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.