On July 31 Armand and Teddi Bechard entered into a consent agreement with the State of Missouri, ending a case that began in 2009. On two occasions in the spring of 2009, undercover agents from the Springfield-Greene County Health Department allegedly purchased raw milk at the Bechards’ central delivery point, a health food store parking lot in Springfield.
The Missouri State Milk Board through the state attorney filed a lawsuit to enjoin the Bechards from delivering raw milk and cream to their customers at a central distribution point. Missouri statute allows for the sale and delivery of raw milk by unlicensed farmers; however, the Milk Board was insisting that raw milk could only be delivered to the customer’s residence while prohibiting delivery at a central distribution point. The Greene County district attorney’s office also brought a criminal action against Armand for allegedly selling milk at a premises off the farm; he was later acquitted on appeal in January 2011.
FTCLDF General Counsel, Gary Cox, provided the following summary of the settlement: “On July 31, 2012, Armand and Teddi Bechard entered into a settlement agreement with the Missouri State Milk Board over allegations that the Bechards illegally sold raw milk at a parking lot. The consent judgment, signed by Judge Michael J. Cordonnier, enjoins the Bechards from selling milk to ‘strangers’ who have not previously arranged for the sale and purchase of raw milk from the Bechards.
“However, the Bechards are free to sell raw milk to anyone they want and, after the sale has been arranged, can deliver the raw milk anywhere they want. In fact, the Bechards are allowed to deliver the raw milk to the customer’s home, to a central distribution point like a parking lot in a shopping center, or to the customer at the Bechards’ own farm.
“The prohibition against selling raw milk to ‘strangers’ would mean that the Bechards, when making a delivery to a central distribution point or at any other location, could not sell milk to anyone who ‘walks up’ to them and who has not previously arranged for the sale and purchase of the raw milk. In entering into the consent judgment, the Bechards did not make any admissions to any of the State Milk Board’s claims or allegations.”
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has filed a petition for both a preliminary and permanent injunction against Armand and Teddi Bechard, seeking an order from the Greene County Circuit Court enjoining Bechard Family Farm from delivering raw milk and cream to its customers at a central distribution point. Under state law, “an individual may purchase and have delivered to him for his own use raw milk or cream from a farm.” The state’s position is that any delivery of raw milk must be direct to the customer’s home.
The petition alleges that two separate purchases of raw milk from Bechard Family Farm were made by undercover agents working for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. The purchases took place in April, 2009 at the parking lot of Mama Jean’s Natural Food Market in Springfield. According to the complaint, undercover agents “never ordered milk from Mr. and Mrs. Bechard or any representative of the Bechard Family Farm and therefore never requested that the milk be personally delivered to [them] from the farm,” as permitted by state law.
The Bechards’ contention is that the law does not limit delivery of raw milk and cream to the consumer’s residence. All of the Bechards’ customers want delivery to take place at a central distribution point. The case has attracted widespread attention throughout Missouri, with many wondering why the state can’t find a better use for its resources.
Pete Kennedy is a Florida attorney who has worked on issues governing raw milk production and distribution since 2004. He compiled a summary of raw milk laws in each of the fifty states and is currently a consultant for WAPF on, among other things, policies and laws regarding raw milk. Pete was a founding board member of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) and served as vice president and then president for many years. He has consulted on and drafted raw milk, cottage foods, and food sovereignty legislation; drafted and reviewed herdshare agreements; worked on embargo, seizure, and recall cases involving raw dairy products; worked on foodborne illness outbreaks attributed to raw milk consumption; handled issues involving on-farm slaughter, custom meat, and poultry processing as well as problems with zoning and local ordinances.