Federal agriculture officials and their supporters are practically drooling over the possibility that Amish farmer Amos Miller could be hit with a devastating fine and expenses exceeding $260,000. The headline in Food Safety News captures the air of climactic anticipation gripping the U.S. Department of Agriculture over the Amos Miller case: “If farmer doesn’t quickly pay $250,000 contempt fine, jail could become an option.” Oooh…..and how about a lynching party, editor Dan Flynn and publisher Bill Marler? If jail doesn’t show that uppity Amish boy Amos Miller who’s boss, I mean, wouldn’t a lynching finally do the trick in getting Amos Miller’s highly coveted meats and other natural foods off the market at long last, and sending a message to other Amish farmers who also have the gall to sponsor food clubs offering on-farm-slaughtered meat to eager members?
If I sound a little peeved, it’s because I am, for three main reasons:
First, FSN’s screaming headline suggesting that Amos Miller has been fined $250,000 and will (hope, hope) be thrown in the clinker if he doesn’t write out a check before leaving the courtroom, is highly inaccurate. In much smaller type, FSN seems to have added an “editor’s note,” which points out that the fine and possible jail have been “proposed” by the U.S. Justice Department at the behest of the USDA. “At the time of this posting, the proposed order has not yet been acted on by the Court.”
What has Miller done to aggravate the USDA and FSN so terribly? If you read the FSN article that describes the results of the USDA’s long-running investigation of Miller, you find that one of the main things that peeves the USDA-FSN tag team is the fact that Miller seems to be making a profit from the huge demand for his high-quality and unadulterated food. (In their words, the judge in the case should “not accept the depiction of Amos Miller and Miller’s Organic Farm as a small-scale operation.”)
Says FSN: “Instead, the farming operation that Miller runs from Bird-in-Hand, PA, is shown to be ‘significant and interstate’ with interstate sales of meat, poultry, and other food products.
“In addition to his original Bird-in-Hand, PA, farm, Mr. Miller owns an adjoining farm that he purchased for $1.45 million in September 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Miller testified that he financed $1.4 million of the purchase price. He thus apparently put down $500,000 at the time of purchase last year,” according to the USDA investigation information.
There’s also mention of a Virginia farm Miller bought in 2015 for $2.5 million. And that he has a $200,000 line of credit and is making “significant capital improvements” at the Virginia farm,” including a large building to accommodate his daughters’ upcoming weddings. Miller testified the weddings will cost $100,000 to $200,000.” Are Flynn and Marler really suggesting Miller had a farm building put up in his image to host a gigantic wedding? Yeah, I guess those sneaky Amish have become loud and garish—maybe the wedding will be catered by a local country club?
I mean, who the hell does Amos Miller think he is, earning serious money from his farming, and then re-investing most of it in additional farmland and expanded facilities? Some sort of welfare queen? Doesn’t he know that simpleton Amish farmers are just supposed to look quaint riding around in their horses and buggies, not really act like smart business people? That’s for smooth product-liability lawyers like Marler and USDA hacks who make closed-door land deals. I wonder if they’ve ever put on family weddings, and if they’d like to go public with how much they spent.
Second, FSN seems to have become so impatiently vindictive over Amos Miller’s supposed crimes of providing on-farm-slaughtered meat to his many private food club members that it trashes him even for attempting to convince the judge in the case that the fine being proposed by the USDA is excessive. “It’s up to federal Judge Edward G. Smith of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to decide if Miller is going to get away with negotiating with the government over the sanctions.” “Get away with” pleading for a sentence reduction? As legal whizzes, Flynn and Marler surely appreciate that even the lowliest most violent criminals get to plead for mercy. It’s clear that in their view, Amos Miller is lower than the lowest, not deserving of even a hint of decency.
If FSN had bothered to get the farmer’s side of the story, it would have learned that Miller has been attempting to abide by a previous order from the court demanding he obey USDA rules against on-farm slaughter of farm animals. Among problems he’s run up against is that area slaughterhouses are maxed out, and unable to fit new farmers like Miller into their schedules. Here is some of what Miller states in a newsletter he sent this week to food club members:
Judge Edward Smith “has given the USDA the option to come up with an amount of fines that they think would be appropriate for the farm because we have not applied for their license to process meat at the farm. We have just received the documents that USDA would like to impose the farm with and the total that they are coming up with is a $250,000 fine. Yes, that is right. You have read it correctly – $250,000. Plus their attorney fees and travel time miles, etc. amounting to approx.. $14,000, according to the documents that they have sent to our legal team. Our legal team is aggressively working to have that number lowered. Yes, that is the thing that we as a farm are having to deal with to stand strong to fulfill your need to supply you with citric acid free meats.
“Belmont Meats, which is a local USDA licensed facility, was packed full with their schedule for a few weeks for beef and pork and their schedule is completely full to process any of our chickens, etc. We also just found out recently that they can no longer use our natural citric acid, for various reasons, which we had provided for them to avoid the manufactured citric acid, which many meat processors might be using.”
Third, the USDA and FSN appear to have lost sight of the fact that this case is part of a long-running federal campaign to obliterate the notion of private food rights, as I reported in a 2016 post and again in a 2019 post about the DOJ’s intention to stamp out private food clubs of the sort Miller has helped organize. While the USDA and FSN fail to acknowledge the possibility that Americans have the right to purchase the foods of their choosing directly from farmers–that principle has never been fully adjudicated at the federal level–Miller hasn’t lost sight of that fundamental principle (nor have farmers in Maine and Vermont, per my previous post). He has submitted to the court comments of support from members of his food clubs, including these:
*“Miller’s Organic Farm Association have gone to great lengths and costs to set ourselves up legally to stay out of the public domain and associate as a private association to respect the government agencies rules, jurisdiction and not waste their time or yours. It would seem they are disrespecting yours and our private choices, wasting your time, energy and ours as well. I signed the paper work I did for our association, to be respectful to the protection of the government agencies job, to provide jurisdiction and rules to follow for the public’s food supplies. I feel that is important and it has its place. I also signed the paperwork to associate to be respectful of my needs to avoid contact with and ingesting of chemicals because I understood that this is part of the rules these government agencies are to enforce for the purpose of their definitions of cleanliness. They are simply doing their job for the public domain….
“All of us who have signed and paid the fees to partake of the food grown, harvested and butchered at Miller’s Organic Farm have done so because we do not want food that has had any chemicals used in its growth or the process of butchering as enforced ty the USDA in the public domain. It would be much easier and less expensive to go down the street to the grocery store to purchase my food supplies, but I have found my health is jeopardized by doing so….
*“This harassment the farmers are enduring really boils by blood. The most aggravating part is how those scumbags shield themselves with the disguise of “concern for the public”. Somehow THEY are seen as the protector.”
*“I cannot tell you how farms like yours have been a saving grace. I feel like this is exactly what has them on defense. Farms like yours are taking their position away. It’s really not about convincing them that you are helpful because they know this and are very alarmed by the growing positive qualitative results people have been having avoiding the Tysons and the Perdues.
“They play a very dirty game. They don’t care that you help people. It is in fact the opposite. They likely fear it. They see this as a potential threat to their stability because the truth undermines the structure of their very insidious lie. I have seriously no doubt as so many others have come to the conclusion, they want chronically ill people. It’s the only thing that makes sense. Farm fresh food can’t get through yet a medication with a side effects sheet longer than the symptoms can be sold over the counter to a child!”
*“They (USDA) are trying to chip away a little bit at a time. We need to stop this and push back or they will keep going. We are a private club and they have no right to do this.”
*“USDA is not protecting me by placing restrictions on your ability to process “clean” meat. They should spend their time ensuring I’m safe from the poisons included in GMO foods grown with GMO seeds. That would be real protection…”
*“You guys (Millers) are amazing. Our prayers are with you as you help resist the loss of freedom here. We need real farmers and small businesses that steward creation and community. Do not grow weary. You are modern day heroes. Thank you.”
*“We want to support you in every way we can. It is critical to us that we can continue to obtain chemical-free foods the way God intended. Thank you for what you do!”
*“Back to the citric acid … using your info I decided to read up on the production of citric acid. As a former chemistry teacher, I just assumed that they were using purified citric and both my wife and I have minimal issue with it if in fact it is a natural source like citrus fruits. However, I was astounded to realize the bulk of the production is troublesome for two reasons:
1. Vast amount produced in China
2. Production through a process using ??? and purity of product is NOT without the presence of substance other than citric.”
The comments go on and on and they’re definitely not the complaints of victims of a dangerous criminal. They’re the comments of highly loyal and appreciative ordinary people thankful for the good health Miller’s food has helped them achieve. They wouldn’t begrudge Miller and his family a penny of their honest earnings for a moment. They might prefer that Miller have used a savvy legal team from the beginning, to make his claims for private food rights, but the Amish unfortunately prefer to steer clear of lawyers…..sometimes to their detriment.
How can you help? In his newsletter to members, Miller encourages everyone who supports private food rights to let the USDA know of their concerns. “We hope and pray that their agenda could change before it’s too late. Please contact USDA Investigator Paul Flanagan by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (215-430-6209) and Enforcement Agent Scott Safian by email (email@example.com) or phone (202-418-8921) and let them know how important citric acid free meats and nutrient-dense foods are to you and to encourage them to drop the fines.”
I don’t ordinarily encourage phoning enforcement agents or judges, but this is a situation that has clearly gotten out of hand in terms of official viciousness against an individual farmer. “Boys” come in different religions and ethnicities. Sometimes they are Asian Americans being blamed for a worldwide pandemic, sometimes they are Mexican migrants labeled as “rapists,” sometimes they are American Jewish students blamed by liberals for the Israeli-Palestinian wars, sometimes they are African Americans skewered for demanding not to be abused by out-of-control cops…..and sometimes they are Amish farmers who’ve tired of being scapegoated for helping Americans realize their private food rights.
This note from Edwin Shank, a Pennsylvania dairy farmer:
“Too bad the Government cannot do math. Or was it a deliberate attempt to make Amos look rich and they hope others would not catch their sleight of hand?
“The $1.45 million farm… and Amos financed $1.4 million? That means Amos only provided a down payment of $50,000. Not the $500,000 that the USDA reported and FSN restated without doing their own thinking. Huge difference there!”
To which I responded:
Good catch. I think the government (USDA) has decided a smear campaign is much preferable to confronting the realities of private food rights, since Amos, and others, have clearly demonstrated the popularity and built a model.”
They have been going after Amos for YEARS. This HHS has to stop. On and off since NAIS was introduced (Its now called ADT – SSDD) and for various reasons, the Amish PARTICULARLY Amos have been the main target for the criminal agencies that shouldn’t even legally exist in the first place.
Yes, the USDA and FDA have been after Amos for many years, more than a decade. The agencies seems to switch off. They’ve always backed off in the past, I presume because they don’t want to see a formal adjudication of food rights before a judge….and run the risk of losing. That would open up private food rights, and encourage farmers who until now have held off serving this market because they don’t want to go through the hell Amos and a few other Amish farmers have endured. My sense is that the USDA has had enough of the general harassment approach and is now looking to simply squash Amos via huge fines to eliminate the issue nationally once and for all, and thereby serve its masters at Big Ag.
Don’t suppose anyone has organised a petition yet to try and help this poor guy. Maybe someone should.
Yeah, Steve, sounds like a natural thing to do, but just not very straightforward in this situation. In reality, there’s not a lot of unity about the injustice Amos is dealing with. There are other farmers who think he’s ‘getting away’ with not following the same rules they follow. There are people here who think his food clubs are just a device to avoid regulation. Some of the people who might have supported him have become dispersed over the years, drifting into QAnon and similar. And while Amos has encouraged his members to write letters of support for the judge in this case to see and to contact their senators and representatives–and they’ve followed through, as I point out in my blog post–he’s not big on the kind of organizing that has characterized the food sovereignty movements in Maine and Vermont. So Amos has been left to twist in the wind to an extent–not a pretty sight.
Amos Miller “twisting in the wind” is a direct consequence of the foundational myth promulgated by his interstate conglomerate. That being > Amishvolk are holier than thou as they prefer separate demselves from the world … ie us horrible Englishmen and our national institutions. Such as the Court system. They can’t have it both ways … so he and his co-religionists just have to abide by their theological doctrines now
Gordon, I understand your point. But I for one can live with a little bit of ambiguity and even a little hypocrisy if it means our food system is improving.
This is a very rude comment
Id rather see commercial dairy farmers fined 250, 000 for mistreating animals and milk the way they do .
Modern farming practices should be criminalized.
The Amish are not positioning themselves as holier than thou. Our own constitution protects the fundamental contract made between one man and another.
Clause 1. No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.”
So if i my daughter makes an agreement to sell a cup of lemonade at her stand to another man/woman for $0.50, the constitution protects her from that transaction being impaired in any way, i.e., taxed or otherwise regulated.
When Amos agrees to sell me meat or raw milk for an exchange of money, that private agreement between two men is protected by our constitution. Contract between two men/women is the most basic relationship that government should have absolutely no say in.
thank you, david. i thought the fed courts had already made the decision you indicated they had not… it was in a case in wisconsin, where it was commented by a fed judge that a person does not have the right to drink milk from his own cows… this was concerning a biodynamic farm of the zinnikers where people bought cow shares and the farmers, the zinniker family were paid to manage the cows for the owners who in term got milk from their own cows…. and this was deemed illegal by the worldly powers that be … was that not in a fed court? whatever court is was in, it does not set a good precedent…
No, the Zinniker case was in a Wisconsin state court.
On the other side, we had Vernon Hershberger acquitted in a criminal case in which a central issue in the case was whether his farm could sell directly via private food clubs. But again, that was in a state court.
But to your point, a federal judge did at in the Dan Allgyer case refer to food clubs as a “subterfuge.” But I wouldn’t expect that case to have much in the was of precedence value, since the defendant never had a lawyer defending him. I’m talking about a case where the matter of the legitimacy of private food clubs is central to the case at hand, and is then argued before a judge and/or a jury.
Re: Toxic Legacy
When you read this book about the many ways that glyphosate can mess with health and the microbiome, raw milk producers should be strongly advised to not use this pesticide.
I consume raw milk and it has greatly improved my health.
This information helps us understand how Roundup is dangerous to our health.
Uppity Amish Farmers?
Thank God for uppity amish fatmers who provide us the healthy food.
Modern day farmers and their practices are the real problem we face.
GMO citric acid sprayed on our meat.
Amish farmers help keep sustainable farming practices alive.
It appears that perhaps that the Raw Butter Appeal at the Federal Court level may go forward. We find out this week.
Appeal lawyers believe the time is right to appeal based on several cases being active on the issue of “FDA over reach and use of authority far beyond what was intended by congress”. The cruise ship industry is really pissed off that the FDA shut down their industry and they claim it’s an over reach of FDA authority. Raw Butter sales over state lines when there have been no deaths or serious illness from inspected raw butter in 7 decades or more is surely an over reach of authority.
Time to reign in the FDA and their abuse of authority as they roll around in bed with big Pharma and kill hundreds of thousands with FDA approved opiate drugs and subsequent overdoses. Yep. It’s time.
Indeed, “Without your bureaucrats, these big businesses are powerless.”
Indeed again, “The big issue is not food safety. The big issue is liberty for people to make up their own minds, exercise control over their own bodies, and spend their money where and when and to whom they want.”
I am proud of Amos. He does not live in poverty like most Amish. He has developed quite a program and it makes money.
When making money encroaches on the economic territory of big dairy or big beef. Watch out. That’s when you must be prefect!
Long ago, someone did not show up at the Pennsylvania legislature and laws were passed that limited or suppressed raw milk. In California, it was the Steuve’s and Altadena that guarded that gate so now we have legal raw milk and raw products in California.
Failure to fight for rights and protect them from being suppressed at the beginning is so important.
Mark, I’m glad you can appreciate Amos’ business and marketing acumen. However, the regulatory problems Amos faces have little to do with Pennsylvania’s regulation of raw milk. Pennsylvania has long been one of the most permissive states in the country on raw milk, probably more flexible in its regulation even than California. As a result, there are many dozens of legal and regulated raw dairies in PA, many more than in CA. The problem for Amos, and many other Amish farmers in PA, comes when they want to supply private food clubs outside the state with raw dairy and farm-slaughtered meat. Now, they are in never-never land when it comes to regulation and legal precedent. As you suggest, Big Ag doesn’t like it when small farmers get too big for their britches on the financial side. That’s when the feds get involved, to do Big Ag’s bidding. The feds’ challenge is that there’s no clear legal and regulatory landscape for private food clubs, since these clubs are established by small groups of consumers for the primary purpose of accessing good healthy food that hasn’t been subject to treatments like pasteurization, homogenization, and slaughterhouse chemicals and filth. For Amos, the U.S. Justice Department has declared its intention to wipe out private food clubs, but in practice, it has used USDA regulations requiring animal slaughter in USDA inspected facilities. There are options for exemption for farmers who sell entire animals to individuals, and Amos has tried to use this option, but he never seems to get USDA approval for his exemption plans. So he remains bogged down in court, where the USDA’s latest tactic has been to get a contempt of court order, and now a fine large enough to put him out of business. He’s awaiting a judge’s decision after a hearing last week where the judge inquired with both Amos and USDA about the possibilities of a meeting of the minds. We’ll see.
David so correct. Pennsylvania has been a haven for raw milk for a long time. But not for raw butter, and raw Kefir. But for the most part I agree.
Private food clubs are a huge point of contention
What the private food clubs need is a big legal challenge with top lawyers and huge groups of consumers and multiple producers.
Challenge the entire premise that food must be bought at a store and not directly from a private relationship between a farmer and a consumer as defined by a private contract.
I don’t think this has been taken up
The judicial food chain to the top.
There is precedent for private buyers clubs.
Why not for food?
The main problem with getting that big legal challenge is that the Amish aren’t much for big legal anything. They hate engaging lawyers, or being at the center of public controversy….or being photographed. I used to see groups of Amish farmers at food rights demonstrations in Wisconsin and Minnesota, but they’d always be on the outside fringes of the crowd. The bureaucrats now understand the Amish reticence, and exploit it.
Use the USDA Get to know your farmer and Get to know your food initiative developed by the USDA. Subpoena the Sec of Ag of the USDA to explain the program and how consumers are encouraged to buy farmer direct.
That would be quite interesting to watch the government trip all over itself.
When raw milk is illegal…then we must truly start consider our state of sanity.
What are we eating??? Its no wonder we are sick, fat, diabetic, asthmatic and immune compromised.
Few people in the public know this. In the last ten years Wholefoods has stopped most of their local sourcing. This is because most farmers cannot handle the intensive food safety certifications and inspections. GMP certs. SQF certs. FSMA FDA traingjng and inspections ?!
They are all intense and documentation intensive. And WF and the big stores require this and more. So, this is what is now separating those that can and those that can not sell into stores. Interesting times. Advantage goes to the big guys and most farmers lose. Or… farmers go back to school and adapt and turn this into value added and a competitive advantage!?✅
For over 30-years I have worked in a food/meat company the product of which is produced by mostly Amish farmers, of various sects from extremely conservative to fairly liberal. The product is USDA inspected, source verified, humane and SQF certified. I believe that too many commenters of this blog, including the author, are unrealistically negative in regards to regulations and certifications.
Our Amish suppliers must meet all the related standards and regulations; and they do. They learn and adapt; and they make good money. The various regulations and programs have real value in allowing us to market, through documentation, safe food produced from well treated animals from known sources. If we are going to be regulated or audited we are going to make sure that our compliance is profitable. Our products sell very well. Amish compliance is a large part of that.
For small producers to not be able to get into WF type conglomerates may be a good thing. Once in, the corporations often dictate the price. The conglomerate may profit, but not the farmer. As Mark states, if you can’t play by the rules of the game (which, in general, I support, by the way), “go back to school and adapt and turn this into value added and a competitive advantage”. And, by “go back to school” I mean figure out how to make an apparent roadblock a win.
I agree that many farmers learn to adapt to federal and state regulations. It wouldn’t be difficult for Amos Miller to adapt as well on the meat side. I think he fears getting sucked into the regulatory system because direct farm-to-consumer sales shouldn’t be regulated. But he’s not been willing or able to develop an effective legal strategy to fight the regulation. So the beat goes on for him as he remains stuck in his gray area of the marketplace.
Perhaps not so easy for Amos Miller who is a man of principle… “A person of principle means someone who faithfully follows their principle or set of principles rather than abandoning them when convenient. If faced with a seemingly difficult decision in life, he or she will refer to his or her guiding set of principles and then merely deduce the correct action from it”.
In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson
the troubles with the ‘gray area of the marketplace” is only after the fact of Herr Miller having compromised the principles of his religion. One of which, is : separation from the world. The Amish would like you to think that they have as little to do with ‘The Englishman’ as possible. The core value of Amish-ness – which is an essential component of the constellation of imagery around his brand name – is contrary to the handling of large amounts of “filthy lucre” .. flowing from his interstate conglomerate.
the feds just want a cut of the action
Funny that I have not heard the word “Listeria” in this blog. People are dead because Amos Miller didn’t follow the law.
Aha, so you’re upping the ante on Miller, from the fraud suggested by USDA and Food Safety News, to murder. You don’t provide any evidence, but I presume you are referring to the 2016 investigation by the Centers for Disease Control, suggesting that two elderly and sick individuals who consumed raw dairy from Miller’s farm, died from listeria in the milk. You might want to review two articles published on this blog investigating the cases. None of the relatives of these individuals made the connection to tainted raw milk, and also didn’t make death certificates available. They also had seriously compromised immune systems from other illnesses.
Rob Bradley, that’s an awfully cavalier comment, perhaps meeting the standard for being technically slanderous. You might want to consider withdrawing it.
It is also curious that those two presumed deaths never made it into the official “food death” list at the CDC. They don’t come up the last time I checked.
Here is an interesting new twist. RAWMI is in the process of Listing a raw milk producer in northern Idaho. This year the governor got rid of most of the testing requirements for raw milk in Idaho. It is officially the wild Wild West. He said that he wanted to be known as the guy who got rid of regulations. He sure did. The conventional dairies are still tested and inspected under the FDA PMO regs. But not the raw milk guys that sell into stores!!
Now the good producers are approaching RAWMI in that vacuum ( and void of control ) so at least they can be apart of some set of good solid standards.
Idaho just gave raw milk enough rope to hang itself. I dearly hope that good ethics and morals prevail.