Raw Milk in the News

December 29, 2011

The Food Rights Network will be on vacation from January 1 – January 13. Happy New Year, and look for the next “Raw Milk in the News” on Thursday, January 19!

  • “Small Farmers Fight the Good Fight”: According to the Rock River Times (12/28), “In Loganville, Wis., the saga of Mennonite farmer Vernon Hershberger has switched from defense to offense after four charges were levied this month. . . . The state charged him with a retail food violation between Aug. 6, 2009, and June 3, 2010, a raw milk producer violation between Feb. 15, 2010, and June 3, 2010, a dairy plant violation between Feb. 15, 2010, and June 3, 2010, and a ‘holding order’ violation between June 2, 2010, and July 8, 2010. Hershberger ignored the raid and went back to business as usual of supplying small amounts of organic products to members, or in his view, fellow owners.
    “Hershberger has a Wednesday, Jan. 11, court date at 1 p.m. The date was originally set a week earlier, but Hersberger asked for a continuance to set up a rally by food club members and by local concerned citizens to be held outside the courthouse, 515 Oak St., in the city of Baraboo, before Court Commissioner Leo Grill. . . .
    “Hershberger has never laid claim to being a retailer.
    “‘It just so happens that I am the one who takes care of the cows, which we all share in a lease agreement,’ Hershberger said. ‘Let’s remember that by law, to lease is to own and that is why the state is picking on me. . . .’
    “The state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) took issue with the club, which has members scattered across the state, and raided Vernon’s farm. They taped his refrigerators shut and cited it as a crime scene. . . . Vernon was held at gunpoint in his living room in front of his young family . . .”
  • “Raw Milk = Raw Deal?”: An excellent full-length feature article with accompanying must-watch video of farmer Dan Brown showing and discussing his farming practices and safety checks in the Bangor Daily News (12/27) tells the story of Brown’s one dairy cow, Sprocket, aka “Troublemaker” (nicknamed that because of the lawsuit filed against Brown by the state of Maine because he sells whatever is left of her milk raw after he and his family drink it), and his conflict with state regulators, including family friend and Agriculture Commissioner Walter Whitcomb. See also the Food Rights Network’s article and interview with Brown here.
  • Tucker Adkins Dairy Farm Recovering After FDA Smear Campaign: According to The Herald (10/25), Tommy and Carolyn Adkins of Tucker-Adkins Dairy in Rock Hill, South Carolina “struggled as sales have plummeted after the national attention. . . . In June, the Federal Drug Administration issued a warning, saying there were eight illnesses because of bacteria in raw milk from the Tucker-Adkins dairy. Later testing by the FDA and the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control showed the dairy’s raw milk was negative for Campylobacteriosis, a bacteria known to cause diarrhea, cramping and fever. . . . ‘Our customers need to bear with me, we’re slowly picking up, but we won’t bounce back [until] spring,’ [Carolyn Adkins] said.” The FDA has issued no apology for the false accusations. The campaign against the small farm involved not only the FDA but a network of state agriculture departments from South Carolina to Texas. Look for more from the Food Rights Network on this story in the new year.
  • “Amish Dairy Farmer Selling Raw Milk Won’t Be Cowed by FDA”: According to the New American (12/22), “Milk may do a body good, but selling it without the government’s stamp of approval does not. Dan Allgyer, an Amish dairy farmer, is finding that out the hard way. The federal government is trying to slap a permanent injunction on him preventing him from selling his cows’ product to willing customers in other states — all because Allgyer and his customers prefer to trade in milk that has not been pasteurized. . . .
    “Currently a food-buying club in Maryland called Grassfed on the Hill sends a truck to Allgyer’s farm to purchase and pick up his milk. They then transport it back to their home state, where it is distributed to club members in private homes. Allgyer is not personally selling the milk in Maryland at all.
    “The FDA, whose headquarters are in Silver Spring, Maryland, apparently got wind of this arrangement and launched an investigation. The agency spent over a year and countless tax dollars on an undercover infiltration of Grassfed on the Hill. Its agents joined the club under assumed names, placed orders for milk, and went into private residences to pick up their purchases. Then the FDA conducted an armed, pre-dawn raid on Allgyer’s farm in April 2010, during which agents found raw milk coolers marked for various destinations in Maryland. . . .”
    According to The Complete Patient‘s David Gumpert, “The proposed injunction provides for the added privilege of having his farm inspected whenever FDA agents are bored or just have the urge, AND he gets to pay big time for the privilege (at rates of $87.57 or $104.96 per hour, plus 51 cents a mile for their travel, plus the regular government ‘per diem’ for meals and hotels). One inspection that lasts a day or two, and involves two or three agents, who, of course, have to write up a detailed report afterwards, could cost $10,000. Maybe they decide to do it once a year, maybe once a month, maybe once a week. Whatever their pleasure.
    “At the end of five years, Allgyer can tell the court he’s been a good boy, and appeal to have the injunction lifted, and maybe it will be and maybe it won’t. If not, the inspection arrangement continues.”
    Dan Allgyer has responded to the FDA’s motion for summary judgment in an 11-page document, including in part:
    “The defendant in this instant case denies the allegations of ownership or control of Grassfedonthehill, Communities Alliance for Responsible Eco-farming (“CARE”) or Rawsome Foods and Defendant is not a part of such entities at this time. . . . ‘Rainbow Valley,’ a 1st and 14th Private Membership Association, does exist and does not deal with the public; it only deals with private members in a 1st and 14th private membership association. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the public domain is separate from the private domain of a private membership association in numerous cases. . . . These cases have also ruled that private membership associations are outside your jurisdiction and authority, being exempt.”

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