Sept 27, 2012
A Minnesota farmer who has been repeatedly targeted by his state’s agriculture department for facilitating the transport and delivery of raw milk to private cooperative members has been ruled innocent of the ridiculous charges filed against him in Hennepin County. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Alvin Schlangen has been found not guilty of three misdemeanor charges filed against him, which include selling unpasteurized milk, operating without a food license, and handling adulterated or mis-branded food.
Private food cooperatives are not businesses
For more than 10 years, Schlangen, who is primarily an organic egg farmer, has been volunteering his time to help members of a cooperative he started to access the clean, farm-fresh foods of their choice from various farms throughout the region. Members of Freedom Farms Co-op, which reportedly has about 130 active members, are able to purchase a variety of fresh farm food products, including raw milk, and have it delivered to them on a regular basis.
Minnesota law currently prohibits the retail sale of unpasteurized milk for human consumption on the grounds that it supposedly puts public health at risk, an unscientific position also held by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The law does; however, allow individuals to occasionally purchase raw milk directly from the farm where it is produced, provided they bring their own containers and do not purchase it on a regular basis, a provision that technically has no legal definition. (http://www.realmilk.com/happening.html#mn)
Private food cooperatives operate outside the jurisdiction of government health departments
Since it is often difficult for busy families to drive several hours out to a farm on a regular basis to pick up raw milk — making it near impossible to access raw milk appears to be the actual intent of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA)’s senseless raw milk restrictions — private co-ops like the one Schlangen has formed are quite common throughout Minnesota.
To make it easier for families in his area to access clean food, Schlangen has been assisting his co-op members in obtaining their own purchased milk by picking it up from the farm for them and either holding it at a drop point or delivering it directly to their homes. Such activity is not illegal, according to the law, and in no way violates state provisions that restrict retailers from selling raw milk directly to customers.
The repeated attempts by MDA to squelch these types of food co-ops, which are often the only viable way for many Minnesotans to access raw milk, are wholly unjustified, as private food co-ops legally exist and operate outside the scope and jurisdiction of government health departments that regulate the retail sale and distribution of food. And even though the jury’s not guilty verdict in this case does not necessarily set a precedent in Minnesota for how similar cases will be handled in the future, it still represents a significant victory for food freedom.
“It’s a big step in the right direction,” said Schlangen, who still faces similar misdemeanor charges in nearby Stearns County that are set for trial in October. “I have a hard time understanding how this basic freedom (to access raw milk) has been so hard to maintain.”
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This article was posted: Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 2:42 am