Most government enforcers assume a low profile after they’re sued, at least for a while. Not New York’s Department of Agriculture and Markets. Within hours of being sued by Barbara and Steve Smith, and members of Meadowsweet Farm’s Limited Liability Company (as described in a posting here earlier this week), two agents showed up at the farm in Lodi, apparently looking for trouble.
They found it, in the form of the Smiths, who knew exactly what the agents were entitled to, and not entitled to, and whom to call when the agents wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.
I’ll let Barbara describe exactly what happened, since she does a wonderful job:
“So yesterday two inspectors from the Dept of Ag and Mkts appeared at our door in the middle of a snowstorm! They had come to ‘witness’ the destruction of the dairy products they had seized back on October 11. Following that seizure Ag and Markets held an administrative hearing and determined through examination of their own evidence that our products were unfit for human consumption and had to be destroyed…
“Anyway, they came yesterday to carry out the destruction, which involved standing around while Steve and I dumped yogurt, buttermilk, and milk from organic, grass-fed cows into buckets and then they ‘denatured’ it by dumping in a gallon of bleach, just in case we have the audacity to feed it to our pigs! (Since when is the Dept of Ag and Markets protecting pigs from the dangers of raw milk!) While they were standing around they noticed good, new yogurt in our cooler and asked if that had been made since the seizure date. We said yes.
“The inspector then said he would have to inventory that and take some photos. We said over our dead bodies (not our exact words). He then asked if we refused to let him take photos and we said yes. I also added that he only had the authority to do the destruction of the seized stuff and nothing else.
“He replied that he had every right to take photos. I said, no, that he was trespassing if he did anything other than carry out the destruction. At that point he left the room to call Albany and get his orders. He returned and said they told him to get the photos and that he had a perfect right to do that.
“I said if he tried to take photos I would call the sheriff. He again said he had the right to do that so I left to call the police. When I returned to the room, Steve was still dumping yogurt and the inspectors were still standing there. When we were done, about 15 minutes later, the deputy arrived, along with a reporter from the Fingerlakes Times whom I had also alerted.
“The inspector introduced himself and told the deputy he had been sent from Albany to take photos and inventory any product made since the seizure. The deputy asked to see proof of his authorization to do this in the form of a warrant. The inspector suggested the deputy should talk to the Director of Ag and Markets in Albany, but the sheriff said, ‘I could talk to the Pope and it won’t make any difference unless you have a warrant.’ After a few more phone calls to Albany, the inspectors were convinced that they were licked and departed back out into the snowstorm without the evidence they had hoped to obtain to use in their hearing in January.”
The Smiths seem to have torn a page from the experiences of Greg Niewendorp, who called in the county sheriff as well when state officials tried to intimidate him. (See my posting from last August.)
New York dairy farmer Andrea Elliott made similar demands when ag inspectors showed up supposedly to check out an anonymous complaint, and left with their tails between their legs.
The Smiths learned their lessons well. I hope their lawyers from the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund push hard to teach the bureaucrats an additional lesson in civics, and obtain an injunction and/or a restraining order against the bullying New York Ag officials.