In 2012 Food Rights Became Legal Issue–Can A Movement Emerge in 2013?


From AP76.orgA year ago I summarized the key themes for 2011 as “rising shock events” and “rising stress levels,” thanks to highly public raids on food clubs and farms.

I’d say 2012 was the year these shock events played out in a number of ways, primarily legal. The hero in this rough-and-tumble legal environment was the farmer. Food rights activist Liz Reitzig summed up their contribution well in a guest post. As she suggested, there are lots of them we don’t hear much about, but three of them stood especially tall in challenging the great American (and Canadian) legal prosecution machines: Alvin Schlangen, Vernon Hershberger, and Michael Schmidt.

These farmers are likely just the lead phalanx, since all signs point to the struggle over food rights getting nastier before there’s any kind of compromise or reconciliation. The reason is that this really isn’t about public health or other truly human issues–rather, it’s about economics and politics. As the dairy industry watches pasteurized milk sales slide, the industry will become ever more desperate, put ever more pressure on politicians and regulators to get rid of these farmers setting the “wrong” example by distributing food privately; Big Ag in other food areas will react similarly.

More on possible future directions later in this post. Right now, here are one observer’s Top 10 stories and cases about food rights and raw milk from the last year.

1.The acquittal of Minnesota farmer Alvin Schlangen. As the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) pursued Schlangen for more than two years, he remained in the background, overshadowed by other cases, like those involving Rawesome Food Club, and fellow Minnesota farmer Michael Hartmann. But last September, when he finally came to trial on three misdemeanors, he turned down a plea deal and went hear to hear with the local prosecutor…and became the first significant food rights “win” since the struggle heated up n the last four years.

2. Wisconsin farmer Vernon Hershberger’s refusal to be intimidated. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has brought out the big artillery against Hershberger over the nearly three years it has pursued him. Even when he flinched slightly in agreeing to debilitating bail conditions, he quickly reversed himself, and hasn’t looked back, even while DATCP has brought increasingly heavy legal pressure to bear in a desperate effort to avoid a repeat of the Alvin Schlangen outcome.  We won’t know the outcome of his case until at least the spring, as his scheduled trial for this month has been put off.

3. Michael Schmidt stands up for principle…yet again. In keeping with the movement around him, Schmidt “graduated” in a sense, moving beyond raw milk, and challenging arbitrary agricultural practices in the area of forced genetic purification of farm animal breeds. He challenged the confiscation of a herd of rare sheep suspected of harboring scrapie. His farm was raided…once more…and he was charged with conspiracy and could face 14 years in jail.  

4. Fessing up around raw milk. An outbreak of illness from E.coli O157:H7 in raw milk at Foundation Farm in Oregon sent four young children to the hospital in serious condition. But it also was a wake-up call to many raw-milk advocates. One encouraging sign was the apparent rejuvenation of the Raw Milk Institute (RAWMI), which had been a subject of bitter debate for months beforehand. Before long, RAWMI was inspecting dairies, conducting presentations for farmers, signing up members, and even arranging to offer insurance to dairies.

5. Rawesome case legal piling on. For the Rawesome Three–James Stewart, Sharon Palmer, and Victoria Bloch–it was a tough year. The legal pressures in Los Angeles County mounted, as a second legal front opened for Stewart and Palmer in neighboring Ventura County. They decided they nearly had no choice but to work out plea bargains, so complex and numerous were the legal charges against them.

6. The Raw Politics of Raw Milk. From Maine, we got a bird’s eye view of how one group of regulators worked to discredit raw milk. It was all in the interests of trying to de-rail the Food Sovereignty movement there, which has convinced seven towns to adopt ordinances declaring private food transactions outside regulatory oversight.

7. Targeting consumers in Minnesota. Most regulators have limited their enforcement campaigns to farmers and food clubs, because they’re afraid of taking on consumers…except for the MDA. It seems unable to pass up the opportunity for a good fight with anyone advocating for food rights, be it farmer or foodie.  Last year, it decided to come down on consumers who host drop points for raw dairy farmers. In May, the MDA sent what I referred to as “love letters” to nine or ten consumers, thanking them, in its own special way, for supporting local farmers…by threatening them with criminal charges if they continued to allow their garages or decks to serve as drop points for raw milk farmers. A number refused publicly to abide by the warnings, and so far as I know, the MDA hasn’t followed through on its threats. But these regulators have infinite patience, helped by the fact that they draw infinite paychecks, and the longer they draw paychecks, the bigger their eventual pension checks, so don’t count on anything being forgotten.

8. First “official” acknowledgment that raw milk may have unique health benefits. From Anna Petherick, a Nature writer, came a ground-breaking article for the University of California’s and milk processor’s Milk Genome Project, arguing that European research made a strong case for special health benefits from raw milk. 

9. The humility of Pennsylvania raw milk farmer Edwin Shank. An outbreak of illnesses from campylobacter hit the East Coast’s largest raw milk producer, Edwin Shank. As the numbers grew, eventually to 60 cases, Shank tried desperately to figure out if he was at fault, and what might have been the cause. Eventually, public health officials in Maryland made a lab connection to his dairy, and he took full responsibility and apologized. Even though the illnesses were mild, there was no hiding, no excuses–only a commitment to do better, which he seems to be fulfilling.

10. The expanding raw milk debate. For the first time in a long time, there was something approximating a public airing of the raw milk issue between proponents and opponents, at the Harvard Law School last February. I was pleased to be part of the proponent team, together with Sally Fallon of the Weston A. Price Foundation. The debate attracted lots of attention, but my guess is you won’t see anyone in a position of authority who opposes raw milk participating in any such public dialog again soon–there was just too much interest, and the opponents had difficulty making a cogent argument for their side. As evidence of the interest, the video of the debate had nearly 28,000 views in ten months.


One of the big questions as we move into 2013 is whether the flurry of debate and legalities around food rights will be transformed into an activist movement to keep the issues front and center. I like to think we will see an important movement emerge.

One of the reasons that will happen, in my judgment, is that there’s much more to come in the way of important information disclosures, in this area and in related areas where corporations and government have conspired to go after so-called troublemakers. One reason I’m optimistic is that there are signs of media upset with the government-inspired campaign to undermine Wikileaks–enough so that a new organization of British and American journalists is taking shape, known as the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Its founding was announced by a British columnist last week.

Much of the American media has been docile as the American government has gone after farmers and food clubs over the last few years, blindly accepting the explanations that they were about “food safety.” Hopefully, we’ll begin to see some self examination by the media, and a desire to go beyond the propaganda the government hands out.

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Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
January 2, 2013 1:53 pm

“Much of the American media has been docile ”

It appears that the US news media feels people are more interested in what the Kardiashians are doing or whose cheating on who, who is getting a divorce, etc. If you fill the pages with this kind of trash, then you don’t have to print real news and you don’t need to research any facts. Guess it saves time and money for the media? Look to owns the media.

I’ve heard stories that whenever a journalist writes opposing views or questions tptb, they are fired and ostracized from their field, some even disappear and some even suddenly die. Safety for whistle blowers? Not true.

I would bet that most journalists are not self supporting, so going out-side the box can be financially dangerous.

Look at the flack Dr Oz got with the reporting of arsenic in apple juice. The govt and juice companies went on a slander campaign for Dr Oz and tried to minimize the severity of the poison in the juice, etc. The media was not honest in their reporting, it was obvious where their pockets were lined from. Follow the money.

mark mcafee
January 2, 2013 4:00 pm

David, very nice recap of the 2012 food follies.

Looking forward, I see an ever weakening pasteurized milk market and a dairy system that will embrace the EU model and make more cheese and yogurts. Even in Mexico, the supermarkets are filled with cheeses and yogurts and not much pasteurized milk is shown at all.

In my glass ball, I see PhD’s at UC Davis becoming very verbal this year. I see study projects with terminal Monkeys and raw milk being completed and showing HARD science in the recovery of unrecoverable GUT disease with raw milk. This will then lead to NIH million dollar studies and the raw cat ( in this case, it will be the primates ) will be out of the bag.

I also see that some states will lag because of regulator corruption and colaboration with processors interests. In those states, pasteurized milk sales will pitch farther down and farmers will languish until a breaking point.

In the progressive states more and more raw milk and raw cheeses will become available and moms will continue to preach to one another on the internet about the GUT healing, Immune healing qualities of raw milk and kefirs cheeses etc…These stories will match UC Davis research precisely leaving the FDA holding the big AG lie.

Soon the FDA will depart their hard and fast held lie and markets will change…it will be quick and it will be sudden. The science is too real and the consequences are to human.

I have already received permission from some of the UC Davis PhD’s at the Milk Genomics center to be interviewed by a film producer. I have already met with the UC Davis researchers and they are not bashful about just plain telling the truth. Pasteurized milk is dead and raw milk will be an emerging market. technology to immediately test for pathogens is here….but unfunded.

I also see more and more farmers wanting and needing RAWMI LISTING. The insurance system is the silent and very potent unspoken regulator of raw milk sales and liability. I have completed three more audits of farms in OR and OPDC should be LISTED this week.

The truth is the truth and when your kids ear infections, your kids asthma and your kids immunity is being traded arround like penny stocks to benefit corporations and not families…. the mother lions and “moms dollar voting” and tolerance of this “money over people” ponzy scheme will be tested and it will fail. The People and our health and farmers interests come first.

The FDA and processors interests do not come at all.

It is just a matter of time.

D. Smith
January 2, 2013 5:09 pm

Until and unless the WIC programs and some of the others like it “approve” of raw milk purchased with vouchers and EBT cards, we won’t see progress in the poorer communities – and they’re the ones who need it most of all. Same with schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and so on. I won’t look for the stooges in the medical/insurance fields to accept raw milk anytime soon, no matter how much good science is on the table. Where we need to be looking is under the table – where some of their biggest deals are made with bigDairy and the gubment hand-out programs, which they cannot afford to let go because it’s one of the gubment’s excuses for keeping taxes high, and because they use those welfare-type programs to keep track of people. They are not in place for the benefit of the people who use them, you can be damn sure of that. If they were in the best interests of the recipients they wouldn’t be handing out phake phood.

mark mcafee
January 2, 2013 6:17 pm

D. Smith,

When health care is in deeper crisis and we can no longer fake our ability to afford sickness care and the morgues are filling quicker than we can bury our people….then and maybe then, prevention will become a reasonable theory of life.

I am forever infuriated by the TV ads for viagra, fosamax, boniva, celebrex, and every other creative pharma toxin that is being pushed on people. It is fatal madness. When food is reconnected back to health then the people will be fed real food. In the mean time….sounds like undertaking is a growth industry.

D. Smith
January 3, 2013 1:38 am

Advertisers for those drugs know their target audience is sitting in front of the boob tube all day long, and that’s what they’re hoping for. The elderly bunch. Trouble is, by “asking their doctor about this drug” they’re the ones who end up in the morgue a bit prematurely – and sick. How come no one seems to connect those dots?

Along those lines, here’s something interesting. This article is short but aggravating. Read the last line. IF the drug companies know the answer to this problem, why are they (or someone at the gubment level) not doing it? Good grief. Tell me that vaccinating ALL those people makes more sense than just giving them some decent, nutritional food? The medical nazi’s will spend 14 times as much vaccinating (and killing more) people than they would by just doling out some much needed HEALTHY food. But heaven forbid they should do it the right and easy way. Shocking, just shocking.

It is my opinion that the reason the measles cases have increased is because of the vaccinations themselves. I’m surprised Aljazeera didn’t go further into the research before reporting on this, they usually do.

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
January 3, 2013 12:54 pm

” (WHO) said on Tuesday that 306 children died in Pakistan because of the infectious disease in 2012, a dramatic surge from to the 64 children in 2011.” “We are vaccinating more than 450 patients per day.”

The vaccines are questionable, since just 64 died the previous year in the same area. Doubtful the environmental/nutritional conditions changed, so that leaves the vaccines suspect.

D. Smith
January 3, 2013 2:35 pm


And didn’t I read something about this last year – where in order to break the cycle of illnesses becoming more prevalent and debilitating over in Africa and India, some tech giant company was going to throw all kinds of money around to help these people learn to be self-sufficient by setting up water supply lines for gardening, as well as supplying the seeds and tools, etc., necessary to grow their own foods? Wonder whatever became of that lovely idea. It’s my guess that some drug company got to the people first, with an offer of money if they just took this little pill or if they just took this little shot in the arm. If so, I guess that didn’t turn out too well for those people. Money always sounds so tempting, especially to a starving, destitute, desperate population – until it’s all gone and they’ve got nothing to show for it if they didn’t use it wisely. Then the drug companies just come back and make another offer and the circle starts all over again.

January 3, 2013 6:51 pm

Cheryl Daniels (the food safety division attorney with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection) once told me over the phone that incidental sales didn’t apply to me. In others words it only applies to people that didn’t want raw milk.

She said it was for someone with a recipe that called for raw milk. In other words she has no idea what it means.

Cheryl Daniels is the one who said “Our entire system of licensing would be in jeopardy,” In other words licensing exists for the sake of licensing.

January 3, 2013 8:04 pm

“Fessing up around raw milk. An outbreak of illness from E.coli O157:H7 in raw milk at Foundation Farm in Oregon sent four young children to the hospital in serious condition.”

“The humility of Pennsylvania raw milk farmer Edwin Shank. An outbreak of illnesses from campylobacter hit the East Coast’s largest raw milk producer, Edwin Shank. Eventually, public health officials in Maryland made a lab connection to his dairy, and he took full responsibility and apologized.”

This kind of thing worries me Dave. Should we allow these accusations to go unchallenged? If we do, we could find ourselves in trouble later, like Vernon Hershberger when he failed to challenge the states illegal raid on his farm.

I realize it may be difficult to prove these outbreaks of malnutrition were not caused by raw milk but isn’t it up to raw milk’s competitors to prove that they were?

Gayle Loiselle
Gayle Loiselle
January 3, 2013 11:59 pm

Hmmm… Ms Daniels told me, over the phone, the exact same thing. Except the implication was that she herself used raw milk in recipes. In a telephone hearing in 2009 she also admitted the statutes and associated administrative rules aren’t concerned with consuming raw milk but rather the sales the distribution of raw milk. My friend Robert (not a farmer) and I do own a cow, DATCP could care less if I drink the milk, or share it with my friends, as long as I don’t take it off the farm or sell it. It’s very clear, the laws in WI regulating dairy exist to protect the profits of the dairy industry and ensure enough fluid milk volume for WI to compete in a global market.

This is exactly why jury nullification exists, so we the people can acquit farmers like Vernon Hershberger when the judiciary follows the order of a corrupted state agency like Judge Fiedler did in his ludicrous ruling that there is no fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of our choice, or to own a cow, or contract with a farmer.

January 4, 2013 6:50 am

I’m going to apologise in advance for the following emotional outburst: It sounds like I hit a nerve David, because I didn’t understand any of that. I think engaging in denial is unnecessary because food safety really isn’t the issue and because a raw milk dairy farm would have to have one of the CDC’s so called outbreaks every day just to keep up with the national average. Since they don’t, it should be obvious to everyone raw milk is preventing diarrhoea not causing it.

Here’s the big one though: David can you name a single case where grass fed raw milk has ever been proven to have made even one person sick? Is there even a way to prove such a thing? If there isn’t why would you choose to believe the ravings of raw milk’s competitors?

I used to think like you until I made one of your comments to a farmer and he said as he walked away “Are you sure about that?”. So Dave, are you sure about that?

Conceding this point without any opposition allows the enemy a foot in the door. Just look at California. Raw milk is supposedly legal there but we still have swat pointing guns at us.

January 4, 2013 5:38 pm

Yes yes, but you haven’t said how we prove what made the person sick. Haven’t we both been looking at the same data? Where’s the proof?

Ora Moose
Ora Moose
January 4, 2013 8:55 pm

RMMike: David already answered “Pinpointing illnesses can be an inexact science for any food-borne illness” and I’m sure you can understand that. Often times there is no conclusive bullet proof scientific evidence for illness, so it becomes a case of “probable likely hood” and no amount of data can change that to be beyond a reasonable doubt.

January 4, 2013 8:57 pm

The CDC and the local health departments are trying hard to distract us from the elephant in the room. Their explanation of the cause of an illness is an attempt to put the blame on something that none of us can see or understand so that we will miss seeing the obvious explanation for the illness. How can we tell if all food is being treated the same ? The connection between an illness and a food is only a link not necessarily a cause and effect relationship. The connection between an illness and a poison is more direct.Consume ammonia and see how you feel. Drink chlorine see the effect. The difference between microbes and poisons is that we all agree that poisons should not be in our food. But if we want cheap food produced in a processing plant, the poisons are a necessary contaminant in our food. The agricultural and industrial contaminants in the food select for microbes that can tolerate these contaminants.The contaminants do the damage (cause the illness) . The microbes that survive get the blame.We can find the origin of the contaminants, but that would be the end of our centralized,mechanized food system. So let’s accept a certain number of illnesses in return for the convenience of shopping at the supermercado.

David says that the evidence connecting milk to illnesses is good and I don’t deny that milk like any other food can contain disinfectants,milk stone acid, antimicrobials (teat dip), and agricultural poisons,but the connection given between an illness and the milk focuses on the fingerprint “match” between microbes in the soil on the farm and in the stool sample. Even a slight scratch on the surface of this explanation reveals that these lab results are simply a lie. Why lie? To deflect the liability for illness from microbes ( only the CDC can finger the liable party) to our corporate controlled food production system and the poisons necessary for it to function.


January 4, 2013 11:27 pm

David said “there is substantial evidence that people in these particular situations got sick from the milk”. You say “probable likely hood”. Ok Dave and Ora, show me. Because I believe the evidence I’ve posted to this sight over the past months shows the exact opposite.

January 4, 2013 11:29 pm

Thank you Miguel.

Ora Moose
Ora Moose
January 4, 2013 11:48 pm

RMMike, I generally agree with most of what you say on here but in this case you are asking for evidence that either doesn’t exist or is evasive at best. Just as the gwubment regulators and other entities twist “facts, laws and other lies” to fit the best presentation of their argument, there’s also no proof that the “exact opposite” could ever be verified. I’m not a lawyer but I can read, even between the lines. Peas on earth, bro.

January 5, 2013 12:34 am

What I meant to say was ” Why lie? To direct the liability for illness to microbes ( only the CDC can finger the liable party) and away from our corporate controlled food production system and the poisons necessary for it to function.”

January 5, 2013 3:10 pm

Ora, it seems that you and David are actually agreeing with me and that your pro pathogen statements are only disclaimers. If that is the case then please excuse my preaching to the choir, otherwise please comment on these earlier posts. Miguel I hope you don’t mind. And again please excuse my intensity in this matter. The friendship of my neighbors is very important to me.


When health departments speak of matches of bacteria fingerprints they are being deceptive. What “matches” are PFGE patterns. These patterns may match even when the two isolates are NOT genetically related. PFGE patterns only can be used to distinguish between isolates that both originated from the same colony of bacteria. Health departments have to assume that they are looking at isolates that were once clones of one original bacteria. Of course if you start with this assumption it isn’t surprising that the conclusion is that the two isolates “match”. The assumption cannot be proven and is not possible outside of a laboratory.
When the epidemiological investigation looks at common denominators ,they ignore the very things that are most likely to be the real cause of the disturbance in the digestive system. These are factors that we all admit can upset the balance in a system that is already walking a tight rope because of malnourishment. Malnourishment ,especially lack of minerals in food ,can be the reason that people’s systems are so easily destabilized. The real factors that are ignored are the biocides in the food, air and water and stress. All of these things contain a steadily increasing amount of toxic residues because of the war on bacteria that is our present food production,preservation and distribution system.
Thu, 11/08/2012 – 13:24

For those who oppose real food, it is enough that we all keep the discussion focused on bacteria. We can talk about how to encourage “good” bacteria and discourage “bad” bacteria.This all reinforces the idea that the problem of illness can be caused by bacteria. From a soil scientist’s point of view,all bacteria have a role to play in the recycling of materials.They take apart dead or damaged cells ,sometimes repairing them and sometimes, if not repairable, disassembling them and turning them into a form that can be used to build new cells. Healthy soil is where everything that dies and rots becomes purified and healthy soil is the source of the nutrients that build healthy new cells. The view that bacteria cause disease is an upside down way of seeing the natural world.Bacteria clean and maintain and build and repair our bodies. When an abundance of one type of bacteria are present at some place in our bodies ,they are there because they are part of the healing process.We want to recognize this and assist in the healing. Balance can best be restored quickly by understanding that the opportunistic bacteria flourish in order to quickly clean up a disaster.By supporting their important work,we will speed up the succession to a more diverse and stable community of bacteria and so bring everything back into balance more quickly. The real cause of disease is the conditions that destroy the diverse,stable community of bacteria that keeps our world functioning smoothly. Our cells die when they are deprived of the nutrients needed to maintain their integrity .They die when they are exposed to poisons. Healthy cells are not attacked for no reason by predatory micro organisms.
Thu, 11/08/2012 – 14:58

Here’s something else that has come to mind over the last couple days.

Has anyone noticed that most of what we call food born illness seems to have very little to do with the particular food that we may have been eating at the time the illness occurred. Last year when norovirus made it’s annual sweep across the country the media made very little of it, so the average person, not seeing the pattern, just assumed it was what ever they had last ate.

When it comes to raw milk, I know from my own experience over the last six years that it actually prevents the very illness it is said to cause, not to mention its dramatic effect on hay fever, food allergy, cat allergy, dust and chemical sensitivity, psoriasis, and general intestinal health. So even if you could prove raw milk caused one case of illness this would be irrelevant since it had already prevented twelve.

How do we know Mary’s son got diarrhea from raw milk? Not only is there no way of proving it. There is no reason to even think such a thing. Diarrhea is a symptom of malnutrition and the most common illness in industrialized nations like the U.S. All of us have had it and will have it again whether our milk is pasteurized or not.

If a raw milk dairy with one thousand customers has less than ten a day with diarrhea it proves that raw milk is preventing illness not causing it.

Even if you believe that the offending bacteria could give someone diarrhea and that there was enough in the milk and at the farm, you wouldn’t know how it got there and if it was that which caused the persons diarrhea.

Mike 11/15/2012

Ken Conrad
Ken Conrad
January 5, 2013 5:12 pm

Yes the connection between illness and milk does unfortunately focus on microbes rather then officially sanctioned chemical, antibiotic, toxic vaccine, and adulterated animal feed residues.

I do not believe anyone of us here is so much denying the role microorganisms play respect to illness but rather, have chosen to observe the issue from a broader perspective and have thus chosen to adopt a less destructive approach to mitigating such illnesses.

Our focus is not on blaming and controlling a natural microbe that has existed with us since the beginning of time but rather on the effects of the toxic manipulation of that microbe and its environment.


March 19, 2013 5:02 am

When health divisions talk of suits of parasites finger prints they are being inaccurate. What “matches” are PFGE styles. These styles may go with even when the two isolates are NOT genetically relevant. PFGE styles only can be used to differentiate between isolates that both descends from the same community of parasites.

Crystal Lake Personal Trainer

March 19, 2013 5:03 am

When health divisions talk of suits of parasites finger prints they are being inaccurate. What “matches” are PFGE styles. These styles may go with even when the two isolates are NOT genetically relevant. PFGE styles only can be used to differentiate between isolates that both descends from the same community of parasites.

August 29, 2013 4:48 am

If a raw milk dairy with one thousand customers has less than ten a day with diarrhea it proves that raw milk is preventing illness not causing it, milk helps in our growth and makes our bones and teeth strong…..