue.