Around the country, signs are mounting of a growing refusal by law enforcement officials to mount legal actions against small producers of raw milk. Consider:
- In Illinois, where tough new regulations on raw milk were being prepared over the previous two years, regulators have backed off in the absence of a prosecutorial imperative (as one public health official put it) to go after small dairies selling directly from their farms.
- In California, its been nearly five years since regulators and prosecutors issued several cease-and-desist orders against raw milk herd share operators. Many herd share operators say they owe the subsequent peace to a lack of willingness of local district attorneys to prosecute, and the absence of illnesses associated with California herd shares.
- In Minnesota, the local sheriffs office in the northeastern part of the state has twice in the previous year refused to enforce requests from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to carry out inspections on raw-dairy Lake View Natural Dairy, in the tiny town of Grand Marais. In the second attempt, last October, sheriffs deputies wouldnt assist MDA inspectors attempting to serve a court order to enforce inspections on farmer David Berglund after he informed the sheriff he thought he was protected from inspections by the Minnesota Constitution. These sheriff actions are likely the first time in the U.S. that law enforcement officers have refused requests from agriculture regulators to accompany them to crack down on a producer of raw milk.
While regulators in Illinois and California have taken the hint, and remained on the sidelines, those in Minnesotawell known for their aggressiveness in pursuing raw-dairy farmers like Alvin Schlangen and Michael Hartmannhave taken the sheriff-farmer pushback like dogs having their food bowls removed in the midst of dinner. Theyre flashing their teeth and growling, and have sought contempt-of-court charges against Berglund.
A court hearing is scheduled March 9 on the contempt charges. The one tactic MDA has changed over its pursuit of Schlangen and Hartmann is to drop its threat to jail the farmers and instead threaten to bankrupt Berglund via a $500-per-day fine for failure to comply with the inspection order. A big crowd of supporters is expected on behalf of Berglund in the tightly-knit rural community of Cook County. (For more about the Berglund case, see the web site by supporter Greg Gentz, a former law enforcement member and a post by Liz Reitzig at the Nourishing Liberty blog.)
Berglund doesnt see why he needs to have the MDA inspect his farm when the Minnesota Constitution expressly allows farmers to peddle the products of the farm or garden without obtaining a license.
The MDA argues that while Berglund doesnt need to be licensed, he is subject to all state food and safety regulationsin particular, the agency seems to be gunning after the raw-milk yogurt and butter he sells, arguing that those products need to be pasteurized. The agency doesnt appear to be claiming authority over its sale of raw milk from the farm; the MDA web site states, Minnesota law allows the sale of unpasteurized milk so long as it occurs on the farm at which the milk was produced. There is no mention of inspections in connection with raw milk sales.
Berglund isnt speaking publicly about his legal situation right now, at the suggestion of his lawyer. But in a 2013 hand-written letter he wrote to the MDA when the agency first demanded to inspect his farm, he said If the Minnesota Constitution states that you can sell the products of the farm and the Supreme Court recognized that processing is incidental to the making of the product such as cheese and butter, is not the licensing or inspection of the building insignificant?
The Minnesota Supreme Court interpretation of the state constitution Berglund was referring to was from a convoluted 2005 decision involving raw-dairy farmer Michael Hartmann in which the court at once endorsed the farmer freedom articulated in the state constitution, but also recognized MDAs authority over food safety regulations. Burglund appears to be following in Hartmanns footsteps in refusing to bend to the MDA; he has even hired Hartmanns lawyer, Zenas Baer, to defend him (supported by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund).
One big difference between Hartmanns case and Berglunds is that Hartmann was accused in 2010 of having sold milk that sickened eight people with E.coli O157:H7. Berglund hasnt been accused of any safety transgressions.
Despite the accusations, Hartmann battled against the MDAs seemingly relentless pursuit and eventually in 2013 won a court decision in which the agency was ruled to have illegally searched the farmers truck. In 2014, a judge dismissed a charge of Hartmann having violated probation; he had been put on probation when he pleaded guilty to a charge of violating regulations, intended for his wife.
Another farmer, Alvin Schlangen, defeated an attempt by the MDA to have him possibly jailed back in 2012, when a Minneapolis jury acquitted him of all charges related to violation of food regulations.
The reluctance of law enforcement to help agriculture regulators pursue raw dairy farmers dates back to 2007, when a Michigan prosecutor refused to file charges against farmer Richard Hebron, who had had a truck load of raw milk confiscated by Michigan regulators. It continued in 2012, when an Indiana sheriff successfully fought federal lawyers working on behalf of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to haul farmer David Hochstetler in front of a grand jury; that sheriff, Brad Rogers, was eventually honored by his colleagues at a national sheriff conference.
Similarly, Wisconsin regulators were forced in 2011 to bring in a state prosecutor when a local prosecutor refused to go after dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger.
Here are two predictions: First, the MDA will fall as flat on its face in its new pursuit of David Berglund as it did in its pursuits of Alvin Schlangen and Michael Hartmann. Second, it wont learn a thing when it fails in this case. Thats the definition of insanity, after alldoing the same thing over and over, and hoping for a different result.
In the process, though, the MDA will, in its perverted way, be doing the country a favor. Because it will just raise consciousness that much more about the idiocy of trying to stamp out demand for raw milk, and trying to direct scarce public resources to dumping on the few local family farms we have left.
Thank you for kicking the hornets nest and reminding us all that this is WAR!! and nothing less.
I also can confirm that in CA, regulators have met and conferred and secretly decided to leave Cow Shares alone…at least for now. Reasons given were that the local district attorneys were not cooperating and would not prosecute Cow Shares for violating health and agricultural code. How can the regulators enforce…if the guy with the gun will not back them up or prosecute. Easy math on that one.
It is also interesting to note that perhaps the message is getting out about food safety. More and more small operators are connecting with RAWMI, but they are not completing the process of becoming LISTED. They simply get the information and go on about their business with out formally joining the pioneering community of LISTED dairy farmers. Some of their stories are damn scary.
I also know that the State of CA manages ” by exception”…if no crisis or problem then there is no need to come down hard. But…I can guarantee one thing: if a kid gets sick, CDFA, Department of Public Health and every other alphabet soup, lab coat wearing, badge and gun toting regulator-enforcer will show up and ruin your day.
Message here is this….do not be the exception and keep it clean!! Serious…serious!!
I agree, Mark, the local prosecutors are standing aside….for now. But the regulators at CDFA and IL Dept of Public Health, along with their financial backers at FDA and industry, are watching and waiting, like foxes ready to pounce. And should illnesses occur, you can bet your bottom dollar they will be after those prosecutors, telling them they must act to protect the public health, NOW. That’s why it’s up to producers of raw milk to take the opportunity they’ve been given, and tighten their operations so there can’t be any question raw milk can be produced safely.
Do not think for one minute that any government agency that is ignoring raw milk enforcemnent is giving any sort of blessing, quite to the contrary….they have not provided a rope of assistance with there ignoring you for now, look closely, thats a noose on that rope and they are simply providing enough rope to hang yourself. Take this time to get your act together and really get good at raw milk for the long run. This is just a pause in the fight and a lul in the storm. Trust me.
We have to remember, 5 years ago a producer could not find information about how to manage raw milk risk. When RAWMI was born in 2011, the idea of raw milk safety standards was controversial among producers, as the comment archive on this blog will attest. But that consciousness is shifting among farmers. Through seminars, webinars, blog articles written, farmer-to-farmer mentorship though personal emails, hours spent on the phone, and in-the-barn trainings, information about good practices and risk management is getting out and becoming more refined. Its starting to come together. Penn State hosted a training last year. The University of Maine Extension Services published an excellent bulletin on raw milk production, the first of its kind as far as I know. Tim Wightman has been very active teaching safety practices to groups of farmers across the country.
I spoke with a soon-to-be raw milk producer in Oregon just this week and it struck me just how informed and solid her mindset is around raw milk quality and safety. No corners are being cut. A RAMP is in development even before cows begin producing. Livestock are screened, systems in place, and coliform and SPC counts will be known before a customer ever served. I’m impressed. This farmer has been a student of the growing body of knowledge about how to do raw milk well, and is applying is from the get go. I’m not sure that would have been possible 5 years ago.
As Mark says, not everyone applies the good information, particularly in states where it is not required. But many farmers do change practices when they understand what they should be doing, and more importantly, why. In fact, I have known more than one farmer who, after understanding risks and management better, actually opted not to produce raw milk until they were ready to make a better plan. I
And at least on the West Coast, in Oregon and California, producers are working together to take a stand for safety. I speak for many of us who love to teach, mentor and encourage good practices, but want nothing to do with farms who know better but don’t do better.
And please, Alvin is a food co-op manager, he is not really a farmer. I do believe our farmers are protected by the constitution of our state but Alvin buys milk from the Amish and sells it to his food club members as well as many other products from eggs produced by various sources to Sno Pak vegetables–very much like Sams Club or Wal Mart. Hardly the same type of farmer as Mike or David or the many others who actually do the work. Not that his club is bad, but he is a manager of the club, not a milker or a farmer by a long shot and the Amish tend to not show up in support of food rights for people, especially outside of their community. And don’t forget, he won only one battle against the MDA. He lost in his hometown. Granted, he has raised chickens for eggs.
The community as a whole has lost a lot of its gumption for our food and especially with the raw milk movement. There used to be groups getting together to push legislation to change the laws, now that is all dust. It has come about locally that it is almost a secret organization that instead of battling for the betterment of all, has closed off to outside sources which only hurts others looking for good food and the new farmers willing to grow and produce it.
Jessica, your last paragraph explains why the MDA is such a loathsome agency. It has fought Minnesota consumers tenaciously on food freedom, not letting up even a little bit. It seems to relish personal vendettas like the one it fought against Michael Hartmann, and now seems about to be repeating with David Berglund. Even when it loses, it must think that it is achieving an “intimidation effect.” The secrecy of food rights activists that you describe suggests it has achieved at least some of that goal.
MDA and its brethren in public health are known to be closely affiliated with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has similarly fought tooth-and-nail against consumer interests. They use the tactics of repressive states in getting their work done.
Anyway, I do hope for a revival of my fellow Minnesota peeps supporting ALL the farmers in these dramas and not just the main food clubs and producers who get attacked for serving the metro areas.
Your last paragraph pretty much exemplifies the scenario that has existed in Ontario for the last 50+ years. Yet despite the oppressive nature of regulation the demand for raw milk continues to grow, especially due to the effort of Michael Schmidt and the advent of electronic communication.
Many people are wisely beginning to question the methodologies spawned by the germ theory, i.e. its antagonistic, narrow, impractical focus on eradication and control via vaccines and antibacterials etc. Indeed they are recognizing the value of consistent natural exposure.
There are precious few statistics that I have been able to find indicating illnesses from raw milk in Ontario, despite the fact that there are thousands of people consuming it. Those that I have been able to locate are circumstantial at best. The Ontario regulators inevitably turn to the U.S. for their so-called illness statistics to justify a continued ban on raw milk.
Question: Is raw milk nutritionally superior to pasteurized milk?
Answer: No. Pasteurization destroys disease-causing organisms.
It does not affect the quality of nutrients present in milk, such as:
About 20% of vitamin C is destroyed during pasteurization, but milk is not a significant source of vitamin C to begin with.
While some people believe that raw milk is nutritionally superior, any supposed health benefit is greatly outweighed by the overwhelming evidence that drinking unpasteurized milk can make you sick.
There is no evidence that raw milk is nutritionally superior.
Parents should consider that children are particularly at risk for infections from drinking raw milk, and make the safe choice to give them only pasteurized milk.
Hell will freeze over before I entrust the health of my children and grandchildren into their care.
Most of this effort to bring about high standards and good production practices for raw milk has been done as a pioneering effort and with out help from government. Yes…there are exceptions which I applaud namely, Chico State and Penn state training days with support from progressive PhDs that know better. But for the most part, progress has been from the good hearts and minds of enlightened producers that love their consumers. Producers that have educated themselves and become innovators. If I was in the fda I would be embarrassed that an agency of our government had sold out to industry and a failed technology. Yes….pasteurization as applied to fluid milk is a failed technology. It creates highly allergic food that is indigestible. Look at the consumer dollar voting for fluid pasteurized milk…it is a dying market. How can the FDA see those numbers and not see the light? How can the FDA not visit the RAWMI website and see that RAMP and modern testing does not work. The counts are there…the systems are there!! Coliforms of less than one?!! And zero pathogens. When pasteurized milk can have ten!!?? And milk to become pasteurized can have 750 coliforms or more with uncounted pathogens!!!! It is just a matter if time. Just like Jack in the Box ecoli pathogens in the 1980s , it took the FDA 10 years to collect enough gumption with ethics and morality to follow industry initiated standards and do the right things. Very sad… and definitely pathetic. The raw milk movement can claim the moral and ethical high ground. We did it solo as pioneers and we have the integrity of knowing that we are the leaders that led the way inspite of the FDA and abuse by robots like beret boy.
When history is written years from now and low risk delicious safe raw milk is used in medicine and consumed freely by all that want it…we can feel proud that we were the innovators that persisted and endeavored.
There’s an excellent account by Liz Reitzig of the Berglund family’s farming situation as it battles the MDA, at the Nourishing Liberty blog.
the MDA thugs attempting to steamroller compliance with its utterly illegal stance, is = communism, Writ Large. I’m going to keep on reminding all-concerned in this movement, the first tenet of the Communist Manifesto is ; elimination of private property.
back in 2010, in BC, with our cowshare on trial, under the unction of the Holy Spirit, agister Alice Jongerden wound up her oral submission to the court saying “when did private, become public?” Miriam Gropper, J. – stooge for the Dairy Cartel as she was – couldn’t answer that one honestly … she then shirked her duty to render an impartial decision. Things went downhill for us, from then on
in Minnesota you still have a LEGAL right to defy the the Facisti… written in to the Declaration of Independence! : Let’s see all those good people show up, stand up, and be counted. As old Sheldon Emry used to say “Responsibility not taken, is Freedom Lost”
The Beret is worn in different colors around the world by the worlds elite special forces especially in the last 100 years. It is worn to distinguish ones self above others and to gain authority and prestige over others. It is a modern symbol of elite soldiers in elite fighting units.
Makes you wonder why the MDA wears them? Do others wear them in the MDA? or just our raw milk hating, authority loving Beret Boy.
… see page A4 of the National Post for March 2 2015 for a major article by Adrian Humphreys : NEW TWIST IN INFECTED SHEEP CASE : with a powerful image of Montana Jones saying goodbye to one of her lambs, framed by Ontario Provincial Police officers with guns on their hips.
Best line in the article “It sparked a police lambhunt”
the quote by the Agent for the Attorney General [ the Prosecutor ] is worth the price of admission to this political Pantomime. = Damien Frost ‘said he could not comment on the specifics of the letter’ [ Shawn Buckley’s letter, referred-to in David Gumpert’s comment ] ‘saying he was going to apply Monday morning to have a publication ban placed on the proceedings’ … oh, I love it! it suited the race traitors in high places to smear Michael Schmidt in the media when they were in the catbird seat, but allofasudden, they want to put a lid on it … ie. the stench emanating from CFIA’s upper echelons
signalling that we’re now at the stage when “the cover-up BECOMES the story”
Where tptb stand to gain the most ground in their goal to achieve absolute control, is in convincing the masses, through the deliberate arousal of fear that their so-called health and safety standards are credible, thus justifying their use strong arm tactics to usurp our liberty with ever increasing draconian regulations.
Proponents of food safety, and medical care such as vaccinations and chemotherapy treatments etc., claim that those who oppose or choose to disregard their interventions are being irresponsible, abusive and have a careless disregard for the week and vulnerable. The assumption is that their position, which they claim to be based on science, is infallible. And based on this pretention they have assumed the position of oracles of the greater good.
In 100 years from now those of us who exist on this earth will be dead and gone and the only thing that will be of any real significance will be in our effort to preserve Gods paternal/maternal gift of love to mankind i.e., the opportunity to make choices (wright or wrong) that genuinely affect our destiny and the destiny of our children. For those of you who do not believe in God then I leave you to draw your own conclusion.