For years now, farmers have borne the brunt of government efforts to interfere with food rights and consumer access to the foods of their choice.
That may be about to change, as consumers launch actions to take the burden of government harassment off farmers’ backs.
A case in point, and apparently the first consumer to launch a food rights legal action, is Michigan businessman and herdshare member Mike Lobsinger, who a few months ago sued the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) over its seizure of his cream in a June raid of the farm that fulfills his herdshare agreement. As reported by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, he argues in his suit that the cream is his private property and that the seizure violates the due process clause of both the Michigan and United States constitutions. A hearing on his case is scheduled next month in state court.
In a second food rights case growing out of the federal assault on Miller’s Organic Farm, members of Amos Miller’s food clubs are preparing legal action to prevent the U.S. Department of Agriculture from gaining access to their individual purchase records; I recently described the organizing of their coalition. The owners of food clubs in Maryland and Florida, Liz Reitzig and Niki Adamkova, have launched a crowdfunding campaign to finance legal expenses.
They state in part: “We as consumers of real food, healthy nutrient-dense food from producers we know and trust, have come to realize that the only way to save our hard-working farmers and OUR HEALTHY FOODS is to legally challenge the government.
“Any interference with production of our nutrient-dense food, especially gathering private information about our food purchases will not be met without challenge. We can not expect Amish farmers who are forbidden by their religious teachings from hiring lawyers or taking the legal offensive to effectively protect themselves or our private information.”
Their action is expected in advance of farmer Amos Miller’s next court appearance Oct. 11, to answer a contempt-of-court proceeding launched by the USDA when Miller refused to turn over the individual food purchase records of his members to government agents. The USDA wants to use those records to make a case that Miller is illegally selling meat products across state lines.
The USDA has proposed that the records be turned over in “redacted” form, without member names visible to agents, but food club members fear the precedent that will be set via the confiscation of private food purchase information, and that USDA demands for information on member food purchases could well expand.
The members have organized the Real Food Consumer Coalition (RFCC) and are asking consumers to support the new group’s crowdfunding campaign.