Farmers and market gardeners can use nasty brews of highly toxic herbicides,
pesticides and pharmaceuticals and dubious fertilizers on their crops and
livestock and sell the products to unwitting consumers with little to no interference from the government. But in many states if you try to milk
your own cow and sell that natural milk to people who want to buy it, federal, state and local government officials will send a squad of heavily armed law enforcement officers to shut you down faster than you can say, “Got milk?”
That’s exactly what happened to Vernon Hershberger, an Amish dairy farmer in Loganville, Wis., in June 2010.
Pasteurization is a process that involves heating milk to over 138 degrees for several seconds for the purpose of killing bacteria. Advocates of raw milk say pasteurization is not only unnecessary today, it’s actually harmful because it alters the
milk, making it harder to digest, and kills beneficial bacteria that are good for a person’s intestinal health. Most consumers don’t know that large multinational agricultural companies prefer pasteurization, because it means they can treat their
herds poorly and skimp on sanitary conditions in their milking parlors. For them, the bottom line dictates that pasteurization is cheaper and easier than caring properly for their herds.
From the start, Hershberger thought he was adhering to Wisconsin law because he was part of a private club that paid a fee to have Hershberger board, care for and milk the heifers. In return, participants received the benefits of raw milk. It’s commonly known as a cow-sharing or herd-leasing program, and it’s spreading across the country. According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes the benefits of raw milk, there are cow-sharing programs popping up across the country. In typical bureaucratic legerdemain, Hershberger was never actually charged with selling raw milk. Instead, he was brought up on charges of “operating a farm store without a retail food establishment permit,” of “running a dairy farm without a milk-producer license” and “maintaining a dairy plant without a license.” A fourth charge, for which he was found guilty, was “violating a hold order,” which the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) officials had put on the milk (and cheese) he provided to members of the cow-share program. Hershberger was slapped with that last charge because he reportedly removed some tape a DATCP official had placed on one of Hershberger’s refrigerators.
This writer spoke with Elizabeth Rich, one of two lawyers who represented Hershberger in the case. Ms. Rich is the vice president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, a grassroots organization that helps family farmers defend themselves against government agencies. Ms. Rich explained that for years Wisconsin had actually encouraged farmers to provide raw milk right off the farm to consumers, in an apparent effort to help cash-strapped family farms across the state. “Farmers have been going out of business in Wisconsin for years, so DATCP had been very friendly to farmers, encouraging them to offer raw milk through farm-sharing programs,” said Ms. Rich. “In 2009 the leadership changed, and they started coming after the farmers.”
Despite the fact that Wisconsin government officials tried to prosecute Hershberger for operating without the necessary licenses, added Ms. Rich, this case was always about raw milk. “The prosecution in its closing statement admonished Hershberger to ‘just get a license,’ pointing out that a retail food establishment license could be had for a mere $260,” said Ms. Rich. “But of course there was not and is not a license for what Mr. Hershberger was doing. He was selling raw milk and raw milk products to well-educated, well-informed consumers who sought him out and who entered into private contracts
that were intended to give them an ownership interest in the farm.”
Hershberger still faces a year in jail and up to $10,000 in fines for the last charge, but supporters
remain optimistic. “This is a victory for the food rights movement,” said Ms. Rich.
Christopher J. Petherick is the executive editor of AFP. He resides on a farm
in southern Maryland on which he grows his own vegetables and raises chickens
and turkeys. He is also a practitioner of natural health remedies, preferring to
avoid the prevalent use of over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.http://americanfreepress.net/