Vernon Hershberger, the Wisconsin dairyman who last week broke the seals placed on his raw dairy fridges and freezer by the state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, this afternoon received a visit from two agency inspectors and a few sheriff’s deputies.
The agents requested a look at his store. He told them, no warrant, no look.
His expectation is that the agents will be back Wednesday or another day this week, this time armed with a search warrant.
As word spread about the agent visit, Max Kane, who has his own case of civil disobedience over refusal to hand over lists of his enterprise’s suppliers and customers, arrived at the Hershberger dairy and filmed the events. It seems DATCP inspector Jackie Owens wasn’t real thrilled to be appearing on film. A clip should be available on YouTube shortly. In addition, a couple of television station reporters appeared. Also, Augie Augenstein has launched a fund-raising campaign for the Vernon Hershberger resistance via Facebook.
After being quoted as saying they had turned the Hershberger case over to a district attorney, DATCP officials seem instead to be intent on confrontation with raw dairy farmers. How many will they have to confront, in addition to those arleady on the docket? Those include not only Hershberger and Max Kane, but also Mark and Petra Zinniker, who have sued DATCP claiming a right to distribute milk via herdshares (first hearing due to be held Thursday); and Wayne and Kay Craig, who have sued DATCP over its inconsistent application of Wisconsin law, which allows “incidental” sales of raw milk (can appreciate that the world is “dark and gloomy” to Wayne Craig these days).
DATCP’s last stand? Or the opening rounds of a long and ever-more-bitter battle?
Not everyone in the land of Big Dairy is prepared to throw raw milk producers under the bus, a la Organic Valley.
Horizon Organic, a part of conglomerate Dean Foods, is being quoted as saying “they are not opposed to the producers under contract with them also selling raw milk.” That quote from Ed Maltby, executive director of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, who said on a listserve for organic dairies that he had “received a number of questions as to Horizon Organic’s position on raw milk and consequently asked Horizon management about their position.”
Why the nonchalance by Horizon? “Their position is that they are in the business of selling processed milk not raw milk,” said Maltby.
Before switching from Organic Valley to Horizon Organic, raw milk producers should be aware that Horizon has done its share of squeezing of organic dairy producers. Last fall it threatened to dump a number of its organic milk producers in the face of falling demand. At that point, Organic Valley accepted refugees from Horizon.
If it’s some measure of financial security raw dairy farmers are seeking, they likely won’t find it with either of these outfits. As I said in my post yesterday, the best promise of financial security for small farms most likely lies outside the commodity realm, by selling directly to consumers, and depriving the Organic Valleys and Horizon Organics of the world the lucrative middleman status.