By Dr. Mercola
State regulatory agencies are increasingly targeting and prosecuting peaceful farmers who provide fresh, healthful food to ready and willing co-op members. Said one buying club member regarding Alvin Schlangen, one of the latest farmers to face charges:1
“It is downright disturbing that the state I call home would spend any time or resources prosecuting a peaceful man for essentially picking up groceries for me.
It is a travesty to what I once called the Justice System to even bring charges … for these alleged ‘crimes’; and if he is found guilty on any of the charges, it will be beyond tragic on so many levels.”
This is a tragic situation, indeed, as well as a serious threat to your ability to purchase food from small, independent farmers.
Minnesota Farmer Threatened with Jail Time for Providing Wholesome Food
The latest trial against Schlangen took place in mid-August. He was already prosecuted once before, in September 2012, for similar charges of delivering food to members of a private buying club (Schlangen is an organic egg farmer, but also picks up other fresh foods, including raw milk, from other small farmers and delivers the goods to members).
In the September trial, Schlangen was found not guilty. In the more recent trial, however, jurors found Schlangen guilty of all five charges (criminal misdemeanors), including:
- Operating without a food handler's license
- Storing eggs at temperatures above the mandated 45 degrees
- Distributing adulterated or misbranded food
- Violating a food embargo
- Selling custom processed meat
He was only sentenced for the first charge, however, and while he faced up to 15 months in jail and a $5,000 fine, he was only fined $300 plus court fees. The judge then fined him $1,000, but suspended $700 of it. Further, he was given one year on probation, and if the probation is violated he will have to serve 90 days in jail.
In order to comply with the probation, he may have to stop his food deliveries, putting his members’ supplies of wholesome food, including raw milk, at risk. Said Pete Kennedy, head of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF):
“It is notable that he was only sentenced for one of five counts. That action shows the whole case was about control. The state doesn’t like food being provided in a private contractual agreement.”
Second Small Farmer Facing Jail Time in Minnesota
Another small farmer, Michael Hartmann, is being accused of selling raw milk that led to an outbreak of E. coli in Minnesota in 2010. His trial is planned for later this year, and it’s one to keep watching.
The state alleges they had proof that Hartmann’s products – which include raw milk, cheese and yogurt – were the source of the outbreak, but Hartmann maintains the allegations are false.
While Minnesota authorities say they found the E. coli strain O157:H7 in victims and at Hartmann’s farm, the latter was mainly in cow manure samples; officials had not actually found the bacteria in any of Hartmann’s products.
Wisconsin, Michigan Also Targeting Peaceful Farmers
If you’re sensing a pattern, it’s because there are not one but a handful of states that are aggressively targeting raw milk and other small farmers, seeking to criminalize their methods of food production.
Wisconsin dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger was among the latest targets, charged earlier this year 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 ended up with a fine in lieu of jail time. FTCLDF is appealing the jury verdict of the fourth charge on claims that key information was withheld that would have exonerated him.
Small farmers raising heritage-breed hogs are also being targeted, particularly in the state of Michigan. 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.
Who Do YOU Trust to Provide Healthful Food?
The war against raw milk and other small farmers 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. While the state officials try to make it sound as though they’re ‘protecting’ the public from unsafe foods, they are, instead, keeping wholesome foods out of the hands of the families that wish to purchase and consume them.
While the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that raw milk, for instance, can carry disease-causing bacteria, what they completely overlook is the fact that these bacteria are the result of industrial farming practices that lead to diseased animals, which may then in turn produce contaminated milk. They make no distinction whatsoever between disease-riddled milk from CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) and the milk from clean, healthy grass-fed cows.
And it cannot be ignored that the local farmer-to-consumer model is not very beneficial to the big corporations, as they have brought the farmers’ share of many of these products down to less than 7 cents to the dollar in the retail market. Manufacturers, distributors and retailers are taking the majority of the profits from the farmer's labor when you purchase industrially produced foods. It’s really nothing more than strong-arm tactics aimed at shutting down the competition, under the guise of ‘protecting public health.’
It’s Time to Stand Up 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 raw milk and cheese, organic eggs and 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:
- Get informed: Visit www.farmtoconsumer.org or click here to sign up for action alerts.
- Join the fight for your rights: The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) is the only organization of its kind. This 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization provides a legal defense for farmers who are being pursued by the government for distributing foods directly to consumers. Your donations, although not tax deductible, will be used to support the litigation, legislative, and lobbying efforts of the FTCLDF. For a summary of FTCLDF’s activities in 2012, see this link.
- Support your local farmers: Buy from local farmers, not the industry that is working with the government to take away your freedoms.