The public health community would like us to think that it goes after small dairies and food clubs in the interests of food safety. But in more places, regulatory and enforcement actions are looking like nationally coordinated grudge matches, a settling of old scores.
Certainly the piling on of charges against individuals involved with the Rawesome Food Club has taken on that appearance. Indeed, a prosecutor in Ventura County argued in favor of high bail for James Stewart because he had the audacity to resist previous public health efforts to shut down Rawesome, based on the fact that Rawesome was a private membership-only organization.
Now, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has re-directed its ongoing rage against raw dairy farmer Michael Hartmann to his wife, Diane Hartmann. The agency earlier this month sent her a “Notice of Administrative Hearing” (HartmannLtr002.pdf), in which it said it was “contemplating legal action against you for selling food without a license and other violations of state statutes including illegal sales of unpasteurized milk and dairy products as well as uninspected meat.” It threatened possible “criminal prosecution…”
Diane Hartmann has submitted a written response. Her husband has been as protective as most of would be, wanting to tell them: come and get me all you want, but leave my wife out of this.
Michael Hartmann has been most famously associated with a dozen or more illnesses back in 2010, allegedly by raw milk from his dairy, tainted with E.coli O157:H7. I was one who suggested Hartmann should acknowledge the convincing evidence that his dairy was at fault, and seek to improve his dairy’s operations; many of his loyal customers didn’t take well to my criticism. Hartmann endured a state-ordered embargo on his farm in 2010, and has moved on.
What’s less well known is that Hartmann has been battling the state for well over a decade. About ten years ago, the MDA took him to court for selling uninspected meat without a license. The case went all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court, with Hartmann arguing that a clause in the state’s constitution clearly allows farmers to “peddle” their products and products.
A majority of justices on the Minnesota Supreme Court agreed with Hartmann to a significant degree, ruling he didn’t need a license. They said that such products could be subject to regulation, however. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund has a good analysis of the case, and a link to the court’s opinion.
Given that there haven’t been any illnesses alleged against Hartmann since 2010, it seems pretty obvious that this current investigation has more to do with the 2005 Supreme Court ruling than any illnesses. He is now being harassed apparently because he had the audacity to challenge the MDA in past years, most notably in the 2005 decision.
Interestingly, the recent letter to Mrs. Hartmann was signed by James Roettger, an MDA compliance officer, who achieved notoriety in December 2010 while personally carrying heavy loads of milk from the Hartmann dairy truck, and loading it into his car, which displayed a “Handicapped” placard. I took some heat for criticizing Roettger (nicknamed “Beret Boy” by some here) for misusing a handicapped placard–I was told he was a decorated military veteran who had injured himself jumping out of a plane.
Well, now Roettger, the tough guy soldier, has found a new target to vent his hostility on–the wife of a farmer. In the process, Minnesota retains the distinction of being one of the most aggressively hostile (together with neighbor Wisconsin) against raw dairy and privately available nutrient-dense food . It is putting another farmer, Alvin Schlangen, on trial May 14 for allegedly selling food to members without proper licenses.
One of the notable positives out of all the Minnesota hostilities has been the support provided by hundreds of consumers. Some have organized the Food Freedom Project, as part of the Minnesota Natural Health Legal Reform Project. They feel the latest action against Hartmann “shows a pattern of harassment says Kathryn Berg of the Minnesota Natural Health Legal Reform Project. We would like legislators to review the history of state actions against the Hartmann family farm and then ask themselves if this history presents a pattern of harassment. We feel that there is a threat to our food supply, but the threat is the biased, over-zealous state regulators and not the farm that these regulators continue to target.
The Raw Milk Freedom Riders are planning protest activities in May by organizing a “Rights Workshop” the afternoon of May 13, and then planning to demonstrate in support of Alvin Schlangen beginning on May 14, at his trial in Minneapolis. More info upcoming, but it’s not too early to make your plans to be in Minneapolis.
Claravale Farm has been cleared by the California Department of Food and Agriculture to ship raw milk and other products, the Associated Press is reporting.
It had been forced to recall products and shut down because the CDFA found campylobacter in a sample of its cream; its milk had been potentially associated with illnesses from campylobacter.
Thanks to Mike Adams of Natural News for the kind words about me, in picking up on the Ventura County “rampage,” as he labeled it. Much appreciated.