Before the WI Raw Milk Train Leaves the Station, Let’s Not Forget About Protecting Protesters Like Scott Trautman

Wisconsin dairy farmer Scott Trautman addresses protesters outside a courthouse in Viroqua in December–an image that apparently doesn’t sit well with DATCP. I think it’s a good thing that there’s so much back-and-forth about the specifics of the Wisconsin raw milk legislation currently under consideration in the state senate. The prospect of legalizing raw milk in the nation’s second-largest dairy state would probably not have gotten anywhere near this much consideration a couple years ago, so much has changed in a brief amount of time.

Yesterday saw the politicians engaged in all kinds of horse trading—pulling out the liability exemption, making the legislation temporary, requiring farmers to keep the names of their customers. Steve Bemis of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund went back-and-forth with Bill Marler, the food poisoning lawyer who has a big following among regulators, to possibly eliminate some troubling language limiting milk consumption to those who purchase the milk.

But something else was going on yesterday in connection with the raw milk legislation: retribution.

Two inspectors from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, Consumer Protection visited the dairy owned by Scott Trautman. You may remember him.  He became an activist in the movement to legalize raw dairy sales after he came under attack by DATCP for selling raw milk, helping organize the protest on behalf of Max Kane in Viroqua in December, and then briefly chaining himself to the fence around the governor’s mansion on Christmas Eve.

DATCP inspectors had given Trautman’s dairy passing grades four times before last fall, as a Grade A dairy. (He lost his license last fall after he was dropped by a dairy processor. Under Wisconsin dairy rules, you lose your Grade A license if you fail to sell milk for 60 days.) Now Trautman wants to be part of the proposed new law (as well as sell cheese) that was the focus of all the horse trading yesterday, which could well be enacted and would allow Grade A dairies to sell raw milk. But yesterday, there were suddenly a number of things the inspectors didn’t like about his dairy.

The big problem was that they didn’t approve of his wooden milking parlor, and want him to build a new one. “Anybody sitting on ten thousand dollars to waste on closing in our beautiful parlor and making it ‘safe’ and ‘unpleasant’?” he asks.

“Isn’t it interesting,” he observed to me. “I have perfect inspections in a facility signed off on by DATCP. Then I am sounding off about raw milk and suddenly I don’t pass. Amazing.”

DATCP is highly conflicted about the proposed legislation. I spoke with DATCP’s spokesperson, Donna Gilson, Thursday morning to inquire about the agency’s position on the pending raw milk legislation. “We still don’t believe there’s a way to produce raw milk safely,” she began. Hmmm, not real positive. What about the pending legislation? “This makes it slightly less risky,” she said. DATCP likes the elimination of the liability exemption, and the  requirements for testing and signage. It also approves of the collection of names of purchasers. “When there is an outbreak—you notice I don’t say if there is an outbreak—this is the most efficient means for notification of people.” I guess you could say DATCP will be a reluctant supporter at best of the new legislation.

But one thing DATCP has no hesitation about is payback. Once the legislation passes, it’s going to be payback time for those farmers who pushed things to this point where the agency has to regulate raw milk rather than just stamp it out. DATCP just seems to have gotten going a little early with Scott Trautman.

As long as there’s all this horse trading going on, here’s my suggestion for an addition to the legislation: an amnesty clause. This is what typically happens when wars between countries end—everyone releases their prisoners and starts over again.

But sometimes, following a war, when the original rulers remain in place over an alienated population, there is a blood letting. The rulers tell the ruled via force: yes, you may have won the latest round in the war, but we’re still in charge. And we want you to remember who is in charge.

DATCP has shown itself to be nearly obsessive when it comes to making life difficult for certain raw milk activists. Witness Max Kane. According to one media report, he appeared briefly at a Viroqua courthouse today for what was supposed to be another effort by DATCP attorneys to question him about the names of his buying group participants. He left a copy of a motion to cancel the session because he has appealed a previous order that he testify, and quickly left the courthouse. 

I’d suggest that the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund make sure that, as part of any legislation to legalize raw milk, that those farmers brave enough to challenge DATCP aren’t setupon by the agency in retaliation. Even prisoners of war get protection under the Geneva Convention.


In New York, raw milk protesters Barb and Steve Smith of Meadowbrook Dairy are awaiting the wrath of the state’s Department of Agriculture and Markets, in the wake of the agency’s court victory invalidating Meadowsweet’s limited liability company to distribute raw milk. In the meantime, the couple has some words of warning for Wisconsin dairy farmers:

“As we have gone through the last 3 years of trouble with Ag and Markets we have seen very clearly that their compulsive desire to control all the milk in the state means they will never allow the raw milk farmers to survive if they can help it. Their real agenda is to eliminate the existence of raw milk farming completely. We were told this years ago by our inspector at the time but didn’t really believe him. Now we know he was right. As long as you have a permit you are voluntarily placing the noose around your own neck. You are agreeing that the department has the authority to come on your farm anytime, to control your farm and farm operations, to find violations, to fine you, and even to shut you down if they want. Raw milk farmers around New York who do have permits are in an almost constant struggle with the state as they are threatened with being shut down for test result violations that later prove to be in compliance afterall. And most importantly, if you do have a problem with the way they treat you, there is absolutely NO recourse! Their word is law, period. If you do not have a permit you are technically NOT under their jurisdiction, though they will try to say otherwise. And finally, if you have a permit you can ONLY sell milk on your farm and ONLY milk, no butter, yogurt or kefir.”

Something to think about.

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20 Comments on "Before the WI Raw Milk Train Leaves the Station, Let’s Not Forget About Protecting Protesters Like Scott Trautman"

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Tim wightman
March 19, 2010 8:20 am

Amnesty…….I’d settle for an apology.
Tim Wightman

March 19, 2010 8:43 am


Who knows? Maybe the regulators would apologize for overbearing actions if the raw milk dairies that caused illnesses apologized too. Then everyone could call a truce, blank slate and work toward legal, safe raw milk access for informed consumers (along the lines of the points made by the two lawyers). Neither side "wins" per se, but we lfind a way to co-exist?

milk farmer
March 19, 2010 9:10 am

Increasing the raw milk supply can be a good thing.

Making this increase of milk, 100% from dairies that are producing milk destined for pasteurization is not a wise move. Seems like one needs to have a contract with a processor to be able to sell raw milk legally (for more than 60 days)…totally undermines the two kinds of milk argument….and creates a less than ideal environment for raw milk sales.

IMO this is a risky move, and a good piece of the future of raw milk in America lies on the shoulders of Wisconsin raw milk farmers.

Monthly testing for pathogens… Read more »

March 19, 2010 9:26 am

"Monthly testing for pathogens is false security, a token measure, and does nothing real to protect public health….

If you think that the authorities have blown out of proportion, raw milk outbreaks before….just wait till the ‘next one’ in WI. "

Very much agree with you milk farmer, at least for the short term. Maybe legalized raw milk in a big dairy state like WI (and via the Whole Foods controversy) will drive technological efforts to improve pathogen testing in raw milk (despite hyperbole, no good test exists for validation, let alone "test-and-hold" for raw milk). Pathogen testing creates… Read more »

Bill Anderson
March 19, 2010 11:07 am

Folks, if you want to help Scott Trautman, there are two things you can do:

1) BUY CEDAR GROVE CHEESE. Scott’s milk will eventually be going to Cedar Grove to be turned into an Artisan cheese under a different brand name. The owner of Cedar Grove (Bob Wills) has been an outstanding supporter of family farmers in this state, and was actually the first dairy proccessor in the U.S. to certify his farms were RBGH-free in 1993. Bob is taking a lot of heat from the state for taking on Scott Trautman as one of his producers.

(Note:… Read more »

Bob "BubbaBozo" Hayles
March 19, 2010 11:19 am

Often on this blog I’ve been called rude, a kook, impolite, and other names for my attitude toward some here…and I have often been all of those and more.

I’ve reserved some of my most scathing comments for Bill Marler, referring to him as slime, an ambulance chasing shyster, and more…one of which David has felt compelled to edit out as often as I’ve said it.

lykke, cp, and even Marler have asked why I display such anger…and I have never answered, partly because I’ve not been able to accurately put the cause into words.

lykke, your comment above, along with Tim’s,… Read more »

Bob "BubbaBozo" Hayles
March 19, 2010 11:23 am

WIRMC…what types of cheeses? Please say either bleu or feta…or both!!!


Bill Anderson
March 19, 2010 11:37 am

No bleu or feta made there, sorry. (Too much lipase in most commercial varieties for my taste anyways…)

Cedar Grove is also renowned for their "living machine", a waste-water treatment greenhouse, that processes all the waste-water from the cheesemaking process in an eco-friendly manner. Check it out–

March 19, 2010 11:52 am


I suspect that your attention to detail and caring about sanitation and food quality/safety in your food processing enterprise is great (after visiting your blog this seems clear), and given your personal standards, it seems unlikely you will ever meet Bill Marler or other personal injury lawyers outside this forum. Not everyone meets these high standards. Could you agree that raw dairy should be subject to basic sanitation standards and rules like not selling outsourced butter, colostrum (or using the same equipment to process raw dairy like whole milk while they are outsourcing?). And, do you… Read more »

Bill Anderson
March 19, 2010 11:53 am


If you like Feta or Blue, try Dante from the WI Sheep Dairy Co-op. It has a very "sheepy" flavor to it, in a good way. Kind of like a Romano, but less salty and more savory.

Bill Anderson
March 19, 2010 12:09 pm


In princple I agree with sanitation and cleanliness standards. I also agree with the need for 3rd party oversight, primarily to HELP producers improve their practices in a constructive way.

However, in practice I know that state inspectors have wide-ranging authority to interpret these things to their whim. Scott Trautman’s case in point. Trautman is probably the most serious about food safety of any of the raw milk producers in the state, and has on many occassions called for the formation of a raw milk producers assocaition to establish standards, only to be ignored by other raw… Read more »

March 19, 2010 12:21 pm


I know there are biases, not so much related to the outbreaks, but very much related to the reaction…my personal bias is that there are too many outbreaks, and the solution isn’t to ban raw milk…we need as scientists and food safety experts to step up to the plate and figure out how to work with raw dairymen/women to make raw milk safer and available for informed consumers, while at the same time keeping the standards scalable for raw milk producers to meet a common food quality/safety goal. I like the 2 lawyers’ ideas as a starting point… Read more »

Bob "BubbaBozo" Hayles
March 19, 2010 12:45 pm


"Could you agree that raw dairy should be subject to basic sanitation standards and rules like not selling outsourced butter, colostrum (or using the same equipment to process raw dairy like whole milk while they are outsourcing?). And, putting it under one label."

You have never heard me suggest anything else. The disagreement is WHOSE standards, WHOSE rules.

Constitutionally, there is no justification (or authority) for government regulation of the food supply. None. Nada.

I’ll go along with a situation similar to Underwriters Laboratories. Go to ANY retailer of appliances and you won’t find a single appliance without… Read more »

Bill Anderson
March 19, 2010 12:59 pm


I wish more WI regulators thought like you. Unfortunately, our dairy inspectors are not rewarded for your kind of thinking. If anything, they are punished for it, because big industry doesn’t want raw milk. Our Secretary of Ag has stated on muliple occassions that our $21 billion dairy industry is putting immense pressure on him to keep raw milk illegal.

Obviously, the state can’t ignore the public will at this juncture. But DATCP is going to make life hell for the farms that continue to legally provide raw milk. I anticipate the farms that survive… Read more »

Bob "BubbaBozo" Hayles
March 19, 2010 1:20 pm

lykke, recently a candidate for Sec of AG here in GA (thank God Tommy Irvin is retiring) told me he waqs against raw milk because of the "remote possibility"…his words, not mine…of a disease outbreak caused by raw milk hurting the state’s dairy industry.

I asked hjim a question that caused a priceless "deer in the headlights" look to come over him.

Me: "I know where the constitutions, both federal and state, say the job of government is to protect the individual. Please show me where, in either constitution, it says it is the states job to protect an industry…and… Read more »

Scott Trautman
March 19, 2010 6:05 pm

Hi – Scott Trautman here –
Clarification – "wooden" – that issue is separate from the "enclosing the parlor" issue. There are 2×12’s around the feed manger in front of the cows while they are being milked. That’s a no no in a general way – figuring that water cups will compromise the wood, making bacterial cul-de-sacs et al. But this is dry, we feed no grain, and with everything else, was fully approved, and anyone that isn’t a vicious farmer hater like Glenn Goldschmidt knows it. Glenn has a history of being unprofessional -not in the use of please… Read more »

Ken Conrad
March 19, 2010 8:08 pm


While the rights of prisoners of war are being protected there is little recognition for societys perceived political outcasts.

I agree with the Smiths statement. Which begs us to ask the question, how can one in all good conscience co-exist with such vindictive tyrants?


lola granola
March 19, 2010 8:43 pm

Let’s talk about the very obvious elephant in the room.

This is, plainly and simply, a bad bill, and we need to kill this bill.

Under current statute, a grade A dairy farm can sell raw milk under the incidental sales clause ("incidental", in legalese, meaning secondary, not the primary business – selling to the processor is your primary business).

Under the proposed legislation, a grade A dairy now needs to keep records of its customers (subject to DATCP inspection, the very thing Max Kane is disputing); needs to have monthly milk testing at a STATE-approved lab (which may be different than… Read more »

Wayne Craig
March 21, 2010 5:56 am

Lola, please enlighten us on what an acceptable bill would look like here in Wisconsin.
As far as the incidental sales clause goes if you are selling to a few neighbors maybe you can get away with it. If you plan to make a business out of it I would suggest you start saying up some money for the court battle you will have to fight to make it fit that clause.

If you want to avoid DATCP altogether why not do a true cow share and… Read more »

Barney Google
March 21, 2010 9:03 pm

Excellent article, Lola Granola. You’re spot on.

Not many people understand what "problem reaction solution" means. People don’t understand what’s at stake here. NAIS , Codex Alimentarius, and Cullen AgriTech are happening, but people don’t know nor do they care, because it doesn’t effect them. If this goes through, there will be nothing but government farms left.

Keep up the good work, Lola.