BY DAN FLYNN | APRIL 14, 2014There are still multiple endings that could be put on the raw-milk story told during the 2014 state legislative season.
One popular theory is that the foodies and libertarians have joined hands in a great coalition to pass bills to legalize unpasteurized milk across the land. These theorists point to 40 bills introduced in 23 statehouses during the current legislative season. Another possibility is that not all that much has changed in 2014 except for the fact that raw milk advocates are now more visibly split in their ranks on the direction their movement should take.
After Wisconsin’s “raw milk outlaw” Vernon Hershberger was found not guilty of operating without various licenses at the infamous Baraboo trial last year, his vocal opposition to GOP state Sen. Glenn Grothman’s bill to make licensed raw milk sales legal in Wisconsin became symbolic of the split.
All states are equal, but not when it comes to raw milk. Wisconsin is America’s dairy state, with around $30 billion of pasteurized milk sales. After Hershberger came out against Grothman’s bill for raw milk sales that involved some licensing and regulation, the bill went nowhere and is now officially dead.
Before the 2010 elections, the Wisconsin Legislature did make raw milk sales legal. However, Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed the bill and Grothman has since failed to get another raw milk bill passed.
And the fact is the 2014 legislative season is already over in 19 states that either do not usually meet in election years or that have already adjourned. Another seven states join that list in just a few days. Except for the half-dozen states with year-round legislative bodies, most of the rest are shut down by mid-May.
It is unlikely there will be any addition to the handful of states that permit raw milk to be sold at retail. The fights are mostly over regulatory tweaks and policies on farm sales and so-called cow-share schemes.
With raw milk bills like these going back and forth, the tightening versus liberalization battle is more like the trench warfare of World War 1. When every legislative season is over, there are usually some slight changes back and forth, but not much in the way of wholesale changes.
The two sides have their lines of debate down pat. Opponents tell how time and transportation of raw milk raise the risks that the harmful bacteria contained in unpasteurized milk pose real dangers to consumers, especially children. They have data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and horror stories on videotape told by raw milk victims and their grieving parents.
Advocates of raw milk talk about “food freedom” and do not lack for testimonials from folks who drank raw milk all their lives and offer theories about how pasteurization kills bacteria in milk, but also ................continue reading
Vernon Hershberger was awarded the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund "Never a Doormat" award for 2013 by FTCLDF President Pete Kennedy, Esq..at the annual Weston A. Price Foundation fundraiser in Atlanta, Georgia.
You can see Vernon accept the award in the video below around the 29 minute mark.
Congratulations Vernon, Erma, and crew!!!
Loganville farmer Vernon Hershberger went to court and beat criminal charges for selling unpasteurized, raw milk and other farm-fresh goods directly to customers without proper state licenses.
But he’s not in favor of a bill that would legalize raw milk sales in Wisconsin. If the bill passes, he would be turned into a criminal, Hershberger said Thursday.
“The jury in Baraboo acquitted me of the charges,” Hershberger said. “If I’m allowed to do it (sell unpasteurized diary without a permit), all other farmers should be allowed to do it as well. I will be another criminal because the jury freed me of having to have a license to do what I’m doing.”
Hershberger, who testified against the bill during a public hearing Wednesday, sells unpasteurized dairy and other food products from his farm through a program known as a buyer’s club.
A buyer’s club, known in other parts of the country as a cow-sharing or a herd-leasing program, allows farmers to enter into private contracts with consumers to essentially co-own animals on the farm. The consumer then has access to the milk or meat produced by the animal.
The raw milk bill, sponsored by Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, and Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, would require farmers who sell raw milk to meet or exceed Grade A standards just like farmers who sell to dairy processing plants. Hershberger did not renew his Grade A license three years ago when he made the decision to quit selling his milk to a dairy processing plant and instead sell raw milk through a buyer’s club business model.
Hershberger said the jury made it clear it was his right to sell raw milk without a license, without having to register with the state and without having to meet standards.
“I’m allowed to do what I do without a license,” Hershberger said. “And those with a Grade A license are not allowed to do what I do.”
Another public hearing on the raw milk bill will be held in La Crosse on Monday. Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo, will testify at that hearing. Another co-sponsor of the raw milk bill, Clark said he plans to speak about a separate bill that would remove any ambiguity over the legality of buyer’s clubs.
Because the charges against Hershberger were criminal and not civil, the not-guilty verdict applies only to him. That leaves a gray area over whether other farmers would be charged for operating buyer’s clubs.
“My bill is more narrowly crafted and would legalize buyer’s clubs,” Clark said at the Capitol, outside the raw milk hearing Wednesday.
In contrast, the raw milk bill would allow for farmers to sell directly to consumers if certain criteria are met. Clark’s bill legalizes an alternate business model for raw milk to be sold.
Under Clark’s draft bill, farmers who operate a buyer’s club would not need to get a Grade A license from the state, just a buyer’s club permit.
“We are replicating California standards for unpasteurized raw milk sales,” Clark said. “We are not letting (the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection) write the rules.”
One difference is that California allows for the retail sale of raw milk. Clark’s bill would not.
The state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection had been promoting the creation of the buyer’s clubs as a means for farmers to earn additional income.
But that changed in May of 2010 when former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle abruptly changed course and vetoed a bill that would have legalized raw milk sales. A month later Hershberger’s farm was raided by DATCP officials accompanied by local law enforcement officers.
Hershberger said he and his attorney, Elizabeth Rich of Plymouth, have talked with Clark about his bill. Hershberger said Thursday that “depending on how things go, we might work with him some more.”
“What he is trying to do is get a statute into law that correlates to my trial,” Hershberger said, meaning no need for a permit or license to operate a buyer’s club that sells unpasteurized dairy products.
Rich said she appreciates Clark’s efforts to support farmers like Hershberger.
“I think the bill as proposed includes extensive involvement by DATCP in the buyers club. And that’s the area that needs some work,” Rich said. “Neither party wants extensive involvement by the state.”
With Appeal Underway, Hershberger Rallies Supporters
By Rick Barrett of the Journal SentinelJury Foreman and Vernon after the sentencing
Aug. 14, 2013 12:20 p.m.
It's rare — or maybe it has never happened — that someone found guilty of a crime would invite the jurors who convicted him, and the officials who prosecuted him, to an ice cream social.
But on Saturday, raw milk dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger is throwing a party to thank his friends and to raise money to rebuild two of his farm buildings, and he says five jurors from his trial last spring are likely to be there, along with about 100 other supporters.
Hershberger was convicted in May of one misdemeanor related to the sale of raw milk products in his farm store. He was acquitted of three other criminal charges in the case, which stemmed from a June 2010 government raid on his Grazin' Acres farm in Sauk County.
He plans to appeal the conviction for violating a hold order placed on the products in his store. He'll hold a news conference about the appeal at Saturday's social.
Some of the jurors have since become friends with the Loganville dairy farmer and have joined his buyers club, which sells raw, unpasteurized milk and other products to members.
After the trial, four jurors asked Sauk County Circuit Judge Guy Reynolds to be lenient. Reynolds fined the farmer $1,500, including court costs.
Hershberger also has sent ice cream social invitations to officials from the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection who tried to shut down his operation and send him to jail for operating a retail store, dairy farm and dairy processing facility without licenses.
"I would like to improve our communication with DATCP. This might be a good way to start," Hershberger said.
State officials say they're not likely to attend.
For the most part, raw milk sales to the public are illegal in Wisconsin.
During the trial, which put Wisconsin in the center of the national raw milk controversy, officials alleged that Hershberger used the farm's buyers club as a way to run an unlicensed retail operation. They did not accuse him specifically of violating raw milk regulations.
But the farmer's attorneys, paid from the national Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, have said he was unfairly targeted for prosecution because he sold unpasteurized milk to members of the buyers club.
The raw milk issue has pitted people who believe unpasteurized milk straight from the farm has beneficial properties against state agriculture and public health officials who say it can cause food-borne illnesses.
Hershberger's supporters say his case could set a precedent for other farmers wanting to establish private buyers clubs as a way to sell unpasteurized dairy products.
Since the trial, there's been more interest in the buyers clubs, said Hershberger's attorney, Elizabeth Rich, who has asked for a three-judge panel to hear the appeal because she says it has statewide importance.
"The Legal Defense Fund is putting together documents to help set up a club that would conform with the Hershberger verdict and, we believe, would conform with Wisconsin law," Rich said.
State Department of Justice officials say they don't see the acquittals from the Hershberger case, or any outcome from the appeal, as setting a statewide precedent.
"This appeal involves a specific set of facts and a specific individual. We believe it can be, and should be, decided on that basis," said Department of Justice spokeswoman Dana Brueck.
Rich said there will be raw milk and raw-milk ice cream available at Saturday's gathering, but it will be for members of the farm's buyers club. Everyone else gets pasteurized dairy products.
The event is not meant to annoy state officials, according to Rich. "We have always said the door is open to have a dialogue," she said.
The primary purpose of the ice cream social is to raise money for Hershberger to rebuild a barn and machine shed destroyed by a fire sparked by heating lamps in the barn in April. "That is where the proceeds are going," Rich said.
Legislative effort revivedThere have been several attempts in the state Legislature to legalize the sale of raw milk and other unpasteurized dairy products direct from the farm, including a recent bill from Sen. Glenn Grothman.
The West Bend Republican's proposal would allow limited continue reading
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 08/13/2013
The case regarding a Loganville dairy farmer who was acquitted on three of four criminal charges of food distribution in Sauk County this spring does not appear to have an ending yet. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund announced on Monday that it is organizing a press conference this weekend to talk about the trial.
The event will include certain members of the jury, as well as Vernon Hershberger himself. Others who plan to make statements include Author David Gumpert; Max Kane, who is the founder of FarmMatch.com; and Attorney Elizabeth Rich, the group's vice president.
The forum will take place August 17 at Grazin' Acres, continue reading
By Dr. Mercola
The state of Wisconsin is one of a handful of states that is aggressively targeting raw-milk farmers, seeking to criminalize their methods of food production.
Wisconsin dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger was among the latest targets, charged with four criminal misdemeanors for supplying a private buying club with raw milk and other fresh produce.
He was acquitted of three of the four charges, and now the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) is appealing the jury verdict of the fourth charge…
Was This Wisconsin Raw Milk Farmer Unfairly Charged?After Hershberger was acquitted of three of the four charges, the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a motion to revoke Hershberger’s bail and instead send him to jail for a fourth charge of violating a holding order.
This required that he not sell any food or milk from his store as a condition of his bail. Hershberger openly admitted that he had violated the order and broke seals to get into his coolers, in part to retrieve food to feed his own family.
As a result, jurors had no choice but to find him guilty of this charge, and he was sentenced to pay a $1,000 fine plus $513 in court costs. Hershberger avoided jail time and the maximum possible fine of $10,000, but several of the jurors noted that state prosecutors and the county judge withheld key information that would have exonerated him of even the hold-order charge.
According to FTCLDF, the jury received a heavily redacted hold order, which stated Hershberger’s food was “misbranded or adulterated” when in fact the food was neither.
Attorneys for the case believe this missing piece of information would have been enough for the jury to clear Hershberger on all charges. According to attorney Elizabeth Rich:
“Had the jury been given enough information to understand the totality of the circumstances, we believe they wouldn’t have convicted Vernon of violating the holding order. His conviction was not consistent with the jury’s acquittal on the other three count.”
Jurors Angered Over Blatant InjusticesSeveral of the jurors were so moved by the case that they now want to join Hershberger’s buying club to be able to access raw milk for their families, noting that this is an issue of food freedom. Not only does it seem a precious waste of state resources to target a man supplying wholesome food to informed and willing buyers, several of the jurors stated they felt the trial, and specifically the holding order charge, was unjust.
Specifically, the jury only determined whether Hershberger had violated the hold order… not whether the holding order was valid. Since he had been acquitted of the charges that led to the holding order being placed, it means that the state had no right to be barring Hershberger from accessing his food in the first place.Baraboo News Republic reported:1
“ '… we weren’t allowed to judge whether the holding order was valid,' [juror Michele] Bollfrass-Hopp said. She added that since Hershberger was acquitted of the other charges that the state used as its basis for placing the holding order, the order itself should have been a moot point. ‘You have to have common sense when you apply the law.’”
With FTCLDF’s appeal, it’s possible that Hershberger may still be cleared on allcharges and receive the justice he deserves.
Raw Milk Continues to be Unfairly Targeted While Other Foods Are Making People SickOne of the most significant potential ‘threats’ from raw milk is listeria; this is the disease the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) often uses as its ‘poster child’ in its warnings against drinking raw milk. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 2,500 Americans become seriously ill from listeria each year and, among these, 500 will die.
While listeriosis is generally a mild illness in healthy people, causing few or no symptoms, people with compromised immune systems and pregnant women are at more serious risk. In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, premature delivery, infection or death to the newborn. But how many cases of the 2,500 a year actually come from raw milk?
According to the FDA and the CDC, from 1998 to May 2005 there were 45 outbreaks of food-borne illness that implicated unpasteurized milk, or cheese made from unpasteurized milk. These outbreaks accounted for 1,007 illnesses, 104 hospitalizations, and two deaths.2 This works out to 144 cases a year. And that is assuming that EVERY person who got sick from raw milk that year got sick from listeria, which is highly unlikely.
So it is likely far fewer than 144 people a year who have gotten listeriosis from raw milk. The remainder of the 2,500 illnesses a year are then coming from, as the report noted, primarily deli meats.
Hot dogs, refrigerated pre-prepared meat spreads, pasteurized cheeses and pre-made meat and seafood salads have also been implicated in listeria outbreaks. Just this month, for instance, three types of Crave Brothers cheese were recently removed from store shelves because of possible listeria contamination – and these cheeses are made from pasteurized milk!
Is Milk Even a ‘Necessary’ Food?The war against raw milk is clearly an issue of government and big business trying to interfere with your right to access pure food from the producers of your choice. Another issue entirely is whether milk of any kind is actually the healthful food it’s made out to be. Personally, I don’t drink much milk, raw or otherwise (although I do currently use about one pound of raw butter a week).
But many view milk as a dietary staple, essential for adding calcium and fat to their diets, especially for kids. Several US government agencies even recommend the consumption of three cups daily of reduced-fat milk for most age groups. But a recent article in JAMA Pediatrics3 questions the scientific rationale for promoting milk consumption for both children and adults, and reconsiders the role of cow’s milk in human nutrition.
The authors state:
“Humans have no nutritional requirement for animal milk, an evolutionarily recent addition to diet. Anatomically modern humans presumably achieved adequate nutrition for millennia before domestication of dairy animals, and many populations throughout the world today consume little or no milk for biological reasons (lactase deficiency), lack of availability, or cultural preferences. Adequate dietary calcium for bone health, often cited as the primary rationale for high intakes of milk, can be obtained from other sources.”
Far from being healthful, the researchers suggest that the consumption of reduced-fat milk, which is high in milk sugar, may instead be contributing to the obesity epidemic (one cup of 2 percent milk contains more than 12 grams of sugar – nearly as much as a chocolate chip cookie). But whether or not you choose to drink milk, most would still agree that attempting to criminalize a raw-milk farmer for supplying this food to private buyers is a dangerous assault on food freedom.
Small Heritage-Breed Pig Farmers Are Also Being TargetedIt’s not only raw-milk farmers who are facing the ‘food police.’ Small farmers raising heritage-breed hogs are also being targeted, particularly in the state of Michigan where the Invasive Species Order (ISO) went into effect last year.
The ISO prohibits anyone in the state from possessing what they define as "invasive species of swine," which the state says are carriers of many parasites and disease, and a major source of damage to forests, agricultural lands and water resources. While the dictionary definition of "feral" refers to an animal running wild, Michigan authorities have taken it a step further and extended the definition to include enclosed private hunting preserves and small farms that are raising heritage-breed pigs.
There is no genetic test to determine whether the species on these farms are truly invasive, so authorities are basing their cases against these farmers solely on visual observations and characteristics so vague that virtually any pig other than the familiar pink domestic breed raised on CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) could potentially be deemed "feral."
Any farmer or other individual found to be in possession of such a hog could be charged with a felony and subjected to up to two years in jail and fines of up to $10,000 per violation. In one case against farmer Mark Baker of Baker's Green Acres, who raises Mangalitsa "wooly" hogs, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), through the Michigan Attorney General, is asking the judge to impose fines of $700,000 for his 70 “illegal” pigs. Baker, however, is fighting back and has filed suit against the state of Michigan for loss of livelihood due to the ISO. He told FTCLDF:4
“Because of the ISO, I have not been able to process or sell any pork in Michigan since April 2012 or sell the live pigs. This threatens the viability of my farm, my income and the health and well-being of my family. The ISO is a threat to genetic diversity and freedom of choice as well as the ability of small farms to make a living. This order denies consumers their rights to access foods of their choice and violates property rights and the right to make a living. Farmers and other hog owners in Michigan must either get rid of their now ‘prohibited’ property or become felons.”
Are You Willing to Fight for Your Food Freedom?The fight for food freedom isn’t just for those who love raw milk – it’s for everyone who wants to be able to obtain the food of their choice from the source of their choice. Now heritage-breed pigs are being targeted and there’s no telling what other small-farm, niche foods may be next. So please, get involved! I urge you to embrace the following action plan to protect your right to choose your own foods:
Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund to Persevere to Fully Vindicate Private Buying Club
Falls Church, VA, July 2, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The absolute right to private, unregulated, direct trade with a local raw milk producer is being fully tested in the heart of "America's Dairyland". The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund plans to appeal the jury verdict of farmer Vernon Hershberger in the recent case, State of Wisconsin (Plaintiff) vs. Vernon Hershberger (Defendant). The appeal will be presented in Wisconsin appellate court district IV. Likely, the case will be reviewed by a 3 judge panel.
Hershberger was found guilty on only one of four criminal counts, the violation of a hold order.
Hershberger owns and operates a privately held dairy farm, Grazin' Acres, in Loganville, Wisconsin. Over 200 investors in his farm enable Hershberger to operate a non-retail farm store for member investors only.
At issue in this case, was whether or not Hershberger needed retail license, dairy plant license, and milk producers license from the state to operate such a business. A jury of his peers found that Vernon was not breaking licensing laws, exonerating him of the three counts of operating without licenses.
The jury was also charged with determining whether or not a hold order was issued, and whether or not Hershberger had violated the order. The hold order was placed on Hershberger's dairy cases in the farm store in by the Wisconsin Department of Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) on June 2, 2010.
During his trial, a heavily redacted hold order was submitted to the jury for review. In court, Hershberger had admitted he opened the state seal on his dairy refrigerators to allow his members access to their property.
"For Vernon, this was an act of civil disobedience. He believed the state was exceeding its authority, and that, as owners, his members had every right to the dairy products from their own cows," explains Elizabeth Rich, Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund attorney.
A team of attorneys hired by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund is filing the appeal. Elizabeth Rich, Glenn Reynolds, Amy Salberg took the original case to court on May 20-24, 2012, and will stay on the case. They have 20 days from the June 13th sentencing to file their appeal, the deadline is July 3.
The law in the state of Wisconsin allows owners of cows to drink their cow's milk without licenses.
"Had the jury understood the totality of the circumstances, they wouldn't have convicted him of violating the holding order. Vernon's conviction was not consistent with the jury's finding that members of Grazin' Acres were owners of the dairy farm, this is why we are appealing," says Rich.
Attorneys handling the case also believe the jury would have cleared the owner of Grazin' Acres of all charges had they seen the full hold order. The redacted portion of the order said the food was "misbranded or adulterated." Attorneys believe Hershberger would have presented a convincing argument that the food was neither adulterated, nor misbranded.
For the one count Hershberger was found guilty of, the potential fine was in excess of $10,000. The judge showed leniency. Hershberger was given a sentence of no jail, no probation, just a $1000 fine, plus mandatory court assessments. The total damages of $1513.00 were paid by the members of Vernon's farm immediately after the sentencing.
Since the acquittals and fine resolved the criminal case, Vernon Hershberger and his Grazin' Acres members can continue to operate unimpeded.
The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund defends the rights and broadens the freedoms of family farms and artisan food producers while protecting consumer access to raw milk and nutrient-dense foods. Those concerned can support the FTCLDF, a U.S. based 501(c)(4) nonprofit, by joining or donating online at www.farmtoconsumer.org or by calling 703-208-FARM (3276).
CONTACT: Kimberly Hartke, Publicist 703-860-2711 firstname.lastname@example.org
Episode 9 of the Food Rights Hour podcast is about the case of Amish dairy farmer, Vernon Hershberger. During this episode, host Kimberly Hartke talks to a few of Vernon’s club members, folks who know firsthand the value of the farm-to-consumer relationship. We also hear from FTCLDF President, Pete Kennedy, about the case and from Co-Founder of Farm Food Freedom Coalition, Liz Reitzig, about the events surrounding the upcoming trial that begins on May 20th.
Why is this court case significant for not only Grazin’ Acres but for all access to raw milk in all states around the country? What does Pete Kennedy think will happen if Wisconsin legalizes the sale of raw milk? Why are Grazin’ Acres club members such strong supporters of Vernon Hershberger and his food buying club? What events are planned to show support for Vernon Hershberger in Baraboo around the time of the trial?
Listen to the podcast to find out!
Kimberly Hartke interviews food club members Jennifer Morrison, Joy Martinson, and Pierre Pipper who were in varying degrees of poor health or disease before joining the Right to Choose Healthy Food buyers club.