The milk Gestapo is at it again, this time in Wisconsin. Vernon Hershberger, an Amish farmer, has been providing people in the cheese state with fresh, raw, unadulterated milk. One would think with a nickname like “the Cheese State” raw milk wouldn’t be such a big deal… but it is. You see, if you’re a farmer and choose not to process – by that I mean pasteurize and kill all of the life-giving enzymes and beneficial bacteria – your milk, the chances you’ll get a surprise visit from the food police are high.
And that is exactly what happened to Hershberger. He chose to buck the system that outlaws the sale of raw milk in his state and start a cow-share program. Rather than “sell” his milk to the public, members of his private buying club agreed to purchase part-ownership of a cow, paying Hershberger to board, care for and milk it for them, as there is no law in any state against consuming raw milk from one’s own cow.
It was a mutually beneficial arrangement for the farmer and consumer, not for the state of Wisconsin or the greedy processors, who couldn’t get a cut of Hershberger’s action. So, they raided him, locked up his products and charged him with four crimes.
What’s his crime?
“As proceedings draw closer, we will no doubt hear much from the local media that this is a case about food and dairy licensing, and Hershberger’s refusal to obtain essential licenses. Hershberger is accused of four criminal misdemeanors–failing to have a retail food establishment license, operating a dairy farm as a milk producer without a license, and operating a dairy plant without a license (though Wisconsin issues no licenses for raw milk producers). The fourth accusation is that Hershberger violated a holding order from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection in June 2010, when he cut the agency tape shuttering his farm store, and resumed serving his food club member,” wrote David Gumpert who broke Hershberger’s story on his website TheCompletePatient.com. In a recent interview with Gumpert on Food Riot Radio, we discussed exactly what’s at stake in the Hershberger trial. This case is not about whether Hershberger had the proper licenses or permits; it’s about private contractual agreements and whether we, as Americans, have a right to engage in them, without interference from Big Brother.
Hershberger’s trial is pivotal in the battle for food freedom. If Vernon wins, and his contractual rights are restored, it will set a precedent for farmers facing similar plights around the country and may cause enforcers of arbitrary laws to back off. If he loses, we may see an unprecedented reign of terror from local and federal regulators, amped up on the judge’s confirmation of their authority. But why are these government officials so hell bent on taking out small, peaceful farmers?
Because these farmers pose a threat to the mega-food processors, that’s why. Big Dairy processors want good little slave-like farmers, who will feed their cows Monsanto’s genetically modified grain and growth hormones, so they have a cheap “raw” product to process, mark up and profit from. And Big Food processors are worried, because, as Gumpert pointed out, once customers have to go all the way to the farm to get their milk, they start getting the rest of their food there too.
That’s why these goons aim to limit our access to raw milk. It’s the “gateway” food to other unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods, like pastured meats, poultry and eggs, as well as some lightly processed, homemade products like chicken pot-pie and sprouted breads. The processors prefer us to be dependent on their prepackaged, genetically modified, sterile foods.
Government works on behalf of big corporations by taking away our right to choose. It’s called fascism or corporatism.
So, if Vernon loses and we can’t engage in mutually beneficial contracts with our farmers, can we really call this the land of the free and the home of the brave?
The land of the free may have been lost long ago, but I do think there are plenty of brave people left, like Vernon Hershberger, who, instead of submitting to a holding order by the State of Wisconsin, ripped down the red tape and sold his product to willing and waiting customers. The same can be said of Rawesome Foods owner James Stewart for selling raw milk illegally and then breaking bail, or Mark McAfee for suing the FDA over its ban on the interstate sale of raw milk, or Mark Baker for challenging the Big Pork industry. These are true patriots that need to be admired for their courage in the face of tyranny. Its brave men like this who weak men – the ones who hide behind their expensive suits and executive boards – are so afraid of.
Big Food thinks we’re just going to roll over and accept their boxed treats. Well I got bad news for you Jack – it’s not going to happen. It may be a slow awakening but it’s happening. People are sick and tired of being sick and tired. They want real foods. They want to live, and they’ll drive all the way to the farm to make sure this happens.
The more people run to the farm for local, healthy foods, the more processors are running scared to government regulators, begging them to eliminate their competition, in the guise of safety, of course. Yes, the old safety card, one of the oldest tricks in the book. Companies have been using it for decades to consolidate their industries into one-size-fits-all markets – in this case – grocery stores.
Well, we don’t have to be slaves to their system, not yet anyway. We can still support Hershberger, and farmers like him, with our dollars, and stand with him by the hundreds, if not thousands, at his upcoming trial.
We can’t rely on the justice system to bring Hershberger justice. The judges seem to tow the public “safety” line too, espousing the same rhetoric their corporate masters speak. They don’t side with the Constitution, or with what’s right. They don’t want to admit legislatures and regulators got it wrong with raw milk. So they stand their ground.
The system may seem insurmountable for a small farmer like Hershberger, but here he is, in the spotlight, with deck stacked against him. He’ll be outspent, out-lawyered, but he might not be out of luck.
Because his case will be decided by a jury, not a judge, he still has hope. If the men and women summoned to the courthouse can find their consciences, they can set Hershberger free, by using a strategy called jury nullification. It’s a strategy they’ve been told not to use, in which jurors judge a case not based on whether Hershberger broke the law, but on whether the law was just or “lawful” to begin with in light of the Constitution.
Even though they’ve been ordered not to use the strategy, they could nullify the order not to nullify and just find him not guilty of the breaking the “laws” he obviously broke.
The jurors too could be heroes. They need to do what judges are too afraid to do and stand for freedom. Because if we don’t have the freedom to choose healthy food, we don’t have any freedom at all. May God be with those jurors on May 20th, and may luck blow Hershberger’s way.
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