William McSwain, the U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case against raw dairy farmer Amos Miller

Back at the start of his campaign for president,  in September 2016, Donald Trump argued that the government could save well over $1 trillion by doing away with many food safety and environmental regulations. The campaign’s web site stated: ““The FDA Food Police… dictate how the federal government expects farmers to produce fruits and vegetables and even dictates the nutritional content of dog food….The rules govern the soil farmers use, farm and food production hygiene, food packaging, food temperatures and even what animals may roam which fields and when. It also greatly increased inspections of food ‘facilities,’ and levies new taxes to pay for this inspection overkill. My plan will embrace the truth that people flourish under a minimum government burden,”

His administration seems to have come full circle from that grandiose vision on food regulation; the arguments against the food police came down from his web site within a few days, and now the administration is giving full reign to the food regulators via a federal court action designed to take down raw dairy farmers and the hundreds of private food clubs they serve around the country.

Most immediately, two prominent raw dairy farmers, Amos Miller and Aaron Miller, unrelated Pennsylvania producers of raw dairy and other naturally produced food, along with the many food clubs they serve around the country, are squarely in the sights of the newly emboldened food police. 

The Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, William M. McSwain, issued a press release a few days ago announcing a civil suit against Amos Miller of Miller’s Organic Farm, boasting that the suit is the first of its kind against a farm serving private food clubs. “This is believed to be the first-ever suit of its kind where FSIS (The Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Services) is seeking an injunction against a so-called ‘private membership association’ farm business to enforce food safety laws,”  the Justice Department press release bragged. 

Amos Miller’s farm is probably the largest single farm that supplies raw milk and on-farm-slaughtered meat to dozens of food clubs around the country. 

In its press release, the Justice Department affirmed its intention to take out private food clubs: “We will not allow commercial sellers to ignore the rule of law, make up their own sets of rules, and attempt to hide behind a private-membership-association structure in an effort to thwart federal laws.”

The action against Amos Miller follows up on a series of actions by Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York targeting Aaron Miller, including a temporary quarantine of his Pennsylvania farm late last year, that has nearly bankrupted the farmer. He has had a GoFundMe campaign going for the last few weeks, seeking $15,000 to help buy bottling equipment so he can qualify for a Pennsylvania raw milk bottling permit. 

According to the GoFundMe campaign, “The farmer has been struggling financially and needs more orders to pay for this machine. However, without the machine, he cannot take on new customers. It’s a catch 22….Miller’s Biodiversity Farm has been under intense scrutiny by government agencies, as have many farmers who sell raw dairy. Although these government interactions have the goal of protecting consumers, they have cost the farmer dearly. He has lost almost $100,000 in sales while also incurring many unplanned expenses and extra work.” 

As of the start of this week, he had raised more than $20,000, in excess of his $15,000 goal.

In its highly targeted legal action against Amos Miller, the Trump administration is going where even the two previous administrations, of Barack Obama and George W. Bush, had pulled back. While those administrations pushed anti-raw-milk agendas via the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, they avoided possible legal actions against private food clubs. The federal nervousness over dumping on private food clubs intensified when two states, Wisconsin and Minnesota, unsuccessfully targeted dairy farmers serving food clubs (Vernon Hershberger and Alvin Schlangen) via criminal indictments in 2013 and 2014. The farmers were acquitted in jury trials.  

Interestingly, the new federal case is designed to avoid the possibility of a jury trial, and the risk that ordinary citizens might acquit Amos Miller and negate the government campaign. The feds have done that by making the action against Amos Miller a civil action, seeking an injunction against Miller’s distribution to private food clubs. That means the case will be heard by federal judges rather than by a jury of his peers; under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, only criminal defendants accused of a felony are entitled to a jury trial. 

While there has been little precedent in the area of private food clubs, federal judges who have ruled in such cases have sided with the government, as they do on nearly any case where prosecutors can throw in the term “food safety.” 

What that means in the case against Amos Miller is that, while Miller can’t be jailed for any alleged offenses, he can be targeted with huge financial penalties, which could have the effect of forcing him out of business, and leaving the private food clubs without a source for their precious food. Thousands of families depend on the raw dairy products produced by Amos Miller’s farm and other small raw dairies to help counter auto-immune conditions and otherwise strengthen their immune systems. These are people such as Daial, who in a comment on this blog today explains how her autistic daughter benefited from raw camel milk. That and other raw dairy could soon be unavailable to food clubs if the administration succeeds in its suit against Amos Miller.