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June 3, 2013

Food Ordinance Update

This is it!  After several meetings and revisions with the Town Chairman, a polished version of our Local Food Ordinance will be presented to the board for a vote at the Wednesday, June 12th board meeting.  Mark your calendar for a celebration of food fredom as we push back against the State and stand for what we believe in.  Bring yourselves, all your family, your neighbors and anyone else wishing to be a part of history.  With your support and if passed, Troy will be the first Town in the State of Wisconsin t pass such an ordinance.  The significance of this has not escaped the attention of the local media; Brandon was interviewed by a journalist writing for The Country Today to cover this story.

Come find Brandon that evening as he will have “Local Food Rules” stickers for you to wear to show solidarity before the board.  The meeting begins at 7pm at the Troy Town Hall.

Update on the Vernon Hershberger Trial

For those of you unfamiliar, last week marked a major victory for food freedom.  Amish farmer Vernon Hershberger was acquitted of multiple indictments for the distribution of raw milk via a private cow-share.  In a stunning victory that will set precedence in the State of Wisconsin, the jury choose to invoke their power to nullify the alleged charges allowing for the Hershberger family to again distribute raw milk, legally and rightfully, to the private owners of the cow herd which were being boarded by the co-op.  Here is an excerpt detailing the events and their implications sent from the Weston A. Price Foundation earlier this week:

In what Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund vice president Elizabeth Rich called a victory for the food rights movement, a Sauk County jury acquitted dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger on three of four criminal charges for violations of the Wisconsin food and dairy code after a contentious five-day trial.
 
Hershberger was acquitted on charges of operating a farm store without a retail food establishment permit, operating a dairy farm without a milk producer license and operating a dairy plant facility without a license. He was convicted of violating a hold order that Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) officials had placed on food in his on-farm store during a June 2010 raid; Hershberger removed tape that had been put on store refrigerators. Hershberger leases cows to members of a private buyers club and provides raw dairy products and other nutrient-dense foods to club members at the farm store. A sentencing date has not been scheduled.
 
The jury’s verdict sets a major precedent in distinguishing between those producing and selling food to the public and those producing and distributing food through a private contractual arrangement (e.g., agreement with a food buyers club). DATCP had claimed broad regulatory powers over operations like Hershberger’s asserting that it has jurisdiction over any dairy farm producing milk where any of the milk leaves the farm premise. With its powerful dairy lobby, Wisconsin has been one of the most draconian states in limiting raw milk sales and distribution.
 
Hershberger’s lead attorney in the case Glen Reynolds said, “This is as close to Prohibition as anything I have ever seen, but this time it’s milk and an Amish farmer rather than liquor and gangsters.”
 
The verdict should be a major step in increasing the freedom of people around the country to be able to obtain the foods of their choice from the source of their choice regardless of whether that source has a license from the state. This should advance the right to be left alone by the government when two parties enter into a private contract for food.

May 2013

Update on Food Sovereignty

For those of you following the movement towards passage of a Local Food Ordinance in the Town of Troy, here’s an update.  The first ordinance proposed in October of last year, derived from the Maine Self-Governance movement was rejected.  The legal advice of the Town of Troy advised against any language which would supersede state law.  In consulting with Pete Kennedy of the Farmer to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, the case law in the state of Wisconsin did not support passage of such an ordinance.  In other words, a town could pass such an ordinance but it would have to be kept out of the courts where it would easily be nullified.  Municipal Home Rule, which the Maine ordinance sites as the authority through which they assert food sovereignty, has more constitutional sway and is currently being tested in the courts there.

Mr. Kennedy did propose another ordinance successfully being used in the State of California, that in the spirit of a resolution, claims food sovereignty without challenging state law.  Passing such an ordinance has two distinct advantages.  Where no current law exists, for example in the consumption of unpasteurized cider, an ordinance may provide some legal grounds for a producer to claim grandfather status if the state or a municipality were to increase restrictions.  Although there would be no guarantees of protection (especially if the state passed laws in direct contradiction) having the ordinance in place could keep state legislators from pursuing increased regulation if they saw clear community support behind a food sovereignty issue.

This leads us to the second and more important advantage of the new ordinance.  Passing this ordinance could have a domino effect if other municipalities were to follow suit.  This would send a very strong message to Madison about the right to access local unprocessed food of our choosing.  In effect, state legislators would weigh their decisions not only on the opinion of individual voters but on that of entire municipalities.  This would create the most fertile ground for state-level changes that reflect our values.

We’re putting the finishing touches on the new ordinance and will post it soon for your review.  The final step will be to submit the ordinance to the Town of Troy board.  I have already presented the California version at a Town board meeting and at least two out of the three supervisors responded very positively.  With proper editing, it is very likely to pass.  We had a great turnout last Fall and I will be again be calling upon those of us in the area who care deeply about this issue to attend the board meeting to lend your support.

New Raw Milk Bill

Senator Glenn Grothman (R) from West Bend is expected to reintroduce a new raw milk bill into legislation.  If passed this bill will legalize the sale of raw, unpasteurized milk in the State of Wisconsin.  Governor Scott Walker’s spokesman has said that the governor will support the bill provided it contains “appropriate safeguards” to ensure public health and the state’s dairy industry.  He also added that the bill must also allow consumers to purchase the raw milk directly from farmers.

Senator Grothman understands that the process of pasteurization renders certain essential nutrients unavailable for assimilation.  The Wisconsin Safe Milk Coalition as well as public health officials still support pasteurization and similar bills introduced in Indiana and Iowa have not passed.  Senator Grothman is not deterred by this or the failure of the bill in 2011.  He states that he didn’t push the previous bill as hard as he should have and recognizes that some sort of compromise or regulation will have to be met that is yet to be determined.  Grothman has not indicated the timeline for introducing the bill yet.

The Wisconsin Safe Milk Coalition is urging legislators to not sponsor this bill so it’s very important to have your voice heard.  Please contact your local representative to show your support to this bill.

Raw Milk Share Program

Recently we have been contacted by Cindy Nawiesniak, the owner of a small, sustainable farm in Harvard, Illinois called Freedom Organix.  They are looking to start a raw milk share program to begin in June of this year and are currently gauging interest in the program.  They are also a CSA farm raising vegetables, herbs, flowers along with Pastured Poultry, Free Range Eggs, Grass Fed Beef and Pastured Heritage Breed Hogs.

On their website which is www.freedomorganix.com, they list delivery sites as close as Lake Geneva and Delavan.  We do not have all the details of the program yet so if you are interested you may contact Cindy at 847.910.1160 or email her atinfo@freedomorganix.com for more details.

 

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