A significant government legal action—either a raid or a court suit— seems to be in the offing against Miller’s Organic Farm in Pennsylvania.
In an effort to counter and possibly head off the regulatory hostility that is gathering, members of the farm’s private association, who obtain food from the farm, are being asked to help document the health and other benefits they receive from the wide variety of meat, dairy products, fermented food, and other foods the farm provides.
Since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued a report March 18 accusing Miller’s of being responsible for two listeria illnesses from raw milk in 2014, one of which supposedly resulted in a death, regulators from several agencies have been ominously circling the farm. Inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture have visited on two occasions, and from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture on one occasion since the report was posted.
The USDA was said to be interested in inspecting the farm because of meat distribution by Miller’s to members of its private association. The PDA was understood to be concerned about unlicensed raw milk distribution.
Of course, lurking in the background is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It has worked closely in past enforcement actions and raids of Pennsylvania farms with the PDA, most notably against Mark Nolt and Daniel Allgyer. The PDA eventually pulled back from prosecuting Nolt and he continues to farm, but the FDA succeeded in obtaining a federal injunction against Allgyer, and he discontinued farming four years ago.
The CDC report on Miller’s notes that the FDA was involved in testing farm milk last fall, after health inspectors in Anaheim confiscated dairy products at the Weston A. Price Foundation national conference. That report has been questioned as to its accuracy after this blog interviewed a family member of one of the supposed listeria victims, who said the victim actually was battling serious blood cancer. No California victim has come forward to say he or she was made ill by Miller’s raw milk, despite efforts by farm owner Amos Miller and others to locate the individual; the CDC refuses to provide any further information about the individual—even whether it is a man or a woman or what part of the state the individual lives in.
Miller’s has been inspected by federal regulators in the past. Five years ago, two FDA agents, with a search warrant and accompanied by a U.S. Marshall, inspected Miller’s farm for several hours, and eventually issued a report to the farmer recommending several minor safety improvements. I describe the FDA search in my book, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Food Rights.
Amos Miller has in the past turned away government inspectors because, like dozens of Pennsylvania farms, sells his farm’s food privately via food clubs directly to individuals who have contracts for the food. These farmers argue that they are outside the publicly-regulated food system that governs milk and other foods produced under government-issued licenses.
When farmers turn away regulators, though, they invariably return with search warrants to carry out their inspections, as they did five years ago at Miller’s. But Miller says that in the current situation, he is open to discussions with regulators about how he can reassure them as to the safety of his products.
The FDA, after it obtained its injunction against Allgyer in 2012, seemed to leave raw milk producers, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, alone, and instead turned its anti-raw-milk venom onto raw milk cheese producers. The FDA received a huge amount of negative publicity for its mammoth undercover operation to gather incriminating evidence against Allgyer and its relentless legal drive to put him out of business.
Much to the displeasure of cheese producers, the FDA has been seeking, via hundreds of inspections and testing at small producers, to undo the 60-day aging requirement for raw milk cheese, and replace it with extremely tight limitations on harmless bacteria that are part-and-parcel of raw milk cheese production. Once again facing a barrage of negative publicity, the FDA has seemed to back off some from its proposed tightening of rules around raw milk cheese; its big problem is that there is scant evidence of illness in more than 65 years under the 60-day aging requirement.
If the FDA or other agencies do aggressively pursue Amos Miller and attempt to shut him down, they will undoubtedly face an outcry from many hundreds of his private association members, who credit his food with boosting their health. Some have already inquired with him, in light of the CDC report, how they can contribute to any legal defense he might require. One new association member wrote this note just in the past week: “I looked at the beautiful food I ordered and burst into tears. I just felt blessed. My deep gratitude to you for making nourishing healthy food available for me to enjoy. My husband sends his gratitude as well.”
It’s difficult to know exactly what action the regulators will take–if one agency will go in alone, or several agencies will coordinate efforts, a la Rawesome Food Club, which was raided by eight or more agencies in 2010 and again in 2011, with food club operators charged criminally.
Miller’s supporters say they have begun collecting member testimonials about his farm’s food. If you have a testimonial, or simply want to extend your support, write to this special email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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