If you look at the recent legal scorecard, the Food Rights movement is getting clobbered. Losses in Maine (Dan Brown’s food sovereignty case), Wisconsin (Vernon Hershberger’s appeal of his single misdemeanor conviction, along with rejection of Zinniker-Craig case) and Canada (Canada’s Supreme Court refused to consider an appeal of Michael Schmidt’s conviction of violating Ontario’s dairy laws). 

Yet people involved in the most recent cases continue to press on legally. Dan Brown’s food sovereignty supporters are organizing for more Maine towns to pass ordinances sanctioning private food sales. Vernon Hershberger is filing an appeal of his conviction with the Wisconsin Supreme Court, based on his contention that the judge at his trial failed to allow him to properly defend himself from “an administrative order” (by the WI Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection). Michael Schmidt is continuing to supply his shareholders with raw milk and other food; he has said his conviction in Ontario is moot, since he reorganized the legal structure of his herdshare many years ago so that shareholders have become owners of his farm. If the authorities want to pursue him, they’ll need to launch a new legal action. 

The communities supporting these farmers continue to organize themselves and find new ways to support their farmers. A prime example will be occurring tomorrow evening in Milwaukee, with a fundraising event to help Hershberger rebuild a large shed destroyed by fire last year, just prior to his criminal trial.  Among those speaking on behalf of Hershberger will be farmer Joel Salatin, lawyer Elizabeth Rich, activist-entrepreneur Max Kane, and yours truly. 

There is political action in the works as well. The biggest upcoming event is the inaugural Food Freedom Fest September 5-6 in Virginia, sponsored by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. Several members of Congress are expected to be speaking, along with activists like John Moody, Sarah Pope, and Michelle Ray. 

Another example of political action involves the upstart campaign to draft Michigan farmer Mark Baker to run for sheriff in 2016 in his home county. 

The reality is that, despite the court losses, all signs are that the ongoing legal actions and community support for food rights is stimulating growing sales of good food, and costing the factory food oligopolies big time. Dean Foods, Kellogg’s, McDonald’s, and Coca Cola have all reported declining sales over the last year. (The diet soda business is “in free fall” The Wall Street Journal has reported.) 

Yes, there is a long ways to go to defeat the food oligopolies. They have a huge amount of ammo in reserve. In a company-friendly interview with The Wall Street Journal this past weekend, the president of Monsanto, Brett Begemann, was quoted this way about the movement to force the labeling of genetically modified (GMO) products: “(Begemann) talks about ‘having a dialogue’ and ‘coming to the table’ with those concerned about genetic modification. It remains to be seen if that strategy will quell a backlash based mostly on fear and emotion. He doesn’t discuss what else Monsanto will do, but the company is likely to spend big to fight the labeling movement. Monsanto poured in about $8 million to defeat a labeling initiative on the California ballot in 2012.”

But trends are going in the right direction for those who value healthy food. Eventually, these oligopolies are going to decide that all this uprising isn’t good for business. It may be too late by then. Downward sales trends for factory food products are going to be difficult to reverse.