Court Victory For Minnesota Raw Milk Producer
- Tuesday, 02 October 2012
Minnesota state law prohibits the sale of unpasteurized milk, or raw milk, but does allow consumers to occasionally buy it directly from farmers. However, farmers can't advertise raw milk and customers have to bring their own containers. Farmers can't sell raw milk to customers on a routine basis. It's a law Alvin Schlangen, mainly an organic egg farmer, is very familiar with. As the volunteer manager of the Freedom Farms Coop (FFC), Schlangen delivers food, including raw milk, for the FFC members. While doing one of those deliveries in 2011, he found his truck being raided by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA).
The 2011 raid by the MDA was the third one Schlangen endured. The first two raids occurred in 2010. During the 2011 raid, the MDA impounded Schlangen's truck and confiscated all the food on it, which included raw milk. As a result of the raid, the MDA alleged that Schlangen sold raw milk off of his farm, handled food without a food handler's permit, and distributed misbranded and adulterated dairy products. The MDA referred the case to local prosecutors, and Schlangen faced three criminal misdemeanor counts for violations of the Minnesota state food and dairy code.
On September 20, 2012 Schlangen was found not guilty on all three counts. Schlangen still faces a second criminal trial on six misdemeanor counts for alleged violations of the Minnesota food and dairy code in a different jurisdiction.
The Farm-to-Consumers Legal Defense Fund helped Schlangen defend himself against the charges. Pete Kennedy, President of the Farm-to-Consumers Legal Defense Fund, said that a jury finding Schlangen not guilty is "an important step in getting our regulatory agencies to honor citizen’s rights to private contracts."
"It's a big step in the right direction," said Schlangen. "I have a hard time understanding how this basic freedom (to access raw milk) has been so hard to maintain."
The patchwork quilt of raw milk laws
Each state has its own laws regarding the sale of raw milk. Only ten states, including Minnesota, ban the sales of raw milk. There are ten states which allow raw milk to be sold in all forms. Seven states have no laws either prohibiting or allowing raw milk to be sold. Four states allow only herd shares, and the rest of the states allow only farm sales.
It is against federal law to ship raw milk across state lines. However, a bill (HR 1830) pending in Congress would make it legal. The bill, if passed, would allow the interstate sale of raw milk even if the consumer purchasing it lives in a state where selling it is illegal.
If you think that American consumers have the right to choose to purchase raw milk across state lines, then sign the petition in favor of HR 1830.
Photo credit: Flickr user, kthread
Gina-Marie Cheeseman is a freelance writer/journalist armed with a passion for healthy living and a degree in journalism. Hailing from the dry, sunny Central San Joaquin Valley of California, she has not let the heat fry her brain. To contact Gina-Marie, visit her website: http://gina-mariecheeseman.com.