Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection is signaling that it takes Scott Trautman very seriously, and that it intends to bring the strongest force at its disposal to discourage farmers from following his example of defiance.
Its latest salvo in its war against the outspoken dairy and meat farmer has been to suspend two licenses that allow him to sell meat to consumers. Following on its suspension of his Grade A dairy license in October, DATCP is essentially seeking to deprive him of a way to earn a living, hoping he’ll go out of business and disappear out of the agency’s life.
Trautman says he was given no reason for the suspensions, except he was told that his existing licenses weren’t appropriate, and that he should obtain a food establishment license from his county’s board of health. That would involve adding a bathroom and other upgrades he doesn’t require. He notes that he’s had the two DATCP-issued licenses for six years, without any inspection problems. “There’s no safety issue,” he told me last evening.
The real explanation is more simple, and obvious. “I’m being punished for speaking out” against DATCP’s seemingly arbitrary crackdown on Wisconsin dairy farmers and distributors.
The agency had previously taken away his Grade A dairy license. Consumers had come to his rescue by purchasing much more beef from him than they had previously. “People have been supporting us by buying meat.”
Trautman was so upset by this latest DATCP action that he traveled to the state capital in Madison on Christmas Eve, and attempted to meet with the governor, Jim Doyle, but he was turned down. He remained outside the governor’s mansion in the freezing rain, together with Adam Kane (Max’s brother) for about four hours. He had suggested on his blog that he was chaining himself to the fence around the governor’s mansion and starting a hunger strike, all out of his terrible desperation, but he then decided not to take those actions.
He told me later last evening, from his home, that he decided that such action wasn’t the best for him to take now, but his change of heart didn’t mean he was giving up. “DATCP hasn’t heard the last from me,” he said.
Trautman is frustrated because his only avenue of appeal of the license suspension is to go to DATCP. It’s not likely to be sensitive in reviewing the case. Those on this blog who object to the licensing authority that gives state agencies so much power certainly have a great case for their view in the raw brute intimidation now going on in Wisconsin.
While DATCP is seeking to break Scott Trautman by making it impossible for him to earn a living, its more important goal is to send a message to other farmers: don’t mess with DATCP.
It’s classic authoritarian behavior. The only thing that distinguishes the DATCP approach from the old Soviet Union’s approach to rebels is that there, when individuals spoke out against harassing authorities, the individuals were sometimes classified as mentally deranged, and then committed to mental institutions, where they were given powerful anti-psychotic drugs that often did drive them crazy. All that’s missing here is an effort to commit Scott Trautman to a mental institution. Maybe that’s next?
Actually, the bigger question is this: will DATCP’s latest intimidation of Wisconsin’s dairy farmers and consumers outrage them enough that they go to bat for Trautman? DATCP is clearly counting against that happening.
Wisconsin farmers and consumers have organized the Wisconsin Alliance for Raw Milk, accessible on Facebook, to organize themselves against DATCP. One piece of advice: hold your real deliberations off the Internet, since you know DATCP will be monitoring this Facebook site.