?As I was putting up the video of Wisconsin dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger being served with a court summons, I wondered to myself: What purpose does putting this little video, which just shows an officer handing a guy a sheaf of papers, quipping “just doing my job,” really serve?
The answer relates to a question lots of people were asking at the Raw Milk Freedom Riders rally in Chicago last Tuesday: How do we educate more people about the government outrages taking place to control our food?
The answer is that more and more people who value and care about their food need to see and read about what’s going on. That little video clip simply adds some more reality–a real farmer being served a real summons by a real officer of the law to come to a real court room in front of a real judge with the possibility of the farmer being sent to a real jail.
And that video helps educate us to other matters. For example, what kind of assistance can farmers expect and not expect from their local sheriffs? The local sheriff in most parts of the country is the chief law enforcement officer, has authority over state police, and can help determine which crimes prosecutors pursue. I wrote about the sheriff’s role back in 2007, when then-Michigan farmer Greg Niewendorp was fighting state efforts to test his cattle herd.
Sheriffs have lots of power, and farmers are wise to educate them and cultivate their respect, as Deborah Stockton described in her comment following my previous post. But it’s important to understand that there are limitations on their power. Brad Rogers, the sheriff in Elkhart County, IN, who wrote a letter to the U.S. Justice Department on behalf of farmer David Hochstetler, is outspoken that the federal government agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “are getting out of hand” in nosing around without search warrants, for example. But, he says, “If they come to the farm with a warrant in hand, there is nothing I can do.”
What’s important to appreciate here is that we can’t depend on any one group or organization to save our farmers and our food. We can’t depend on the farmers to do it alone. We can’t look to the sheriffs to be the saviors. We can’t expect food sovereignty ordinances to do the trick. I say this to emphasize the point that there is no magic bullet here.
Brave farmers and principled sheriffs can help enormously because they act as obstacles to the FDA and state agencies that click their heels to the FDA’s commands. Part of the reason they go after small farms is because they are easier to come down on than Big Ag. When FDA agents show up at a Big Ag corporation, they know they’ll face an array of high-priced corporate lawyers, who know what questions to ask and exactly what the company’s rights are. When they show up at an Amish farm, they have carte blanche…or at least, they have encountered no defense.
But I sense those apparatchniks are so intent on exerting their will and subjugating us that these obstacles alone won’t be enough. It will depend on us, the people who value our food, to take action.
We need to get the word out about how serious the situation is. In that vein, the cases of Dan Allgyer and Vernon Hershberger can be very helpful. To the extent food club members and other people in the community are willing to show up and publicly assert their backing for these brave men, and in opposition to the forces of subjugation, we may have a chance of winning.
It’s also important as well to appreciate that what is happening to our raw dairy farmers and food club operators isn’t happening in isolation. There’s an article in today’s Wall Street Journal about the federal government’s efforts to turn more people into criminals–it focuses on one poor government worker who must have irritated someone along the way, and now has a criminal record to make a tough life that much harder. Tyranny comes upon us gradually, and when we realize what’s happening, it is very tough to turn things around.
We are rapidly approaching crunch time in food rights. The next important date is 1 p.m. January 4 at the courthouse in the City of Baraboo, WI, located at 515 Oak Street. That is where Vernon Hershberger’s hearing will be held. Come one, come all.
I’ve meant to publish an alert that the movie, “Farmageddon”, will be screened tomorrow evening at 5:30 p.m. on Capitol Hill. The reason I’m mentioning is because of its important educational value–so our Washington politicians can see what is happening on America’s farms. Kristin Canty, the movie’s creator, urges people who care about food rights to alert their senators and representatives, and encourage them to attend the screening.
There is a lengthy article about raw milk just published by Bloomberg News Service. Overall, it’s not as negative as many of the national media articles, so in that sense, I guess it’s a positive.
There’s this revealing quote: “Illnesses linked to raw milk may hurt the dairy industry if consumers fail to realize lack of pasteurization causes the outbreaks, Chris Galen, spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation, said in an interview.
” ‘What’s happening is bad for the image and reputation of overall. It’s damaging,’ said Galen. The Arlington, Va.- based federation — whose members include Land O’Lakes Inc. in Arden Hills, Minn., and Agri-Mark Inc. in Methuen, Mass., and produce the majority of the U.S. milk supply — is calling on the FDA not to waver in the face of “pressure tactics” from raw milk supporters, according to a Nov. 1 press release.
Yes, I can just imagine the conversations this trade group’s reps have with the FDA (brief one-way conversations). “Hey guys, I hate to have to remind you of this, but remember who calls the shots here. Now get your butts out there and kick some Amish ass.”
Finally, the topic of this blog’s tone has been coming up a lot of late. I’ve had any number of private messages that people are offended, feel drowned out, feel a loss of focus by some of the comments. As solutions, it’s been suggested that I kick some people off the blog, or not allow anonymous comments. One not atypical suggestion was to “put aside your ego – and get rid of the idiots…”
I have always been loathe to interfere with the flow of commentary, just because that has long been one of the blog’s attractions…though I have taken action against comment abusers on occasion. That includes a troll we had hanging around. And I am exploring a way to bring some order to the anonymous comments.
All this discussion has made me realize I’ve been doing this blog for going on six years. Seems like just yesterday…But I think it’s safe to assume that any Internet information-commentary vehicle must undergo lots of shifts over that time period, and this blog is no exception. Some great people have come and gone. My tone has shifted, probably less hysterical. (Not sure if that’s good or bad.) More to the point, the issue of food rights has emerged as not only a hot topic, but as something part of a real movement.
There is always going to be lots of tension during such tumultuous times, especially when real people are facing real judges and real jail sentences, and there are sincere disagreements among caring individuals. The disagreements can become especially frustrating when, more than anything else, there is a huge desire for unity and common purpose.
Despite the negativity that crops up from time to time, and sometimes is quite intense, I have long been grateful for the vast majority of people who grace its pages. I have had the opportunity to be involved with a wonderful community of individuals–sure, some are quirky or highly opinionated–but mostly have a serious desire to do good and right. I’m not sure exactly what all the ferment of recent weeks means exactly. But I do have a sense that this blog is in some ways a mirror of what’s happening…and sometimes we don’t like the reflection we see.