Michigan Raw Dairy – How One Consumer Made an Impact


Michigan raw dairy consumers and producers owe Mike Lobsinger a debt of gratitude. Lobsinger, a retired businessman and leaseholder in a herd lease arrangement, along with farmers Joe and Brenda Golimbieski are the ones most responsible for a favorable court ruling establishing that consumers can obtain raw dairy products other than milk under a herdshare or herd lease agreement. 1 Thanks mainly to Lobsinger and his attorneys, John Stiers and Elise Arsenault, legal action taken by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) to stop the distribution of cream, butter and other raw dairy products to leaseholders at the Golimbieski farm was not successful, establishing a case law precedent. The case shows the power to make an impact that consumers have.

Lobsinger believes it is the consumer’s right to select the farmer from whom they get their food but also that it should be the consumers’ responsibility to do what they can to back up their farmer when the farmer is facing an enforcement action from a government agency. Lobsinger, who is a member of both the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) and the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF), went far beyond what consumers would typically do to protect their farmer in supporting the Golimbieskis.

In March 2013, MDARD issued a written policy, Policy 1.40 which legalized the distribution of raw milk through a written herdshare or herd lease agreement. Policy 1.40 stated that herdshare programs were to include distribution of only raw whole milk and that products such as butter, yogurt and cheese, etc., could only be sold or distributed by licensed producers. The “catch 22” is that Michigan law prohibits even licensed producers from selling products such as raw butter, cream and yogurt.

The Golimbieskis, who have a Grade A dairy operation, Hill High Dairy, were distributing raw butter and cream under their herd lease program to consumers who had signed a herd lease contract. Lobsinger, who obtains raw cream to put in his coffee was one of them.

Whenever the MDARD inspector was conducting her semi-annual inspections of Hill High Dairy, she would seize raw dairy products she found in a refrigerator located in a utility room, on the farm. In 2015 MDARD filed a court action against each of the Golimbieskis, Hill High Dairy and B.J.’s Boarding, an entity that was formed to lease cows to those wanting to get raw milk. The department petitioned the court to issue an injunction prohibiting the four parties from among other things, distributing raw dairy products other than milk to leaseholders.

Lobsinger entered the fray by successfully intervening as a third-party defendant in the case, claiming that MDARD was interfering with his property right to have milk produced by his cow separated into cream. Despite the successful intervention into the case, Judge James Jamo issued an order enjoining the Golimbieskis, Hill High Dairy and B.J.’s Boarding from violating any applicable Michigan food and dairy laws. The Judge did state in the opinion granting the injunction that there was no proof the defendants had violated any laws.

During a June 2016 inspection of Hill High Dairy, inspectors again seized and confiscated raw dairy products, including Lobsinger’s cream; subsequently, MDARD petitioned Judge Jamo to find the four defendants in contempt of court for violating the injunction. Lobsinger successfully intervened in the case again as a third-party defendant in the contempt petition and also filed a separate action against MDARD in the Michigan Court of Claims, suing the agency on the grounds that seizure of his cream violated his due process rights. The relief Lobsinger sought included a ruling that “another individual or agent may separate Lobsinger’s cream and skim milk on Lobsinger’s behalf without MDARD licensure or oversight and may deliver Lobsinger’s cream and skim milk to Lobsinger as long as the milk and cream are used exclusively for the personal consumption of Lobsinger and his family.”

In December 2016 Judge Jamo ruled that the defendants were not in contempt, establishing a legal precedent that raw dairy products other than milk can be distributed under a herd lease or herdshare arrangement without violating Michigan law. Ironically, at the time the Golimbieskis received word about the ruling on MDARD’s inspection, MDARD inspectors were once again seizing raw dairy products at the farm as they conducted an inspection.

When the inspectors finished their next scheduled inspection in June 2017 without seizing Lobsinger’s cream (or any other raw dairy products), Lobsinger withdrew his lawsuit figuring that he already had a favorable ruling in the contempt case that he didn’t want to jeopardize and seeing that MDARD was no longer confiscating products it once saw as contraband during its inspections of the Golimbieski farm. Lobsinger made it clear that if MDARD tampered with his cream in the future, he wouldn’t hesitate to sue the department again for its violation of his rights.

Lobsinger hired attorneys to fight MDARD because he wanted the public to know that the department was going after individual property rights in seizing dairy products from the Golimbieski farm. A look at the transcripts in the Golimbieski court case shows the contempt MDARD had for the leaseholders’ property rights. MDARD’s attorneys characterized Lobsinger retaining another leaseholder to separate Lobsinger’s own milk into cream as an illegal activity. The attorneys claimed the case was about a Grade A dairy violation and had nothing to do with property and contract rights. MDARD’s position was that there was no difference between sales of cream to the general public and distribution of cream to the owner of the milk from which the cream was processed. The department was in effect claiming that if someone went to Lobsinger’s house to separate milk into cream that it would have jurisdiction and could stop this “illegal transaction.”

Fortunately, Judge Jamo wasn’t buying into what Lobsinger called MDARD’s “jibberish”. He asked MDARD attorney Danielle Allison-Yokum if there was any case law to back up this assertion; the attorney admitted there was not.

Lobsinger’s intervention changed the dynamic in the Golimbieski case. Instead of the focus of the case being on a Grade A dairy violation, it was on property rights. Lobsinger’s willingness to hire attorneys to protect those rights made that happen. It shows the impact one individual can make.

1 A herdshare agreement involves someone purchasing an ownership interest in a dairy animal or animals and hiring the farmer to board, care for, and milk the animal(s); the difference in a herd lease agreement is that someone leases the dairy animal(s) and has ownership rights in the animal(s) for the term of the lease.

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Could Dairy Farms Aid in Prison Reform?

An article on Huffington Post posits that dairy farms could replace prisons as sources of employment in rural areas around the United States.

In New York, for example, 90% of state prisons are located in rural areas. “No one who can help it wants a prison in their backyard. Yet in economically depressed areas, the jobs they promise are the difference between unemployment and a paycheck, pension, and health insurance,” the author points out.

Activist Lauren Melodia sees agriculture as an alternative to prisons. In 2010, she founded Milk Not Jails, an organization that aims to both revitalize rural economies and end an economic dependence on prisons. Though it seems like a lofty goal, the dairy industry might have the potential to achieve it – a 2014 report by Cornell professor Todd Schmit shows that for every dollar made from agricultural products in the state, another $0.43 is generated in additional economic activity.

The key to this is removing the biggest obstacle facing dairy farmers today: a federal pricing structure that prevents farmers from getting paid what they need to stay in business.

According to the author, “Legalizing the sale of raw milk would be one simple way to make that happen. Because dairy farmers don’t need to pasteurize raw milk, they would be able to sell it without expensive processing fees.”

Read more of the author’s proposed solutions as well as the challenges of this issue on the Huffington Post.

The Campaign for Real Milk is a project of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nutrition education non-profit based in Washington, D.C. Fan the Campaign for Real Milk on Facebook.

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November 10th Raw Milk Symposium Available via Live Stream

Those who didn’t score a ticket to the Weston A. Price’s Raw Milk Symposium can watch the event via live stream when it takes place on Monday, November 10. This annual event brings together raw milk experts and advocates to discuss how to safely produce raw milk products, share legal updates and explore other issues relating to raw milk.

This year, speakers include Mark McAfee, owner of the largest raw milk dairy in California and chairman of the Raw Milk Institute; Pete Kennedy, president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund; and Sally Fallon Morell, founder of A Campaign for Real Milk.

The Raw Milk Symposium Live Stream will be streaming live on November 10, 2014 from 9:15am-4:00pm EST, and will be available any time afterwards.

The Campaign for Real Milk is a project of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nutrition education non-profit based in Washington, D.C. Fan the Campaign for Real Milk on Facebook.

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UK Raw Milk Review Begins in Mid-October

A long awaited Food Standards Agency (FSA) review of raw milk is predicted to begin in mid-October across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The FSA, which maintains that pasteurization is the best way to minimize health risks associated with drinking raw milk, acknowledges that there is a market for raw milk and will explore whether, and under what conditions, it should be legal to sell and buy the product. Continue reading

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Raw Milk Advocates Have Something to Look Forward to at Upcoming Wise Traditions Conference

Pro-raw milk attendees of the November Wise Traditions conference will be excited to learn that there will be multiple presentations focusing on raw milk issues. The four lectures will take place on Monday, November 11 between 9am-4pm. Continue reading

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Rare Dairy Artifact Exhibit to Debut at Weston A. Price Foundation’s Wise Traditions Conference

Attendees of the November 2013 Wise Traditions Conference in Atlanta will be the first members of the public to see a unique and rare collection of dairy artifacts that have been collected from around the world.

Butterworld is a traveling exhibition made up of over 150 dairy artifacts that span the 17th through 20th centuries. The collection includes historical books, vintage advertisements, antique bottles, butter churners and other equipment. Chief curator, Sandeep Agarwal, urges visitors to keep an eye out for the Osborne’s Improved Thermometer Churn, which was marketed as a solution to the common mid-19th century superstition that cream couldn’t be churned into butter so long as it was haunted by a “cream witch.” Continue reading

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