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Feds tight-lipped about raid on milk farm
Posted By Bob Unruh On 04/23/2010 @ 11:15 pm In Front Page | Comments Disabled
Federal agents are being tight-lipped about a 5 a.m. raid on a Pennsylvania milk farm, where law-enforcement officers accompanied FDA inspectors to meet a single farmer trying to milk his cows.
Today, a spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration responded to WND requests for comment that had been submitted Thursday.
Agency spokesman Michael Herndon declined to release information on what alleged violations were discovered at the family-farm operation.
“The investigation is ongoing,” he wrote in his response e-mail.
And asked about what evidence there was of illegal activities, he wrote, the FDA “found cause to conduct an inspection at the farm.”
What was the purpose?
“FDA, working with information from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, was investigating whether the farm was delivering into interstate commerce, selling, or otherwise distributing raw milk in final package form for human consumption,” he wrote.
Asked why the inspection was done at 5 a.m., he responded, “Routine inspections at agriculture sites can begin very early.”
And law-enforcement officers were sent with the milk inspectors, he wrote, because the farmer previously refused to allow an inspection.
The federal agents invaded the Amish farm at 5 a.m. on Tuesday to inspect cow-milking facilities, then followed up the next day with a written notice that the farmer was engaged in interstate sale of raw milk in violation of the Public Health Services Act.
A failure to correct the situation could result in “seizure and/or injunction,” the warning letter from Kirk Sooter, district director of the Philadelphia office of the Department of Health and Human Services, told farmer Dan Allgyer of Kinzers, Pa., on Wednesday.
The farm invaded Tuesday is the one agents visited in February, driving past “Private Property” signs to demand Allgyer open his property for their inspection, saying, “You have cows. You produce food for human consumption.”
The case is being publicized by the National Independent Consumers and Farmers Association, which promotes traditional methods of linking farmers with consumers.
Spokeswoman Deborah Stockton told WND Allgyer “is the type of farmer who exemplifies what we are trying to restore.” On her organization’s website is the commitment “to promote and preserve unregulated direct farmer-to-consumer trade that fosters availability of locally grown or home-produced food products.”
She reported she got details directly from Allgyer of Tuesday’s early-morning inspection, which highlights the growing conflict between farmers who want to provide health food locally and federal regulators.
Allgyer could not be reached immediately for comment.
The farmer told the association he came out of his house about 4:30 a.m. for his milking routine and noticed a lot of traffic on Kinzer Road.
Shortly later, the cars were coming up his lane.
“I stood back in the dark barn to see what they were going to do. They drove past my two ‘Private Property’ signs, up to where my coolers were, with their headlights shining right on them,” Allgyer reported.
He called to the five men as they were preparing to knock on his home, where his wife and family remained asleep.
“Two were from the FDA, agent Joshua C. Schafer who had been there in February and another. They showed me identification, but I was too flustered to ask for their cards. I remember being told that two were deputy U.S. marshals and one a state trooper. They started asking me questions right away. They handed me a paper, and I didn’t realize what it was,” he said.
“Schafer told me they were there to do a ‘routine inspection.’ At 5:00 in the morning, I wondered to myself? ‘Do you have a warrant?’ I asked, and one of them, a marshal or the state policeman, said, ‘You’ve got in your hand buddy.’ I asked, ‘What is the warrant about?’ Schafer responded, ‘We have credible evidence that you are involved in interstate commerce,’” the farmer reported.
Allgyer said he confirmed his identification but then said he wouldn’t answer anything further.
He said he questioned their arrival at his farm at 5 a.m. when the warrant clearly stated it was for “reasonable times during ordinary business hours,” but one of the agents said “ordinary business hours for agriculture start at 5 a.m.”
The agents spent their time “rooting around, like a couple of pigs, in the freezer and cooler area and took many pictures,” Allgyer reported.
“They came in the dark, shining bright flashlights while my family was asleep, keeping me from milking my cows, from my family, from breakfast with my family and from our morning devotions, and alarming my children enough so that the first question they asked my wife was, ‘Is Daddy going to jail?’” Allgyer said.
The subsequent warning letter was an all-inclusive notice that federal regulations prohibit “the delivery into interstate commerce of milk and milk products in final package form for direct human consumption unless they have been pasteurized.”
“It is your responsibility to ensure adherence with all requirements. … Failure to make prompt corrections could result in regulatory action without further notice,” the letter said.
The letter directed Allgyer to notify Compliance Officer Richard Cherry of the corrections.
Stockton warned the requirement now is for federal agents to claim they have “credible evidence” regarding a case, but a proposed federal change would strike those words in the law and replace them with “reason to believe.”
“The phrase ‘reason to believe’ would be inserted 14 times into the code with S. 510,” she said. “If this bill goes through, the FDA will have control of farms. They will not need ‘credible evidence’ to act. They will essentially be given a free hand to act as they want. And look at how they already act, even with the existing constraints in place.”
Allgyer previously had told the officers that as a private farmer, he does not sell to the public.
Advocates say raw milk is healthier.
According to natural-foods blogger Kimberly Hartke, Kevin Trudeau touts raw milk in his New York Times best-seller “Natural Cures They Don’t Want You to Know About,” and Sally Fallon Morell’s cookbook, “Nourishing Traditions,” which has sold 350,000 copies.
On a forum page at Chronwatch-America.com, a participant concluded, “The food produced on that farm is probably far safer than anything you get at the grocery store.”
That opinion was endorsed on the Food Freedom blog, where one participant wrote, “Factory foods are the ones making people sick & getting recalled.”
The Weston A. Price Foundation, which is among the nonprofits that educate consumers about more natural food-production methods, said demand for such products is growing.
“Raw milk … is a supremely healthy food that should be available to those who want it,” said Morell, the foundation’s president.
In January, Canadian farmer Michael Schmidt won a court victory when he was found not guilty of selling raw milk to members of a cow-sharing consortium.
In a previous U.S. case, Mennonite farmer Mark Nolt of Maryland had his farm raided by SWAT-type agents. He was fined more than $4,000 and had his equipment confiscated for providing unpasteurized milk to participants in his program.
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