By Richard S. Gubbe
Vernon Hershberger had a big week last week as his fight for small-farming independence has gained national attention. His schedule this week is packed, while the fight for raw milk supporters will reach the State Capitol building with a rally Feb. 22.
Despite a mandate from state court that inspections of his farm be allowed by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), Hershberger turned away three state officials at his farm Feb. 9. The refusal of access is in direct violation of the court order issued the week prior at a county hearing stating Hershberger must abide by the following, “No impeding, obstruction or interference with any Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) inspection.”
The bold move was captured on video and aired on YouTube.
The state Department of Justice has stated Hershberger cannot sell any food products without a proper license. He claims he is not a business, but rather a group-owned co-op. He says he is just the caretaker of the animals and the land on the farm west of Baraboo, Wis. The state also said he may not manufacture or process any dairy products, nor sell any without a proper license. The state said he also may not have anyone else operate his farm or work in any room or building on his property.
“Jackie Owens (of the DATCP) asked for permission to inspect the retail store, the barn and the milkhouse,” Hershberger said. “They called me on a speaker phone, and I told her that I could not give her permission because we do not have a license from them, therefore they lack jurisdiction to do something like that. After she tried in vain to explain that according to statutes, they do have jurisdiction, they left after about 15 minutes from the time of arrival. We do not know if they will come back with a warrant or not, but we do think that it is a good possibility that they are wanting more evidence for the case.”
Hershberger, who has been pondering whether to retain counsel, has made a choice to go without a lawyer.
“We did make a tough decision to kindly tell the lawyer Glen Reynolds that we will not use his services at this time,” Hershberger said. “I am sure that a lot of you can’t really see what we mean by doing it that way. With a lot of thought and prayer over the matter, we have decided that this is the way that the Lord wants us to go in order to bring out a message that rings almost as loud and clear as the liberty bells after the Revolutionary War.”
The raw milk and Hershberger co-op crusades have drawn the attention of national civil rights backers Sheriff Richard Mack and Indiana Sheriff Brad Rogers.
Mack, the former Arizona sheriff, will be attending a dinner for Hershberger Feb. 15. The dinner will feature Sheriff Mack’s talk about “The Power of the Sheriff in the Emerging Strife for Real Food and the constitutional oath that all public servants have taken.”
Mack is a retired sheriff from Arizona now living in Texas and running for the U.S. Senate. This will be his second visit to Wisconsin to back the small farmer. Although he says he doesn’t usually drink milk, Mack visited Madison, Wis., in 2010 to speak to raw-milk supporters at the State Capitol after state regulators raided Hershberger’s farm. It was then he drank his first glass of raw milk.
As a sheriff, Mack resisted an interim provision of the federal Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act that required him to conduct background checks. In a victory for states’ rights, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor.
“Sheriff Mack called and said he wants support in any way that he can. Also, Sheriff Brad Rogers called and agreed to get in contact with our sheriff, Chip Meister,” Hershberger said of his busy week. “It is a tough time to go through, but if we all stand together and with the mighty hand of God on our side, I am sure that we will prevail.”
Elkhart County Sheriff Rogers intervened on behalf of a farmer in his county, advising the Food and Drug Administration to stay away or risk arrest if the agency continued to harass raw milk farmer David Hochstetler.
As a raw milk producer, Hochstetler, operator of Forest Grove Dairy south of Middlebury, endured repeated inspections by federal regulators. His plight prompted Rogers to intervene successfully.
“We appreciate all the help and support that has been shown the last
while,” Hershberger said. “I think everyone is doing a great job of standing together as we go through some more struggles that are necessary to have the truth rise up to the top again.”
The Wisconsin Raw Milk Association stated, “There has been an increasing amount of pressure being put on small farms, raw milk dairies, butcher shops, home owners, and even organic gardening operations to either comply with an ever-increasing amount of stringent rules and regulations or be put out of business.”
Perhaps the largest rally of all will take place in Madison Feb. 22 for Raw Milk Lobby Day at the Capitol building. The Wisconsin Raw Milk Association (www.wisrawmilkassociation.com) and their lobbyists will be coordinating the efforts and “ask that you come out in full force to help educate your legislators that morning on the benefits of raw milk and how it can be produced safely for human consumption.”
The rally will begin in the Capitol Rotunda at 10 a.m. The group also is asking for support by contacting Wisconsin state officials and by taking part in a letter-writing campaign in support of the S.B. 108 Raw Milk Bill.
“Already, the legislators are giving new life to S.B. 108, the raw milk bill of Wisconsin,” Hershberger said.
The Wisconsin Raw Milk Association released the following statement: “The opposition by the agricultural industrial complex this time around is alarmingly huge and well funded. We do not have the money that the conventional dairy industry has, but we do have the ability to meet one-on-one with our representatives and educate them about why we want raw milk decriminalized. We the people still have a voice. Let us unify and proclaim raw milk liberty for all on Feb. 22, 2012.”
At the end of the lobby, projected to be around noon, the rally will proceed to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s office. The Wisconsin Raw Milk Association said they plan “to request that he cease and desist the attack on Vernon Hershberger and our rights to choose healthy foods. We need Gov. Walker to send a message to DATCP and the DOJ requesting them to ‘back off’ and allow S.B. 108 to become law.”
Hershberger said: “The Wisconsin Raw Milk Association is needing some help to lobby at the Capitol. I hope we can unite our efforts, even though we have needs that are significantly different from each other. The bill, as it is written up, will be a big benefit to farmers who also have a Grade A producer’s license. The state needs to also recognize that we, as individuals, have liberty to obtain food from other farmers if we so choose.”
The fight for Hershberger has grown statewide in recent months and recently has taken on national attention on the web.
“Remember, friends, this is only the beginning, we will have to take it through to the end,” Hershberger said. “We don’t know how many steps it will take yet for the truth to rise up to the top, but if we stand together in unity and keep our focus on the Lord, he will show us where He is wanting us to go and what He wants to make out of all this. Let us lift each other up in spirit and in truth; as one of us goes down, there will be five more in line to take his place. If we are really serious about what we are standing for, we will keep standing up until they are tired of knocking us down, and instead they will be ready to give us what really belongs to us.”
Hershberger has a scheduled appearance in court in Sauk County March 2.
“I hope we can all keep standing up together and make the saying come true of ‘United we stand, divided we fall,’” Hershberger said. “Let us remember there were less than 10 percent of the total population that actually fought the Revolutionary War.”
With the dinner, state rally and upcoming court appearance, Hershberger has his plate full.
“We don’t know what this next week will bring, but we can be certain that nothing will come to pass that us together with the Lord can’t handle,” Hershberger said.
From the Feb. 15-21, 2012, issue