In what could result in a landmark decision, Ontario farmer Michael Schmidt has decided to appeal a conviction for selling raw milk.
“Our plan is to move right to the Supreme Court,” Schmidt told the Canadian Press wire service after the Ontario Court of Appeals, the province’s top court, upheld his conviction for selling raw milk. That conviction had resulted in a $9,150 fine for violating a health protection law.
It is not illegal to drink raw milk in Canada as long as you own the cow but it is illegal to sell it. Schmidt had tried to get around that law by selling customers ownership in his farm – essentially allowing a customer to own part of the cows and the farm itself. The people drinking the raw milk, Schmidt argued, did own the cow. Schmidt’s arrangement was similar to that of Hennipen County, Minnesota farmer Alvin Schlangen who is being prosecuted for selling raw milk through a food club.
Current Canadian law requires milk to be pasteurized or boiled at 63 degrees Celsius (145.4 degrees Fahrenheit) for 30 minutes to kill pathogens before it can be sold to the public. Critics have long contended that this process deprives milk of many of its nutrients.
Off The Grid News has reported on a number of US cases where state authorities have banned the sale of raw milk.
Schmidt is Marketing, Court Says
The court of appeals in Canada disagreed with Schmidt’s reason when it upheld his conviction for operating a milk plant without a license. Schmidt had been charging people $300 to $1,200 to buy a share of a cow and providing them with milk from the cow.
The court ruled that Schmidt’s operation was a commercial dairy and therefore subject to a law called the Milk Act. Schmidt had contended he was not operating a commercial dairy.
“The transactions involving unpasteurized milk that form the subject of the charges fall squarely within the ordinary meaning of the words ‘sale’ and ‘distribute’ as does the appellant’s dairy operation fall within the ordinary meaning of ‘plant’ and ‘premises’ in which milk or cream or milk products are processed,” Justice Robert J. Sharpe wrote of Schmidt’s operations.
Life-Long Battle for Raw Milk
Schmidt has vowed to keep providing customers with raw milk from the 24 dairy cows he keeps in the Owen Sound region of Ontario, as he appeals his case. Press reports and court documents indicate the milk cooperative has around 150 members.
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“Nothing really changes for me,” Schmidt said of the court ruling.
Schmidt has been tangling authorities since 1994 when a health inspector served him with an order to stop selling unpasteurized milk and milk products. The cow sharing scheme was only his latest effort to get around the Milk Act.
The farmer is also contending that the province is violating his constitutional rights by not recognizing the contract he has with his cow-share customers. Schmidt contends this violates the Ontario and Canadian constitutions which give him a right to enter into contracts.