Where Do I Send My $15,000 Invoice, Greg Niewendorp Wonders; That Raw Milk Study, Pasteurizing Almonds, Report from France

We have to pay fines to government agencies when we screw up. Why shouldn’t the government agencies pay fines when they screw up?

Greg Niewendorp can’t think of a reason why not, so he’s in the process of trying to figure out the right person to invoice at the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) for violating his no-trespassing sign last Tuesday. He’s figuring $5,000 per person, making the total for the two state police officers and MDA agent $15,000.

I’m not sure I understand fully where he gets the $5,000 per person, not that it sounds unreasonable. Nor is there likely to be a person responsible for receiving citizen invoices for MDA infractions.

I do know he not only has signs posted approaching his property, but that he alerted the MDA last February about the no-trespassing rule. In the letter he sent via certified mail last February, he stated, “You are aware that my farm is posted with No Trespassing signs and are subject to all legal consequences arising from any unauthorized entry. You are advised that your department is not to enter onto my farm without a properly executed search warrant, since any entry by your department would be to obtain criminal evidence, which mandates a search warrant.”

He says he would like to settle the trespass issue without going to court, but that he hasn’t ruled out court action. He argues the MDA has violated his Fifth Amendment rights to confront his accusers and against self incrimination by failing to obtain a search warrant and trying to get him to sign an order he had previously refused.

Mark McAfee talked about taking the same tack last September, when his California dairy was closed for two weeks, though he eventually dropped his plan to sue California agriculture agency for $500,000. As I said, it seems sensible, but the reality is that the government has a lot more resources to pursue court actions than an individual farmer has.

One other thing, in response to Ron’s comment following my previous posting: Greg told me the two Michigan state troopers who escorted the MDA agent seemed “embarrassed” after being ordered off Greg’s property. Ron is suggesting some potentially serious abuses at MDA.

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I’ve been so caught up in the Niewendorp case that I’ve let a few other things slide. One matter in particular that I wanted to follow up on was Don Neeper’s link to a Reuter’s article summarizing research suggesting raw milk is dangerous. I found that article quite disturbing, since it so distorts the real implications of the research.

Then yesterday I saw this blog item using the Reuters article to re-affirm its misconceptions. Talk about a mammoth education problem.

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Each time I think the government is pulling back on its pasteurization kick, I am proven wrong. Most recently, I predicted that a request by the California Almond Board to delay until next spring implementation of a requirement that all California almonds be pasteurized was a way to scuttle the entire pasteurization plan. Instead, the U.S. Department of Agriculture rejected the proposed delay, and pasteurization requirements will go into effect Sept. 1. The best way to assure a supply of unpasteurized almonds will be to purchase them direct from the farm stores of almond farmers, such as Organic Pastures.

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And a note on my trip to France in June. The International Herald-Tribune just published an essay I wrote about the historical implications of the Holocaust-related museum dedication I attended while there.

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8 Comments on "Where Do I Send My $15,000 Invoice, Greg Niewendorp Wonders; That Raw Milk Study, Pasteurizing Almonds, Report from France"


Don Neeper
August 26, 2007

I wish Greg Niewendorp all the best, but I have to think that attempting to invoice or sue the MDA over a trespassing charge is at best Quixotic. After all, given the cost of a private attorney and the relatively unlimited resources available to the state agency, they could tie the issue up in court for years and just wait Greg out. I’m pretty ignorant of the law, but is it possible to go before a judge and obtain a restraining order against further trespassing by the MDA? The embarrassment factor alone might be enough to deter further action by the MDA, and it might be easier to obtain a restraining order then a punitive damage award. Perhaps Steve Bemis might have a better suggestion for Greg?

Steve Bemis
August 26, 2007

I too believe an invoice is not something that will get monetary results. A restraining order against MDA’s trespassing (without a warrant) might be worth the paper it’s written on, especially if the Sheriff is irritated enough that he would join in applying for the restraining order, although that seems unlikely. Any of these legal angles has the risk to simply motivate the MDA to GET the warrant and show up (with the Sheriff).

Dave Milano
August 26, 2007

A couple of questions, perhaps for Steve Bemis:

Is Greg right that warrants are issued only to handle criminal matters? And does breaking a "regulation" constitute a criminal offense?

Regulations are, as far my (admittedly limited) understanding goes, never legislated. They are written by agencies of government, like the FDA and MDA, ostensibly as "interpretations" of law. Undoubtedly these agencies have power–they confiscate property, assess fines, and otherwise penalize citizens in ways that judges could never do–but where does that power come from?

damaged justice
August 26, 2007

<i>but where does that power come from?</i>

"Guns. Lots of guns."
– The Matrix

Steve Bemis
August 26, 2007

I’m a corporate lawyer, so not fully experienced in the various kinds of warrants. Literally, a warrant means a power to do something – hence a search warrant in a criminal matter (power to search for certain things) or a bench (issued by the judge from the bench) or other warrant for arrest (power to take custody of your person). On the civil side, if someone has the right to get your books and records in litigation, they have a subpoena (literally, to produce things under penalty of contempt for court). These powers come from the courts, altho subpoenas can be issued by lawyers, who if they get in a wrangle about what is subpoenaed, then get clarification from the judge. Hence, books and records could be subject of a search warrant on the criminal side or a subpoena on the civil side.

Regulations are, as you suggest, issued pursuant to the authority of a given statute, and furthermore, the regulations must be first proposed, commented upon by the public, and only then made final. So, most complaints about regulations stem from either there not being a statute which gives the authority, or the regulation not being properly noticed and comments properly considered. Generally, the agencies cannot be arbitrary in their adoption of final regulations, although if it goes to litigation, judges will often defer to the agency’s expertise (unless they determine that the process of adopting the regulation was defective, or the result was arbitrary). If the regulators adopt rules out of thin air (the complaint in Michigan’s adoption of NAIS-like rules supposedly to tweak and improve an already-successful TB program), then they are open to attack. This is often where overwhelming public comment, during the comment period, can have an effect. Most regulations receive very few comments, partly because no-one knows about the process. This is where Internet access and communication really help, because all it takes is one person to monitor what is going on for either statutes or proposed regulations, and then comments can be be mobilized either against the statute (best result=no obnoxious law) or against the regulation to make it sensible when adopted finally.

Mary McGonigle-Martin
August 27, 2007

This dialogue that is occurring right now is what makes this blog so wonderful. Intelligent, knowledge people from all walks of life help strangers problem solve/become educated on a particular issue they are struggling with. Through this process strangers become friends. I love this blog!

Joel Noble
August 28, 2007

On August 13th the Michigan Agriculture Commission announced the appointment of Donald W Kolvisto as Director of MDA. No salary has been set. He replaces Acting Director Phyllis Mellon, salary $130,874. The second in command is Liesl E Clark, Special Appointee of the Governor, salary $75,000.

Meanwhile, Kevin Lauterwasser, a regulatory agent of the Michigan Department of Agriculture, salary $51,000 has work to do. He along with assistance from the Governor’s office must stop any THREAT to the establish order of business in Michigan agriculture.

It should be pointed out that Mr Lauterwasser has a family income of over $115,000 from the State since his wife is employed by the State also. A full medical plan and a very nice retirement package. Sweet deal for them! Where Mr Lauterwasser
lives the median income is $40,000. He is at the top of the food chain so to speak.

Why this is relevant is because Kevin Lauterwasser although a lackey for the State is threating the income of farmers such as
Greg and needs to be called out. The economy in Michigan has sunk to third world status while those in Lansing live high at the expense of the poor.