Victory in Virginia – Bills Threatening Herd Shares Now Dead

Joel Salatin said, “If this is not reminiscent of David and Goliath, I don’t know what is”, referring to the defeat of two bills posing a major threat to the future of herdshare programs in Virginia. Virginia Farm Bureau, Virginia Agribusiness Council, and the Virginia State Dairymen’s Association all supported the legislation but grassroots mobilization against the bills lead by the Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association (VICFA) won out with an assist from members of the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) and the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) and other food freedom advocates.

Herdshare agreements are private contractual arrangements in which someone purchases an ownership interest in a dairy animal (or herd of dairy animals) and pays a fee to a farmer for boarding, caring for and milking the animal(s). The owner has the property right to obtain raw milk from the animal(s). It’s legal to purchase ownership in a dairy animal and it’s legal to obtain milk from a dairy animal you co-own. Herdshare programs have been flourishing in Virginia for many years.

Last month legislators carrying out the agenda of industrial agriculture introduced House Bill 825 and Senate Bill 962 in the Virginia legislature. While the bills officially legalized herdshares [currently there is nothing in the Virginia Code on herdshares], they were an attempt to intimidate both consumers and farmers from either entering into or continuing on with herdshare agreements. Each bill provided that violating any of its requirements would be first degree misdemeanors with criminal penalties of up to one year in jail and $2,500 in fines; every day the violation continued would be a separate offense. Both farmers and consumers could have been found guilty of a crime for not turning over copies of their contracts to government agencies. Both bills stated it was illegal for anyone besides the party to the heredshare contract to receive raw milk; in other words, giving raw milk to family or guests would be a crime according to the wording in the bills.

To scare consumers away from signing contracts, there was a requirement in both bills that the herdshare agreements contain a clause stating that shareholders assumed joint liability if the herd or any milk produced by the herd was responsible for any injury or illness. HB 825 and SB 962 each required there be a label on all raw milk containers with a consumer advisory warning about the dangers of consuming raw animal foods. Why would shareholders need a label on their own property? Why should they be forced to trash their own property with an advisory?

Reaction to the bills’ filings was swift. Farmers and consumers bombarded legislators with phone calls, emails and in-person visits to the capitol. VICFA kept people apprised of the bills’ status and mobilized the local food community to attend the hearings on the bills. Herdshare farmers like Dwayne McIntyre of Goshen Homestead, Jacques and Kim Fuhrmann of Our Fathers Farm, the Wilkes family of Honey Brook Farm, Tim and Joy Alexander of Avery’s Branch Farm, and Scott Wilson of Full Quiver Farm all made a difference in building opposition to the legislation.

On February 1 the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources held a hearing on SB 962; around 100 opponents of the bill packed the hearing room. Senator Mark Obenshain, seeing the writing on the wall with the opposition to the bill, took out a number of SB 962’s more onerous provisions but opponents weren’t buying the revised version of the bill. Their message throughout the testimony opposing SB 962 was clear: no regulation, period!

VICFA member and herdshare pioneer, Christine Solem, began the opponents’ testimony by angrily warning the committee that she would “fight this all the way.” Twice, Solem took herdshare lawsuits to the Virginia Supreme Court in the 1980s with the court implicitly recognizing that herdshare agreements were legal.

Mark Wilkes of Honey Brook Farm commented in his testimony that the bill “was a solution in search of a problem.” VICFA president Anne Buteau backed up that statement in her testimony by pointing out to the committee that, in the 30 years of herdshares operating in Virginia, government officials investigating the one foodborne illness outbreak attributed to raw milk distributed through a herdshare did not go public with the information because, as they stated, “the nature of the herd-share programs are such that we were confident that we would effectively reach those who were truly at risk for illness.”

Herdshares are closed-loop arrangements with a high level of traceability. Virginia government officials have all the authority they need under existing law to conduct an effective investigation if there is a suspicion of foodborne illness.

Senator Richard Black agreed with Wilkes and Buteau, firing up the crowd when he remarked, “I don’t know what problem it’s addressing. People life a free life in rural areas and don’t want government peeking over their back and telling them what to do.”

Once the testimony was over, the committee voted 8 to 7 not to report the bill out of committee. Delegate Barry Knight, the sponsor of HB 825, knowing how difficult it was going to be to pass a more burdensome bill than SB 962 (HB 825, unlike the Senate bill, gave government broad rule-making power) moved to withdraw his bill; on February 5, a House Agriculture subcommittee struck the bill by an 8-0 vote.

VICFA’s mission “is to promote and preserve unregulated direct farmer-to-consumer trade that fosters availability of locally grown or home-produced food products.” VICFA co-founder Salatin, Solem and other VICFA members such as the late Katherine Russell, helped create a “don’t tread on me” culture that is present throughout Virginia when it comes to farmer-to-consumer unregulated commerce, particularly with herdshares. Those in the local food movement there don’t ask the government for permission to exercise their rights and they want the government to leave them alone.

VICFA operates on a shoe-string budget but members, like Buteau, Solem, past president Lois Smith, and Suzi Croes, will spend the time it takes to protect herdshares–the crown jewel of the local food system in Virginia. They continue to be effective in keeping herdshares away from any regulation; in 2017 VICFA helped kill an attempt by Farm Bureau to ban herdshares. When it comes to establishing and protecting unregulated direct farmer-to-consumer commerce, it is a model organization for those in other states to follow.

Click image below to watch the video from the 2/1/18 Senate committee hearing on SB 962 starting at time marker 0:45:40 (Note: Christine Solem stands to the right, behind Senator Obenshain)

Raw Milk Legalization — What Is New Jersey Waiting For?


The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDH) has been busy recently on the raw milk front. In one investigation NJDH sent cease and desist letters to various dropsites at private residences. The dropsites were allegedly distributing raw milk and raw milk products to customers of an out-of-state dairy. In another action NJDH was investigating a New Jersey based food buyers co-op sourcing raw milk from multiple out-of-state producers. The department was trying to determine which of the producers was responsible for an illness caused by the consumption of raw milk. The two cases represent an opportunity for the state to evaluate its law prohibiting the sale and distribution of raw milk and acknowledge that the law needs changing.

The cease and desist letters threatened the families operating the dropsites with fines for distributing raw milk. This isn’t the first time NJDH took this kind of action. In 2007 NJDH also sent cease and desist letters to individuals having dropsites at their residences. The difference from the investigation eleven years ago is that NJDH sent letters to considerably more dropsites this time around; not surprising since demand for raw milk has been consistently increasing for years. Otherwise law-abiding citizens will do what they have to in order to obtain raw milk in states like New Jersey where the sale is banned; whether NJDH will admit that or not, it’s the reality.

In the case of the food buyers co-op, NJDH was having a difficult time trying to determine which dairy was responsible for making a member of the club ill with brucellosis. There were media reports discussing the NJDH investigation but none reporting that the department had identified the producer responsible for the illness; it is clear that NJDH was having problems with traceability.

If you combine the growing demand for raw milk among New Jersey residents along with the traceability issue NJDH has been having with out-of-state dairies it would be a good move for the state to consider legalization. A good first move for the state would be to allow by policy the distribution of raw milk through herdshare agreements; under herdshare contracts raw milk consumers obtain an ownership interest in the dairy animal(s) enabling them to obtain raw milk and hire the farmer to board, care for and milk those animals. Herdshare programs are closed-loop arrangements in which there is a high level of traceability if there is a suspected illness; something NJDH should appreciate after what it has been through.

New Jersey dairy farmers have lost millions of dollars in potential revenues to Pennsylvania raw milk producers (there are less than 70 Grade A dairies left in the state) but that never moved the state government to end the prohibition on raw milk sales and distribution. What could change the state’s position though is the difficulty its health department had in conducting an investigation of foodborne illness combined with the fact that demand for raw milk among New Jersey residents will only continue to further increase. Allowing the distribution of raw milk through an arrangement outside the stream of public commerce would be a good first step for the state.

They are Rounding Up the Raw Milk Drinkers

Republished by permission from Bernadette Barber, originally posted 25 January 2018 at Virginia Food Freedom.

Twin bills in the Virginia legislature, SB 962 by Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-26) and HB 825 by Del. Barry Knight (R-81) are the first steps in destroying the very farm operations that allow people to access cream line raw milk (farm fresh, unpasteurized, unhomogenized).

In the 1950’s it was common to purchase raw milk in VA. Over the course of time, industrialization forced smaller dairies out of the countryside. By the 70’s and 80’s people were missing that good old real milk. They sought it out and by default, since by then outright purchase was illegal, they found that it was not illegal to drink milk from your own cow. So it began, cow shares and herd shares sprang up in Virginia.

People chose raw milk for a myriad of reasons, taste, healthfulness and ability to know the farmer who milks the cow are three major ones.

To understand the gravity of the situation, one must understand the power hungry milk processors at the state level and the national level. They have well paid lobbyists. The lowly dairy farmer him or herself does not make a fortune on milking cows. They might make a dollar a gallon (it is measured by weight not volume). On the other hand the processors, who manufacture the creams, yogurts, butters, flavored milks, cheeses and more are making a fortune. Sometimes the margins are so slim on items they constantly must create new items to appeal to the masses. Over the course of time competing industries have interfered with profit margins. Enter protein and power beverages, designer teas, gatorade, coconut milk, almond milk, designer juices and more. They all command attention at the grocery store and the dairy industry is losing the customer base it once had.

Citing USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Data from 2012 to 2016, annual conventional milk sales declined by 8%, (that’s 4 billion pounds) and organic milk sales increased by 20%. The decrease in fluid milk sales transfers to an annual decline of $1.7 billion dollars as reported by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

So there it is, the bottom line. Fluid milk sales is a mult-billion dollar trade. And they don’t want to share. So in come the RINO republicans and industry advocates, Barry Knight and Mark Obenshain to kill off a small thriving community of cow-sharing- organic-raw-milk drinkers and farmers.

Do yourself a lovely favor this day, consider acquiring some raw cream for your coffee. And do some online research. In one search use the word CAFO and in another use the words cow share. See which model you would like to use for your personal food consumption. And ask yourself why Knight and Obenshain want to destroy small farm operations.

If you have more time, please call Del. Knight 804-698-1081 and Sen. Obenshain 804-698-7526 and ask them to withdraw the bills. Because they are both on the Agriculture Committees, they do represent ALL Virginians in that aspect, please don’t let the gatekeeper deny your voice. It will help some small farmers.

For more information on the issue and to get involved, please view and join www.vicfa.org 

Thanks for all your help,

Bernadette Barber

The Quiet Dictatorship Strikes Again


Canada has been referred to as a quiet dictatorship, a country that denies your rights in a civil way. If you defy the state by exercising your freedoms, the government will imprison you but will do so in a kindly manner. A great example of the lack of freedom in Canada and the suffocating control that the corporate state has over the individual is a recent court decision in Ontario affecting 143 families whose members want to consume raw milk and raw milk products.

On January 5 Justice P.W. Sutherland of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice granted a permanent injunction to Gavin Dowing (referred to as “the Director”–the opinion never explains what he is the director of?) and the Regional Municipality of York, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and the Regional Municipality of Peel that prevents 143 individuals and their families that are members of the Our Farm Our Food Cooperative (OFOF) from being able to consume raw milk produced by a herd of dairy cows in which OFOF has 100% ownership–the co-op members have invested $2,000 each to join.

OFOF purchased the cows from the Agri-Cultural Renewal Cooperative (ARC) and hired ARC to care for the cows and manage the dairy operations. In 2010 ARC purchased Glencolton Farm in its entirety, owning all the land, buildings, equipment and animals. Former owner Michael Schmidt stills works on the farm but owns nothing of it. Schmidt, his wife Elisa Vander hout and several officers and directors of ARC were defendants in the case as was ARC itself.

The injunction prevents, among other things, defendants and anyone with knowledge of the judge’s order “from operating a plant without a license” and “from selling, offering for sale, delivering or distributing milk or cream or products processed or derived from milk that has not been pasteurized or sterilized in a plant that is not licensed under the Milk Act…” In other words, those individuals who paid $2,000 so that they and their families could obtain raw milk are out of luck.

In his opinion, Judge Sutherland made the ominous statement that “[a] court should not grant such an order unless the court is prepared if necessary to commit a violator of the order into prison.” Schmidt has already been sentenced to 60 days in jail for obstructing a peace officer trying to leave Glencolton Farm with dairy products and milking equipment.

The most remarkable part of Judge Sutherland’s opinion is that it contains a complete chronology of the 24-year battle Schmidt has been through with the government in trying to legalize raw milk distribution in Ontario and other places in Canada. Time and again Schmidt has tried to adjust the raw milk operation on his farm to comply with a prior court ruling only for a court to rule in the next proceeding that there is no difference between public and private distribution of raw milk and that only those living on a farm [the family farm exemption] can legally obtain raw milk–all other milk must be pasteurized and under state control.

In his opinion, the Judge rejected defendants’ contention that the private nature of the ARC-OFOF operation made it not subject to Ontario milk laws noting that “[t]his court has resisted schemes that purport to create ‘private’ enclaves immune to the reach of public health legislation.”

It is uncertain at this time whether Schmidt will continue his fight to legalize raw milk in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada. If this is it, his courage and persistence have left a lasting legacy with the tremendous increase in the demand for and supply of raw milk throughout Canada. The many Canadian raw milk producers that have started up in recent years would rather stay underground than work for legalization like Schmidt did, seeing the courts repeatedly favor the dairy industry monopoly over freedom of choice and private property rights. They want to stay as far away as possible from the Canadian system of fascist governance.

UPDATE – The defendants filed an appeal of Justice Sutherland’s opinion in February 2018.

Top graphic snipped from “Food Rights” video, published 19 Oct. 2015 on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8UWf_A3uFs

For information on donating to the Canada effort, visit https://www.gofundme.com/foodrights

Ontario court sign graphic snipped from CTV Barrie video published 29 May 2017 for “Injunction Could Decide Future of Unpasteurized Milk” at https://barrie.ctvnews.ca/injunction-could-decide-future-of-unpasteurized-milk-1.3434492

Michael Schmidt on Glencolton Farm graphic snipped from “Food Rights” video, published 19 Oct. 2015 on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8UWf_A3uFs

A Wishlist of Just Laws for Those Who Feed Our Families


At the end of 2017 there were several enforcement actions and investigations underway against raw milk distributors. In a Kansas City district court the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was seeking an order allowing it to seize and destroy $70,000 of camel milk and camel milk products, most of it unpasteurized. Government agencies in four different states were investigating a New Jersey food buyers club in connection with an illness attributed to raw milk consumption. In a separate investigation the New Jersey Department of Health sent cease and desist letters to a number of private residences in that state that were allegedly serving as dropsites for the distribution of raw milk and other nutrient-dense foods.

Out of the three cases, the only illness involved was traced to the administration of a brucellosis vaccine to a cow that resulted in active brucella showing up in the raw milk. In the FDA and New Jersey Department of Health investigations there were no allegations of adulterated raw dairy or other foods being distributed. Still, distributors in all three cases could be subject to criminal and/or civil penalties for distributing food their customers believed best for their health and well-being. As the new year gets underway what laws could be passed to better protect producers and distributors of nutrient-dense foods and improve the chances of those individuals getting justice if the government brings a formal administrative or judicial action against them. Here are some suggestions towards making this happen.

    Jury Nullification
    Jury nullification is the legal concept where the jury has the right to acquit the defendant even if the law points toward guilt if the jury believes that it would be unjust to apply the law given the facts of the case. Jury nullification can take place in either criminal or civil trials. The Alvin Schlangen and Vernon Hershberger trials, respectively in Wisconsin and Minnesota, were jury nullification cases where the juries refused to convict the two for violations of the food and dairy laws even though under the letter of the law either could have been found guilty.

    The U.S Supreme Court has recognized the right of a jury to acquit a defendant when it believes that the application of the law to the facts of the case would be unjust.1 The trouble with jury nullification at the federal level and in nearly all states is that even though the jury has the right to judge the law as well as the facts in a case, judges and defense attorneys are prohibited from informing juries that this right exists. States need to pass laws lifting this prohibition.

    In 2012 the New Hampshire legislature passed a law stating, “In all criminal proceedings the court shall permit the defendant to inform the jury of its right to judge the facts and the application of the law in relation to those facts.” In a 2014 case, State v. Paul2 the New Hampshire Supreme Court held that this law did not impose any obligation on the court to “instruct the jury as to jury nullification.”2,3

      In response to the supreme court’s ruling a bill (HB 133) was introduced in the 2017 New Hampshire legislative session that read: In all criminal proceedings the court shall inform the jury of its right to judge the facts and the application of the law in relation to the facts in controversy. At the request of the defendant or the defendant’s attorney, the court shall instruct the jury as follows: “If you have a reasonable doubt as to whether the state has proved any one or more of the elements of the crime charged, you must find the defendant not guilty. However if you find that the state has proved all the elements of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt, you should find the defendant guilty. Even if you find that the state has proved all of the elements of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt, you may still find that based upon the facts of this case a guilty verdict will yield an unjust result, and you may find the defendant not guilty.”

    The 2017 New Hampshire bill is the type of legislation that needs to pass to strengthen the juror’s right of nullification. At a minimum it makes no sense that a defense attorney cannot even inform the jury of this right. Jurors should not have to work in the blind as to their nullifying rights as they did in the Hershberger and Schlangen cases where the law prohibited the judge and the defense attorneys from telling the jury directly about jury nullification. Jury nullification is a bedrock of our justice system; jurors should be educated about it.

    Jury Trials in Food Condemnation Cases
    Government agencies generally have to petition courts to destroy food the agencies have seized. The government usually does this on the grounds of protecting the public health but in nearly all cases there is no evidence that the food from the same production batch under seizure has made anyone sick. For some producers or distributors a single court order to destroy food can put them out of business. In cases like the Kansas raw camel milk seizure the government hasn’t even alleged that the milk is adulterated or a threat to human health.

    In one Missouri case, a court ordered the destruction of over 30,000 pounds of raw cheese even though the cheese manufacturer, Morningland Dairy, had never been accused of making anyone sick in 30 years of doing business and neither FDA nor the Missouri Milk Board had tested any of the cheese subject to the destruction order. FDA had taken 100 environmental swabs at the facility all of which were negative for the pathogen. Judges who rule against destroying food are in a no-win situation even if the facts of the case favor the food producer or distributor; they are under tremendous pressure to err on the side of protecting the public health even if there is no real health threat at all. A jury would better take into consideration the evidence on the side of producers and distributors in these cases.

    Jury Trial for Cases Where the Government Seeks a Permanent Injunction Against Food Producers and Distributors
    An injunction is a court order prohibiting someone from doing some specified act or commanding someone to undo some wrong or injury. A permanent injunction is a final court order that is permanently in effect unless the court lifts the order. Those who violate the injunction can face contempt charges with the possibility of fines and/or jail time.

    In Michigan the past couple of years the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) has brought court actions for injunction against two different raw milk producers, Hill High Dairy and Dairy Delight Cow Boarding, for matters that should not have been any of MDARD’s business. In the Hill High Dairy case the department tried to stop individuals leasing cows from having the leaseholders hire someone to process their own raw milk into other dairy products; in the Dairy Delight case the department tried to stop those in a herdshare program from selling, among other foods, oatmeal cookies and apple muffins to other shareholders without proper labeling. Both cases involved private, closed-loop transactions far outside the stream of public commerce; in the Hill High Dairy case, MDARD not only obtained an injunction against the dairy prohibiting it from violating state food and dairy laws but brought contempt charges against the dairy when its leaseholders continued to have their raw milk processed into other dairy products. Thankfully, the judge hearing the case brought some common sense to the matter when he ruled the dairy was not in contempt.

    Agencies like MDARD would be less likely to bring actions for an injunction and contempt suits for violation of an injunction in these type of cases if they knew that food producers and distributors would be entitled to a trial by a jury of their peers.

    Right to Jury Trial for Appeals of Administrative Rulings
    Government agencies seeking to punish food producers with penalties such as license revocation or fines can resort to administrative hearings where the odds of success are not as great for producers as they would be in a judicial court. Several raw milk producers have found out firsthand that administrative hearings are often one-sided proceedings in which those the agency is trying to punish are afforded little due process.

    One Ohio farmer had his dairy license revoked at an administrative hearing for taking a $2.00 donation for a gallon of raw milk he gave to an undercover officer from the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Raw dairy producers have been through administrative hearings where, even if the person presiding over the hearing ruled against the government agency, the agency had the power legally to ignore the ruling and issue the order it wanted to anyway.

    Parties can appeal the ruling to a judicial trial court; the courts sits as an appellate court for the appeal but is limited to reviewing just the record from the administrative proceeding. The system needs to change so that the trial court would sit as a trial court trying the matter from the beginning as if it had never been heard in the administrative proceeding (the legal term is de novo trial) to give the individual the agency seeks to punish a fresh start in a less biased proceeding. To further discourage government harassment there should be a right to a jury trial in the appeal of an administrative proceeding to a judicial court.

Even if a state currently has a favorable regulatory climate for the production and distribution of nutrient-dense food, it is still the right move to pass the laws suggested above in case the enforcement policy of the agencies ever change.

Producers and distributors of raw milk and other nutritious foods who take the risks they do to make those foods available deserve to get justice and not just law if a court action is brought against them. Greater protection is needed for those who provide for our sustenance.

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[1] Spanf v. United States 156 U.S. 51 (1895)
[2] State v. Paul 167 N.H. 39,42
[3] The jury instruction the trial court judge gave in the Paul case was: “You should follow the law as I explain it regardless of any opinion you may have as to what the law ought to be. If you have a reasonable doubt as to whether the State has proved any one or more of the elements of the crime charged, you must find the defendant not guilty. However, if you find that the state has proved all elements beyond a reasonable doubt, you should find the defendant guilty.” Paul, p. 41.

FDA Antibiotic Test Requirement Threatens to Cut Raw Milk Supply in Pennsylvania


Controversial antibiotic test requirements imposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be going into effect next month in Pennsylvania. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA), Pennsylvania will be the last state to implement the testing requirements; FDA initially issued them in 2011.1 The requirements will especially impact raw milk farmers who sell part of their production to dairy cooperatives for pasteurization as well as selling raw milk direct to the consumer or through retail stores. The main reason that the FDA testing mandate has received much more attention than in any other state is that there are more producers in Pennsylvania than any other state whose raw milk goes for both pasteurization and for direct consumption. Thanks to laws in neighboring states that either restrict or prohibit raw milk sales or distribution to consumers in both the northeastern and mid-Atlantic regions rely on Pennsylvania raw milk producers for their sustenance.

The antibiotic testing requirements are that farmers producing either raw milk for pasteurization or raw milk to be manufactured into other dairy products (such as raw or pasteurized cheese) must test every batch of raw milk produced for antibiotic residue even if the producer’s dairy operation is certified organic. Producers who only produce raw milk for human consumption are not subject to the FDA testing requirement. Producers subject to the testing mandate will either have to do their own testing on equipment that could cost thousands of dollars to purchase, pay thousands each year for testing by a state-approved lab or, in the case of producers selling to a co-op, wait to get test results (milk haulers transporting milk for co-ops collect samples for testing of each batch of raw milk they pick up from a farm belonging to the co-op). Producers cannot commingle any milk from a subsequent batch until they get test results back from the co-op; further complicating matters is the fact that co-ops typically do not report test results to member farmers at all, much less on a timely basis. PDA has gotten reports of producers working with co-ops to create a process for timely reporting of test results but it remains to be seen how these efforts pan out.

Dairy Farmers of America, a co-op with a history of strong opposition to legalizing raw milk sales for human consumption, controls a substantial percentage of raw milk produced for pasteurization in Pennsylvania, possibly over one-half of the total. Trickling Springs Creamery, a well-known Pennsylvania co-op, has already notified its members that one hundred percent of their production must go to the co-op; members will not be able to retain any raw milk for retail sales or for manufacturing into any other dairy product. If a farmer selling raw milk to a co-op for pasteurization is found to violate the antibiotic testing requirements, FDA can not only stop the farmer’s shipments to the co-op, it can shut down the co-op from making any shipments in interstate commerce.

To its credit, PDA (with FDA’s approval) has established a variance process, where those dairies it grants a variance will be exempt from the antibiotic testing requirements.2 Forty farmers have applied for the variance so far; out of the sixteen applications PDA has reviewed, it has approved seven for a variance. Those eligible for the variance include those farmers that pasteurize and bottle all the raw milk they produce and those manufacturing other dairy products only from raw milk produced on their farm. Producers selling any of their raw milk production to a co-op are not eligible for a variance per order of FDA; the nine applications PDA rejected were all from those selling part of their production to a co-op.

A PDA official estimated that as many as one-half of the 68 Pennsylvania dairies permitted to produce and sell raw milk for human consumption are Grade A dairies that sell some of their milk production to a co-op. If these dairies aren’t able to make a workable arrangement with their co-ops on reporting test results, the cost of antibiotic testing could drive many to drop their permits and get out of the raw milk business when antibiotic residues in the milk was never a problem for any of them to begin with. The FDA testing requirement, in their cases, has nothing to do with protecting the public health.

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[1] Public Health Service/FDA, Appendix N Drug Residue Testing and Farm Surveillance, “Grade A” Pasteurized Milk Ordinance 2015 Revision; pp. 374-379. Note: the PMO is a document governing the production distribution, and transportation of raw milk intended for pasteurization; Pennsylvania and nearly all other states have adopted the PMO and the other states must have standards at least as strict. Accessed 12/20/2017 at https://www.fda.gov/downloads/food/guidanceregulation/guidancedocumentsregulatoryinformation/milk/ucm513508.pdf
[2] PDA Commissioner Russell Redding, Letter to Pennsylvania Milk Permitholder, 4 October 2017. Subject: Update on Implementation of Drug Residue Testing Requirements of FDA’s Appendix N of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance”

Pride & Joy Creamery Closes Down Raw Milk Operation


For the past 10 years Allen and Cheryl Voortman of Pride and Joy Creamery in Granger, Washington, have produced high quality raw milk that has benefited the health of thousands of their customers. At the beginning of 2017 Pride and Joy Creamery was one of the largest raw milk dairies in Washington, distributing their nutrient-dense product throughout the state. Long certified as a 100% grassfed organic dairy, Pride and Joy received the highest rating given by the nonprofit organic industry watchdog Cornucopia Institute to organic milk producers–a rating given only to ten other dairies in the country.

Sadly, today, Pride and Joy Creamery is out of the retail raw milk business and only produces raw milk for pasteurization. The Voortmans no longer have the herd that produced raw milk for direct consumption. Two shutdowns of the dairy engineered by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) led the Voortmans to make the decision to end their raw milk operation.

In February 2017, WSDA and the Washington Department of Public Health accused the dairy’s raw milk of making two people ill with salmonella poisoning. It is not known whether public health officials tried to find any other foods the two sick individuals might have consumed in common once it was discovered that each drank the dairy’s raw milk. WSDA sent samples of the dairy’s raw milk to the state lab; while the samples were negative for salmonella, two samples were positive for shiga-toxin producing e-coli (STEC), a result the department used to pressure the Voortmans into conducting a voluntary recall of the dairy’s raw milk which ultimately resulted in the dairy being shut down for over two months. WSDA produced no evidence that the STEC it found in the milk samples was capable of making anyone sick.

In September, milk samples taken by WSDA tested positive for salmonella, eventually leading the department to suspend the dairy’s license to produce raw milk. When samples WSDA took in October were also positive for salmonella, the Voortmans shut down their raw milk operation for good rather than incur the tremendous expense it would have taken to get WSDA’s approval to start up again. Samples from the same batch of milk that the Voortmans sent to an accredited laboratory in Idaho were all negative for salmonella. During this time, there were no reports of illness caused by the consumption of raw milk. A November post on the Pride and Joy Facebook page announcing the end of the dairy’s retail raw milk business noted, “the bureaucracy, financial burden and uncertainty of this business is now too much for us.”

There is something wrong with the Washington regulatory system when one of the state’s most popular dairy is forced out of business even though its raw milk has arguably made no one sick. Pride and Joy is not the only Washington raw milk dairy to go out of business in recent months; since around the middle of the year three other dairies have turned in their permits. The four farms account for about ten percent of the total number of licensed Washington raw milk dairies.

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Photo below by Yevgeniy Novozhilov posted November 13, 2017, on the Facebook page for Pride and Joy Creamery with the comment: “Thank you Pride and Joy, for the best-tasting raw milk. My family really enjoyed it for the past several years. Will miss your products very much!”

Michael Schmidt out on Bail; Moving Forward with Appeal of Conviction


On November 22 Durham Ontario dairy farmer Michael Schmidt was granted bail and released from serving a 60-day jail sentence pending the farmer’s appeal of a conviction for obstructing a peace officer; Schmidt posted a $2,500 bond to secure his release. Schmidt had been convicted on October 19 for the offense; subsequently, Justice Ronald Minard of the Ontario Court of justice sentenced Schmidt to sixty days in jail with time to be served over fifteen consecutive weekends. The farmer had served eight days of his sentence at the time bail was granted. Four others–Enos Martin, Robert Pinnell, George Bothwell and John Schnurr–were charged with a similar offense; Schnurr was found not guilty and charges were dropped against Martin, Pinnell and Bothwell.

The charge against Schmidt stems from an October 2, 2015, raid of his farm. Schmidt and 70 supporters were at the farm when government officials possessing a warrant were blocked from leaving the premises in a van containing equipment and dairy products. The officials left only after leaving the seized materials at the farm; multiple provincial and municipal government agencies participated in the raid.

The government obtained a warrant to search the farm on the grounds that it needed to investigate Schmidt to determine whether the farmer was violating the Ontario Milk Act. The Act prohibits the sale or distribution of raw milk for human consumption; many believe this provision only applies to raw milk sold or distributed to the general public.Schmidt only distributes milk to individuals who own shares in his farm; he distributes no milk to anyone who isn’t a shareholder.

Schmidt is appealing the conviction for the obstruction of a peace officer as well as a court ruling holding that the 23 months the case went on did not violate the speedy trial provision contained in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Canadian Supreme Court has interpreted this provision to mean that, if it takes more than 18 months between the time charges are brought and the end of trial in provincial court cases, there is an automatic presumption the delay is unreasonable. In Schmidt’s case the Justice agreed with the Crown’s argument that the presumption shouldn’t apply because there were exceptional circumstances in the case.1

A petition on Change.org to free Schmidt that drew over 7,500 signatures helped draw greater attention to the draconian sentence given the farmer who was only trying to keep the government from confiscating the private property of his shareholders; property the government arguably didn’t have jurisdiction to take. The petition noted that when tainted meat from Maple Leaf Foods was found to have killed 22 people and sickened many more in 2008, the Crown never brought charges against anyone with the company. Schmidt has produced raw milk for over 30 years; no one has ever accused him of making anyone sick.2

For the last 23 years the government has unsuccessfully tried to shut down Schmidt’s efforts to provide healthy dairy products to educated and informed consumers; its endless harassment has cost taxpayers millions of dollars and made a North American icon out of a small farmer in the process. Schmidt might not have been able to change the law but he has had a huge impact, substantially increasing the demand for and supply of raw milk since the time the government started persecuting him. There are significantly more dairy farmers in Canada today distributing raw milk through herdshare and farm-share programs; Schmidt’s decades long campaign of non-violent resistance to unjust laws has emboldened them. The situation in Canada with the prohibition on raw milk sales in all provinces is becoming more similar to the situation in the U.S. with the interstate raw milk ban; greater numbers of otherwise law abiding citizens are violating these laws with regularity. It’s time for provincial and municipal governments in Canada to acknowledge reality, leave Schmidt alone, and stop interpreting provincial raw milk laws to cover distribution to farm and dairy animal owners.

Michael and Elise Schmidt are trying to raise funds to cover the cost of his court battle. Those supporting freedom of choice are encouraged to back Schmidt’s fight by donating at GoFundMe.com/foodrights. The farmer is a little more than halfway to reaching his goal of raising $100,000.

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Top photo from Owen Sound Sun Times by Don Crosby, “Raw milk advocate Schmidt released pending obstruction appeals”, November 23, 2017. Accessed 12/1/2017 at http://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/2017/11/23/raw-milk-advocate-schmidt-released-pending-obstruction-appeals

1. Don Crosby, “Raw Milk Advocate Schmidt Found Guilty of Obstruction”, The Owen Sound Sun Times, 20 October 2017. Accessed 11/30/2017 at http://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/2017/10/20/raw-milk-advocate-schmidt-found-guilty-of-obstruction

2. Laura Redman, “FREE Ontario FARMER Michael Schmidt – CHANGE CANADA’s ARCHAIC RAW MILK LAW”, Change.org, November 2017. Accessed 11/30/2017 at https://www.change.org/p/kathleen-wynne-free-ontario-farmer-michael-schmidt-change-canada-s-archaic-raw-milk-law

Michael Schmidt in front of the Walkerton Court House at an earlier stage of the Obstruction trial on August 25th, 2017. [Source: The Bovine Press, “Michael Schmidt was Convicted in Walkerton Court of Obstruction”]

Raw milk activist and farmer Michael Schmidt was convicted yesterday (Oct. 19th, 2017) in Walkerton court of obstructing a peace officer. The charge arises from a raid on Glencolton Farms on October 2nd, 2015 in which investigators were prevented — by the crowds of supporters — from leaving the farm with equipment which they had seized. They were eventually allowed to leave once the equipment had been removed from the truck. Read the full post


Graphic from Facebook post by the Natural Health Products Protection Association (NHPPA) shared 11/14/2017 on Glencolton Farms. Here’s the opening excerpt from that post:

Chances are slim any of you spent the weekend in jail. At 6:00 pm Friday November 10, 2017 raw milk farmer, food rights advocate and social activist Michael Schmidt entered the Central North Correctional Centre, a maximum security prison in Penetanguishene, Ontario. It is both a remand facility and one where time is served for a range of minor offenses and serious crimes. For Michael, it was the first of a 60 day “rehabilitation and deterrence” sentence to be served on weekends.

NHPPA connected with Michael before his 3 hour drive from farm to prison and asked him to send this post’s accompanying selfie. “When I was there to get processed [earlier in the week] I was asked by a guard what my obstruction of an officer was for and I just said one word, “Milk”. Then the whole high security dynamic of what they were doing suddenly changed. Other guards came up to me and said “You’re the one!” I heard a guard say “you are the most ridiculous inmate we’ve got from the government”. We had wonderful talks and a couple shared that they that they had grown up on farms and drank raw milk. It was a remarkable experience so that, in a way, I’m looking forward to going in there because of what it does. It reflects back to the intention of the government that they want to punish. And for the wrong things. At the same time it brings out exactly what’s wrong with government. I have no idea what kinds of inmates I’ll be with but it doesn’t worry me at all.”

NHPPA asked about where his younger children were told that their father was going on weekends. “The night before I had to leave we had a really exciting time! We went on the computer together and looked up all the pictures we could find of the jail. I told them, “Look, this is where I’m going to sleep, and this is where I’m going to play with the other inmates, and that’s the room where we all eat and so on”. They asked if I will get to go outside. I said, “No, no. They want to make sure that I will stay warm. There’s also a big fence around it so that no one can come in and steal Papa”. So, they were totally fine. I also told them if “they don’t clean up your rooms, then Papa can’t go to jail!” They cleaned their rooms quickly that night. It was completely turned around. It’s an excitement now. I promised I will tell them everything about how it is on the inside, and if possible, that I would take them with me next time but that they might not be let in because only Papa has done “so much work to be there.”

“All I can say about my adult children and how they feel comes from one comment from my daughter in Germany. She read that I got sentenced and that the judge had said that he has to send a warning to others and a deterrent to Mr. Schmidt that his behaviour and actions are unacceptable. My daughter wrote something like, “as if this is going to stop my dad”. So, they’re all totally fine.”

Original item posted on NHPPA Facebook page

FDA Files Lawsuit to Seize Healthy Food

On October 19, 2017, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) filed a complaint with a federal district court in Kansas to seize and condemn around $70,000 of raw camel milk, pasteurized camel milk, raw camel milk colostrum, and raw camel milk kefir.[1] The camel milk products are currently being held at a frozen food warehouse, My Magic Kitchen, located in Kansas City. The Kansas Department of has placed all the products under embargo, prohibiting their movement from the warehouse.

All labels on the frozen products FDA wants to seize bear the name Desert Farms; the Santa Monica, California based company is the largest raw milk distributor in the U.S. According to the complaint, Hump-Back Dairys of Miller, Missouri produced nearly all of the product being held at the warehouse; the dairy is, by far, the largest camel milk producer in the country.

There has been a thirty-year ban on raw dairy products (other than aged raw cheese) in interstate commerce; FDA interprets the ban to extend to raw milk camel products. In December 2016 Samuel Hostetler, the owner of Hump-Back Dairys, received a warning letter from FDA.[2] The letter to Hostetler warned that he was violating the interstate ban by shipping both raw camel milk and raw camel milk products in interstate commerce; Hostetler responded to the warning letter by informing the agency that he would be complying with the federal regulation establishing the ban.

Walid Abdul-Wahab, the president of Desert Farms, also received a warning letter from FDA in September 2016 but the letter did not mention the interstate raw dairy ban; instead the letter accused Desert Farms of violating the law by shipping “new drugs” that were not approved by FDA in interstate commerce.[3] The letter noted that Desert Farms was making health claims on its website and facebook page about how camel milk was being successfully used to treat various diseases, especially autism. The letter warned that the camel milk products were drugs because “they are intended for use in the care, mitigation and treatment of disease”. As such they were “new drugs” that needed approval from FDA before they could be marketed. The FDA approval for new drugs processing can cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The FDA suit filed for the seizure and destruction of the camel milk products alleges that Desert Farms’ social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram) linked to the company’s website contain claims that “demonstrate that the camel milk products are intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease, including autism, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, viral infections such as hepatitis, the genetic disorder Machado-Joseph, depression, gastrointestinal disease, heart problems, attention deficit disorder, autoimmune diseases, Hashimoto’s disease and cancer.”[4]

What neither the warning letters nor FDA’s complaint for seizure allege is that the camel milk products are adulterated or a threat to human health. As far as is known there has never been a case of foodborne illness in this country attributed to consumption of camel milk. Destruction of the camel milk products at the warehouse would be an absolute waste of healthy food.

It is estimated there are over 10,000 families with autistic children in the U.S. that purchase raw camel milk; many of these families pay $18 a pint or more for the product. There is a reason for that; parents of autistic children have found that raw camel milk and camel milk products can alleviate the symptoms of the condition known as autism spectrum disorder. The science backs them up [5]; pasteurized camel milk can be effective in alleviating the symptoms of autism as well though not to the same degree.

Earlier this year FDA released an article on its Consumer Updates page titled, “Autism: Beware of Potentially Dangerous Therapies and Products.”[6] In the article FDA warns about taking camel milk as a treatment for autism and autism-related symptoms. When FDA warns about taking a product for a disease, it is often because the product is a threat to the profits of the pharmaceutical industry.

FDA is seeking a court order to destroy over 4,300 8- and 16-ounce bottles of camel milk products; product that can help autistic children cope with their condition. The judge hearing the case has the discretion to release the product to Desert Farms.[7] If Walid Abdul-Wahab shows the court that any health claims are no longer on the Desert Farms website and social media and that he is willing to pasteurize the camel milk (with the interstate ban, he would have no choice if he wants the product released) and label the milk containers accordingly the judge could release the product to Desert Farms. Healthy food like this should not wind up in a landfill.

A court date for a hearing on the seizure petition has not been set yet.

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[1] United States of America v. Camel milk products, et al, Kansas Civil Action No. 17-2609 (2017). Access docket files via Pacer.gov for Case #: 2:17-cv-02609-CM-KGS. Retrieved 11/18/2017 from Justia.com at https://dockets.justia.com/docket/kansas/ksdce/2:2017cv02609/118800

[2] FDA warning letter to Samuel P. Hostetler (DBA) Hump-Back Dairys, dated 12/19/16. Retrieved 11/18/2017 at https://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/2016/ucm534108.htm

[3] FDA warning letter to Desert Farms, dated 9/15/16. Retrieved 11/19/2017 at https://www.fda.gov/iceci/enforcementactions/warningletters/2016/ucm524663.htm

[4] United States of America v. Camel milk products, et al

[5] “Casualties of the Raw Milk Ban”, January 17, 2017, Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund website. Retrieved 11/18/2017 at https://www.farmtoconsumer.org/blog/2017/01/17/casualties-raw-milk-ban/

[6] FDA, “Autism: Beware of Potentially Dangerous Therapies and Products”, www.fda.gov updated April 12, 2017; originally published April 25, 2014 (see https://www.actcommunity.ca/resource/3565/). Retrieved 11/18/2017 at https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm394757.htm

[7] United States Code, 21 USC 334(d). Accessible at https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/21/334

The Wholesome Meat Act Hustle

inspecting the meat and work

This month the Maine Legislature held an emergency session, a move partly due to a threat from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to shut down Maine’s state meat inspection program. In June Governor Paul LePage signed into law Legislative Drawer (LD) 725, “An Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems”. LD 725 establishes the power of local governments to devise their own regulations governing direct transactions between a local food producer and consumer; the bill gave the locality the power to allow the unregulated unlicensed sale of food direct from producer to consumer within its boundaries including the sale of meat from an animal slaughtered and processed on the farm. The USDA warned that, unless the state meat and poultry inspection program is governed by laws at least as strict as federal requirements, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will take over inspection of Maine establishments where livestock or poultry is slaughtered and/or processed. On October 24 the legislature passed an amended version of LD 725 which affirmed that state laws on slaughter and processing will be at least as strict as federal requirements.

The Wholesome Meat Act of 1967 (WMA) prohibits the sale of uninspected meat in intrastate or interstate commerce, with the Act requiring that an inspector must be present when slaughter takes place. The WMA extended USDA’s jurisdiction over meat and poultry slaughter and processing to intrastate commerce and only allows uninspected meat to go to the owner(s) of the slaughtered animals. Prior to the passage of WMA, farmers slaughtering on-farm were exempt from inspection as long as they sold direct to consumers; these sales could take place in interstate commerce, as well as intrastate.

Arguably, the Wholesome Meat Act of 1967 along with state mandatory pasteurization laws have done more to damage the rural economy and empty the countryside of sustainable family farms than any other developments in the past 50 years. Legislators, in passing the two measures, addressed what they perceived to be unsanitary conditions in the meat and dairy sectors. Unlike raw milk, where thousands of illnesses were attributed to milk produced at urban swill dairies, during Congress’ deliberation of the WMA testimony and evidence from proponents provided few, if any, cases of illness caused by the consumption of uninspected meat whether slaughtered on the farm or at a custom slaughterhouse facility.

What is currently happening in Maine presents an opportunity to make the public aware of how the supporters of WMA hustled Congress into passing the Act by looking at comments made shortly after the Act became law. What the passage of the WMA has led to has been the creation of a monopoly in the meat industry, a loss of consumer choice, a decline in the ability of small sustainable farms to meet demand, and a deterioration in food safety and quality.

In 1971 the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Small Business released a report titled, “The Effects of the Wholesome Meat Act of 1967 upon Small Business.” The report contains the following quotation:

In our judgment it is well to recall the key events leading to the enactment of the Wholesome Meat Act. Many in the meat industries are still bitter about what took place in 1967…. The general attitude was that the industry had been unfairly maligned, that the excesses of the few had damaged the reputations of them all and that the cost of compliance had been high, excessively high. There was contempt for the consumer groups, particularly certain of the “crusaders”–most notably Betty Furness (Presidential Assistant for Consumer Affairs) and Ralph Nader. The Furnesses and Naders had “stampeded” both the White House and the Congress, particularly the latter; the National Legislature had, in effect, been sold a “bill of goods” and the consequence of the law would be that many would be driven out of business by the government. There can be no gainsaying the fact that there is great resentment on the part of the many in the meat industry over the whole episode. And, many fear Uncle Sam is driving them out of business for misguided reasons.1

The concerns of the Senate report have come to pass; in 1967 there were nearly 10,000 slaughterhouses; as of January 1, 2017, there were 2,732. Many of the slaughterhouses shutting down were community slaughterhouses which provided access to slaughtering and processing for small livestock farmers. As the community slaughterhouses went out of business, many livestock farmers did as well. Today, there are livestock farmers who have to make reservations to get their animals slaughtered at an inspected facility a year in advance due to the shortage of slaughterhouses in their area.

Months after the WMA became law the weekly newspaper, the National Observer, published its own findings about the passage of the WMA. The May 20, 1968, edition of the paper stated the following:

Agents of the Federal Government fanned out across the nation last July under urgent and explicit instructions from Washington to gather examples of horrid conditions in meat-processing plants not under U.S. Government control. Swiftly and often with calculated deception, the Federal men got what they were ordered to get. These findings, which were widely accepted as factual and unbiased Government inspection reports, painted a picture of widespread filth in meat handling. These reports were later to be used as undisputed authority for scare stories that frightened the public and helped stampede Congress into passage of a new and tougher Federal meat-inspection law–the Wholesome Meat Act of 1967.

What can be confirmed is the nasty fact that the “evidence” gathered last July was deliberately biased, that the tainted reports were used to mislead Congress and the public, that they put a lie in the mouth of President Johnson, duped a large number of well-meaning people, including Ralph Nader and Betty Furness and did a superb con job on much of the nation’s press….

The stench of the filthy-meat survey began sweeping out belatedly early this year when state and industry officials challenged the authority of some of the inspectors’ findings. An investigation by this newspaper revealed that U.S. inspectors had, indeed, fudged on some facts…and that other reports were doctored in Washington to make them sound even more damning than they were.2

The WMA has not improved food safety. There have been numerous foodborne illness outbreaks attributed to consumption of inspected meat in recent years and the number of recalls of meat products has increased substantially from what it once was. FSIS inspectors have the thankless task of trying to maintain quality control in USDA plants that slaughter 300-400 cattle per hour. These large slaughterhouses have come about as a result of the consolidation of the meat industry; currently, only four companies control over 80% of the beef processing in this country; four companies control over 60% of pork processing.

The antidote to the disastrous effects of the WMA is for Congress to pass the “Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption Act” (H.R. 2657 and S. 1232), also known as the PRIME Act.

Passage of the PRIME Act would give states the option of allowing the intrastate sale of meat slaughtered and processed at a custom facility direct to the consumer or to hotels, restaurants and retail stores; a custom facility could be located at a farm. Please read action alert on H.R. 2657 by the Weston A. Price Foundation and call your U.S. Representative asking him or her to co-sponsor H.R. 2657.

If the PRIME Act passes, Maine farmers could potentially be able to sell the meat from on-farm slaughtered animals to those in their community as LD 725 originally intended. This is something that has been going on for sometime in various ethnic communities in the U.S., including Latino, African, Southeast Asian, and European communities. If there have been any food safety problems with this practice, there have been few, if any, reports in the media.

The Wholesome Meat Act of 1967 was a solution in search of a problem that wound up creating much bigger problems than it was meant to solve. Passage of the PRIME Act is an important step towards rebuilding the slaughterhouse infrastructure in this country and enabling livestock farmers to make a better living and meet the demand for quality locally produced meat.

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1. United States. Small Business Administration and United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Small Business. The Effects of the Wholesome Meat Act of 1967 Upon Small Business: A Study of One Industry’s Economic Problems Resulting from Environmental-consumer Legislation. U.S. Govt. Print. Off, Washington, 1971. pp. 11-12.

2. Naughton, Dennis. The Wholesome Meat Act and Intrastate Meat Plants. Creighton Law Review, vol. 4, 1970. Footnote 19, pp. 88-89.