A Pennsylvania farmer has been fined $4,000 for dealing in raw milk in violation of the state’s bureaucracy that demands he hold a permit to sell his natural products to friends and neighbors.
A rally protesting the governmental action against Mt. Holly Springs farmer Mark Nolt drew more than 100 people today outside the courthouse, where a magistrate threw out one count filed against him but pronounced a guilty decision and $1,000 fine on each of four other counts.
WND reported earlier on the SWAT team-like raid on Nolt’s farm, the government’s confiscation of tens of thousands of dollars worth of his products as well as pieces of machinery he used for his milk handling and sales.
Supporters told WND Nolt’s case is just an example of what the government is trying to do to those who believe – based on medical results – that raw milk is better for them than the processed milk available in most grocery stores.
Processed milk, evidence indicates, could lead to clogged arteries, strokes and heart attacks.
According to reports published by the Weston A. Price Foundation, results of a study by the Medical Research Council in the United Kingdom revealed only 1 percent of the subjects in an ongoing lifestyle study of 5,000 men suffered heart attacks – if they drank full-fat milk and ate butter rather than margarine.
“We learned … that [the] study collected data on 5,000 British men between the ages of 45 and 59 for a period of 10 years. Of those that drank at least a pint of whole milk a day, only one percent suffered heart attacks!” the foundation report said.
Kimberly Hartke, who works with the foundation, was in attendance at Nolt’s court hearing. She told WND a donor has offered by pay the fines for Nolt but that he plans to appeal the case anyway.
The witnesses who testified in the case all were state employees who had participated in setups in which they bought raw milk from Nolt. Nolt did raise objections to the counts citing his right to do business, but the magistrate was not moved by his suggestions.
Outside the courtroom, however, an estimated 100 demonstrators wore “Raw Milk” T-shirts and other clothing with slogans, including “Free the Family Farm” and “Raw Milk Heals.”
“They are just trying to a crush a movement that is here to help consumers,” Hartke told WND. “People seek this milk out. When there’s no hope from a conventional medical system, and a conventional food system, people look for raw milk.”
“Who should the government be targeting? Someone producing natural milk or someone with a conventional dairy herd feeding their animals drugs and growth hormones?” she asked.
“This is a sustainable economy being born, and the government is trying to squash it. That’s what’s at stake here,” Hartke said. “This is a wakeup call for America. Mark is not the cause here. This is giving birth to something huge, which is to support these family farms.”
“Under the guides of protecting us, they’re actually hurting us,” she said of the government’s actions.
She said the first raid on Nolt’s farm was Aug. 10, 2007, when the state Department of Agriculture seized more than $25,000 worth of product, packaging equipment and supplies.
“In the second raid, (April 25), the agents descended on the quiet farm, ‘like Vikings,’ according to Mark, in six police cars and at least five unmarked cars, presumably belonging to PDA officials. The agents were personally led by Bill Chirdon, director of PDA’s Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services. Mark tried asking one policeman what the state’s authority was for being on the property but the policeman kept cutting him off, seemingly trying to provoke a confrontation. The police threatened to arrest anyone who attempted to set foot on Nolt’s property; even Nolt’s father and brother who live on the same lane were denied access,” she said.
Then Nolt was taken away in handcuffs, she said.
“In a supreme act of arrogance, Chirdon stole a book off Nolt’s shelf – ‘All I Ever Wanted to Do is Illegal’ by Joel Salatin. According to a PDA spokesman, Chirdon will return the book at Mark’s trial,” she said.
The foundation explained Nolt used to have a state permit for selling raw milk but voluntarily gave it up because it did not include products such as butter.
“Mark’s position is that he has a constitutional right to enter into contractual agreements without a permit, that is to sell raw milk and raw milk products directly to customers,” the foundation said.
“Even the legality of the product seizure can be called into question,” Fallon said in a notice to foundation supporters. “According to PDA’s Guidance Document (3/20/08; ‘Permits Allowing the Sale of Raw Milk for Human Consumption’), the department can seize raw milk, ‘Whenever, in the opinion of the Secretary of the Department, a given supply of raw milk or illegally produced raw milk products is considered unsafe or a menace to public health, the secretary may seize, condemn, denature, or destroy the milk or milk products, without compensation to the owner of the milk or milk products.’
“In the affidavit submitted in his application for a search warrant against Nolt, Chirdon made no allegation that the milk was unsafe. No one from PDA has provided evidence that Nolt’s milk was a danger to the public. NO ILLNESSES HAVE BEEN REPORTED from the consumption of Mark Nolt’s cheese,” she said.
She went even so far as to charge the state with conspiracy to drive raw milk producers out of business.
“Since Chirdon [took office], it has become standard practice for undercover PDA employees to buy from unlicensed dairy producers in an effort to trap farmers into getting cited for selling raw milk without a permit. PDA employees made at least eight purchases from Mark Nolt. …”
The Price foundation noted that in the British medical journal Lancet a report said children who consumed “farm milk” that is, raw, whole, unprocessed milk, had lower levels of asthma and hay fever.
“Researchers examined the history of allergy, asthma and ‘atopic sensitization’ or skin problems in 812 children, 319 of whom had grown up with a ‘regular exposure to a farming environment’ including the consumption of ‘farm milk,’ that is, raw, whole, unprocessed milk. The remaining group of 493 non-farming children acted as a control. Frequency of asthma was reduced from 11 percent found in the control group to one percent among the farming-exposed children. Similarly, hay fever occurred in only three percent of the farming-exposed children, compared with 13 percent of the controls, and atopic sensitization occurred in 12 percent of the farming group and in 29 percent of the controls,” the foundation reported.
Jonas Stoltzfus, a fellow farmer and member of the Church of the Brethren, was asked to be a spokesman for Nolt. He said authorities told Nolt people had gotten sick from eating his food, “but no one ever came forward and no proof was ever offered.”
“This is a Gestapo raid,” Stoltzfus told a blog report, “complete with state troopers, raiding a hard-working farmer selling milk to friends and customers.”
The New York Daily News reported the farmer’s customers were enraged.
“My heart is pounding. I can’t believe what a G– d— police state this is,” one Brooklyn customer told the newspaper. “I gave him $100 last week for a huge delivery of stuff, including raw cream that I planned on using to make cream puffs.”
Nolt told the newspaper he didn’t feel bound by the government’s limits on selling milk.
“The government doesn’t have the right to dictate what I eat, and never will,” he said.
Stoltzfus compared Nolt to “that little black lady in Alabama who wouldn’t go to the back of the bus.”
“Mark believes it is his right to sell, according to the constitution, just like it was Rosa Park’s right to sit wherever she wanted on the bus,” he said.
Taaron Meikle, president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, said Nolt’s case has the highest profile right now because of his arrest and court action.
“We have a lot of consumers who are drinking raw milk, because of the health benefits,” she told WND. “What is happening is truly upsetting.
“Basically, what’s happening is farmers are saying they don’t want this raw milk permit because it only applies to milk and hard cheeses, not selling butter or yogurt,” Meikle said.
“[The government] says it is trying to protect the consumer, but the reality is that consumers are very well informed. They are not making a decision based on ignorance,” she said.