Monday, Dec 7th, 2009
Imagine being watched by two undercover cops as you engage in an illicit deal in a deserted parking lot. The buyer hesitantly hands you some cash. You flash a look over your shoulder, just to make sure the coast is clear, then you hand over the contraband. Neither of you says a word. You just nod, acknowledging the deal is done, then you head back to your car and buckle up for the drive home.
But before you can even put the car into drive, a screeching formation of police cars, surrounds you, sirens wailing. Armed officers leap from their vehicles, guns drawn and sunglasses glaring. “Come out with your hands up!” they shout.
You slowly open the driver’s door of your car and inch out of your seat with both hands raised in surrender, cowering behind the open door. “What did I do, officer? What’s my crime?”
Their answer comes back loud and intimidating: “SELLING RAW MILK!”
The above description is a dramatization of real events that happened recently in Springfield, Missouri, where the state has decided to spend considerable taxpayer resources running a sting operating against a family that was caught dealing — gulp! — raw milk in a parking lot.
Yes, both the Missouri Dept. of Health and the state Attorney General (Chris Koster) have decided that prosecuting a farm family for illegally “trafficking” raw milk should be at the top of their list of priorities. The family being targeted by state officials is the Bechard family, of Armand and Teddi Bechard, and their children Joseph, Hananiah, Kazia and Katie.
The name of the cow offering the milk is reportedly “Misty.”
As the Springfield, Missouri News-Leader paper reports, “Two undercover investigators with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department allegedly caught two of the couple’s daughters on two occasions selling a gallon of milk each from a Springfield parking lot. Charges followed in municipal court.”
In case you’re not yet sure what you’re reading here, note carefully that these daughters were not caught selling crack, meth or crank. They weren’t dealing second-hand pharmaceuticals to yuppie school kids. They weren’t selling e.coli-contaminated hamburger meat, cancer-causing diet sodas (made with aspartame) or canned soups laced with MSG. They weren’t even selling broiler chickens contaminated with salmonella — just as you can find in every grocery store in America. Nope, they were selling raw milk. You know, the bovine mother’s milk, unpasteurized, unprocessed, non-homogenized and wholly pure, natural and innocent. The stuff America was raised on. The stuff your parents fed you when you were a kid, if your family was lucky enough to have a cow.
In Missouri today, selling such a natural product is now apparently a criminal act. What’s next? A ban on farm-fresh eggs because the Dept. of Health doesn’t control their quality? The outlawing of raw broccoli because broccoli contains natural anti-cancer medicine?
Fortunately, the Bechard family is fighting back. As reported by the News-Leader:
“They will not sign a consent order to make the state’s complaint go away and they’re defending themselves against the city charges, too. They’ve gotten legal help from the The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit organization made up of farmers and consumers pooling resources to fight for the rights of family farmers trying to get unprocessed food to consumers who want it.”
I grew up in Raytown, Missouri, just a few miles from Springfield. I spent more than a few summers on a farm near St. Louis, where we would milk the cows, gather fresh eggs from the chickens, and fish for catfish in the pond. I’m not exactly a farm boy, but I’m familiar enough with living off the land to know the difference between real food and processed food (a distinction the Missouri Dept. of Health still hasn’t gleaned…)
When I grew up in Raytown, there were fresh-food farms within driving distance where we could get fresh milk, eggs and vegetables from small family operations. It was a way of life for many families living in the suburbs of Kansas City, and none of us could have imagined then that families selling fresh milk would one day be treated like criminal contraband dealers by overzealous law state officials.
The effort to criminalize sellers of raw milk is misguided on so many levels that it just begs to be called out as perhaps one of the worst uses of taxpayer dollars yet dreamed up by clueless bureaucrats. For starters, raw milk is clearly sold as “raw milk” — there’s no mislabeling here. The people buying the milk know very well they’re buying raw milk. In fact, they go to great lengths to seek out raw milk in order to benefit from its numerous health advantages over processed, pasteurized milk.
Secondly, any serious crime worth investigating requires a victim. But there’s no victim in the “crime” of selling raw milk. The family farms sell their milk at a fair price, and a knowledgeable consumer purchases the raw milk, knowing exactly what they’re buying for their dollar. Where’s the victim here? (Misty the cow, perhaps? Probably not, as cows on family farms are treated far better than cows in most dairy factories.)
This raw milk persecution attempt is yet another example of a “victimless crime” being invented, then pursued by overzealous state officials who clearly have nothing useful to pursue (or who have a serious problem setting priorities).
In a world where children are being poisoned by aspartame, senior citizens are being drugged into zombie-like states in nursing homes, where school boys are being dosed with “speed” amphetamine ADHD drugs, bacon is laced with a cancer-causing chemical known as sodium nitrite and two-thirds of the broiler chickens sold in grocery stores are contaminated with salmonella, are you telling me that the friendly selling of raw milk in a parking lot is at the top of the list of “crimes” being investigated by the Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and his overworked staff?
It takes a wild leap across the chasm of wrong vs. right to arrive at the bewildering conclusion that a couple of farm girls selling two gallons of raw milk deserves investigators, a sting operation, a Dept. of Health inquiry and the attention of the state Attorney General. It almost makes me think these bureaucrats are all smoking crack, which can be purchased in the next parking lot over, by the way. But crack dealers aren’t their concern, it seems… It’s those darned raw milk families that are ruining Middle America!
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster may be a good AG, for all I know. He’s gone after Medicaid fraud, and that earns him some kudos in my book. This whole raw milk thing, if I had to take a guess, is probably some hare-brained idea handed to him by some nutritionally-ignorant staffer who convinced him this could earn him some points for “getting tough on raw milk.” (Is he seriously going to issue a press release announcing a prosecutorial “victory” over two teen girls selling a couple gallons of fresh milk? It’s sort of like prosecuting little kids for running a neighborhood lemonade stand without a business license…)
In any case, it’s worth letting Koster know you think prosecuting these girls for selling raw milk is a complete waste of time and (taxpayer) money. AGs have an important function in protecting consumers from fraud, but in order to be effective, they’ve got to get their priorities straight. Wouldn’t Koster’s time be far better spent suing the drug companies for running fraudulent, misleading television advertisements that exaggerate the benefits of their drugs while glossing over their severe side effects?
Here’s how you can file a consumer complaint against the Missouri Attorney General: Go to http://ago.mo.gov/consumercomplaint.htm to get started.
You can then fill out an online form or you can call 1-800-392-8222 for more information about filing a complaint.
Remember, this AG office is paid by your taxpayer dollars (if you live in Missouri, anyway, and I did for almost 20 years). You have every right to let them know when you think their investigation efforts have gone awry.
Be polite in filing your complaint, but also be firm. Don’t let this Missouri AG get away with prosecuting a small family farm operation for selling fresh milk to willing customers.
Actually, reading this last sentence, I can’t even believe America has devolved to the point where such a statement is necessary. Of course raw milk should be legal to sell. After all, grocery stores are full of raw food items such as raw chicken, raw beef and raw fruits and vegetables. Why are state health authorities selectively up in arms over raw milk?
I’ll give you the answer in three words: The Dairy Industry. The dairy industry sees raw milk as competition to its pasteurized, homogenized, standardized, factory-produced “junk” milk product, which promotes heart disease. Raw milk is healthier, more natural and more local than processed milk, and the more consumers learn about raw milk, the less they’ll buy processed milk.
Raw milk is a financial threat to the dairy industry in much the same way that industrial hemp is a threat to the cotton industry (or stevia is a threat to the manufacturer of aspartame). So the dairy industry pressures state and federal bureaucrats to outlaw raw milk and criminalize individuals who dare try to sell it.
This is a protection racket, pure and simple, and it has been conjured up by the dairy industry to protect their profits at the expense of consumer freedom.
Don’t you find it amazing that in the Land of the Free (and the Home of the Brave), that anyone caught buying or selling fresh raw milk is prosecuted as a common criminal? What has America come to if we’re going to start locking up the very same local farmers who provide food security for situations where the long supply chains of just-in-time food delivery break down? If the Missouri lawmakers had any sense at all, they’d be encouraging local production of fresh milk, eggs, grains and other foods to help keep Missouri more self-reliant. But no, fresh milk sellers get arrested and charged with crimes, even while most Missourians drink milk imported from other states!
Missouri’s stance on milk seems a lot like America’s stance on hemp: Criminalize American farmers while importing all the industrial hemp from Canada, where it’s grown legally (and profitably). It is at times like this that you realize agricultural policy in America often seems specifically designed to punish farmers.
I grew up around farmers. I have a tremendous amount of respect for them: For their sweat equity, their hard-won agricultural victories and their seemingly endless financial enslavement to a system of distorted agricultural policies that allows them no escape. Farmers invest their lives in the production of food that most consumers carelessly take for granted. Today, just two percent of the population produces all the food for the other 98 percent — most of whom haven’t a clue where real food comes from.
Real food, it turns out, comes from real farms run by real people. People like the Bechards. And it is these people — these un-celebrated, hard-working, honest American farmers — who should be recognized as the backbone of American prosperity, for without them, we would all go hungry, and even the most specialized, highly-educated scientist would be reduced to a drooling, blabbering infant if all the food disappeared for a mere 96 hours.
And yet, instead of being celebrated, these small family farmers are now being labeled criminals and prosecuted for the “crime” of providing real food to real people. That this is taking place in my home country — indeed, near my home town in Missouri — just breaks my heart.
It is a sad day indeed for America when tyrant bureaucrats are allowed to run rampant over the family-run farms upon which this great country was originally founded. How quickly America forgets its history… How quickly it abandons those who delivered abundance to us and asked for nothing in return other than a day of sunshine, an occasional rejuvenating rain shower, and a fair price at the market for their hard-won goods.
To the Missouri AG, Chris Koster, you should be ashamed of yourself as both a Missourian and an American for pursuing this prosecution against the Bechard family. It is people like you who are destroying this nation, even as you claim to be saving it.
When you were a young boy in school, and you studied American history and the Civil War, you probably asked yourself, “How could Americans fight each other and kill each other? Who could have started such a conflict?”
The answer, sadly, is people just like you. People who trample the God-given rights of American farmers. People who deny consumers their freedom to buy a nourishing beverage harvested straight off the farm. It is people like you who create the anger and resentment that far too often results in people picking up arms to protect their natural rights that tyrants like you try to steal away from them (under the false pretense of “authority,” no less).
As a Missourian myself, I can tell you that Missouri farmers will not put up with this kind of tyranny for very long. When their livelihoods and their freedoms are clearly threatened by outlandish laws enforced by bureaucratic tyrants who have abandoned all common sense, they will rise up against you, and you will find yourself in a spitting match with a tireless band of rugged Missourians who wrestle with John Deere tractor hydraulics each morning before you even get out of bed.
To you, it’s just a gallon of milk. But to these farmers, it’s their livelihood. Think about that for a minute before you go slapping handcuffs on the very same people who put food on your mama’s table.
– Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Alumni of Raytown High School, Raytown, Missouri, where I was taught how to think for myself by my English composition teacher Maryfrances Wagner
P.S. Help support the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund by making a tax-deductible contribution to: http://www.ftcldf.org
(This is one of the key legal defense organizations protecting farmers’ rights to sell raw milk.)
Sources for this story include:
This article was posted: Monday, December 7, 2009 at 5:41 am