According to the Food and Drug Administration, you have no fundamental right to feed your children the food of your choice and you have no fundamental right to your own physical and bodily health.
When did the inmates start running the asylum in this country? Why is the United States government and the state governments fighting so hard to control every little thing you put into your mouth? We have gone from a free nation to a government of nannies and it’s impacting every piece of food that you have available to you.
This influence various food lobbying associations have had over our government has been going on for ages, but it’s becoming a malignant entity in its own right today.
Off The Grid Radio
Released: July 13, 2012
Bill: Greetings and welcome, everybody. It’s Bill Heid with yet another exciting episode of Off the Grid Radio. Our guest today, well first of all I’ve got Andy Sokolovich– local food advocate—Andy Sokolovich in the studio. Good morning, Andy.
Andy: Good morning, Bill. How you doing?
Bill: I’m doing fabulous. And our guest today is Pete Kennedy and Pete is the president of the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, whose mission it is to protect rights of family farms of trying to get processed and unprocessed foods to consumers. So we’re talking today a little bit about whether or not folks ought to have access to food. Peter, welcome.
Pete: Morning, Bill.
Bill: Thanks so much again for being with us. Let’s talk about some stuff first that’s in the news. We can gravitate toward some of these other things but Alvin, up in Freeport Minnesota, has got his hands full with a case. Do you want to tell us a little bit about how that whole thing got started and what issues are at stake up in Minnesota?
Pete: Sure, Alvin Schlangen is a poultry farmer in Freeport, about 100 miles north of Minneapolis and he also manages the Freedom Farm co-op, which is a private buyers club. Alvin has been raided four times in the last two years by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. He’s never been accused of making anyone sick with any of the food he delivers to the members of his co-op. He delivers raw milk, raw milk products, meats, eggs and poultry from his own farm along with other foods to these members.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture seems to have a problem with it because they claim you can only get… The final consumer has to go to the farm to purchase raw milk that you can’t hire an agent like Alvin to pick up milk. This is about the only food I’ve ever heard of that interpretation of the law being applied to. So you’ve just got a situation right now where most of these farms are a good drive outside the Twin Cities—just mothers who want to feed their families these foods can’t afford to drive out there. Alvin’s filling the void on that and helping the farmers up there do better financially and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is trying to put a stop to it. You just have to wonder, with all the other crimes going on in society, is this really a good use of the state’s resources?
Bill: Peter, let’s just say, for example, I’m an elderly lady in the Twin Cities—I live in St. Paul or something—and I wanted to hire somebody to go to the store and get me some cigarettes and whiskey. Could I do that? That would be legal, wouldn’t it?
Pete: Sure, not a problem. The only—according to the Department of Agriculture—the only food you can’t do that with is raw milk.
Bill: And so what is it…? We’ve had Sally on the show before—Sally Fallon Morell, you’re kind of a partner in many ways working with Sally—we’ve had Sally on but what is it…? Go back to the roots of raw milk. Why do the feds, why do state operatives, why do all these regulators hate raw milk so much?
Pete: I think there is… What you have is… They’re claiming it’s to protect the public health but what it is… These anti-raw milk laws are really economic regulations disguised as health regulations. What you have Bill, is basically two food systems. You’ve got the conventional or industrial food system and you have the local food system. There is a competition between the two systems and raw milk is really at the center of it.
Just what I see from our members is that most of our farmer members produce raw milk and what I hear from them, for the most part, is raw milk is the food that draws the consumer to the farm in the first place. Once they’re there, they might purchase meat, eggs, produce, poultry—but raw milk is what gets them there is the first place. You see a parallel to that in the conventional food system. Pasteurized milk is a perishable product and that’s what draws the consumer there more than most other products in the store and once they’re there they’ll buy other products. So you see the same principles at work. Raw milk has always been at the center of the competition between the two systems.
Bill: When did you see this whole thing starting? I remember when I was younger my wife’s brothers drank milk out of the bulk tank and no one thought anything of it. At that time, I believe, for the most part there weren’t a lot of state inspectors who inspected you in the farm. We’re here in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin—this kind of area—so it used to be a little bit of a dairy area but the industry was kind of regulated by itself. In other words, if the company that you were selling milk to—usually cheese companies in this area—but if they would come out, they had their own inspectors so you didn’t need a lot of federal… a big spider web of government authorities because if you had bad milk or let’s say you had a bunch of mastitis—your counts were too high or whatever—then the guy just wouldn’t buy it from you and it kind of regulated itself, right?
Pete: Right. What you have is there really is only federal regulation of milk and I’ll get into that more in a bit. There is a regulation that prohibits raw milk from crossing state lines, which we recently challenged in court. What you have is raw milk is just completely an intrastate issue. It’s up to the state to pass laws on whether it would be legal or not and right now the sale is legal in about 30 states and a number of those states—like Illinois—someone can sell without a permit. In Illinois people have to go to the farm. I think the Illinois law has been in place a long time. I’ve been working on raw milk issues for about eight years now and just what I’ve seen during that time is the demand for raw milk has gone up quite a bit and so I think the pushback from government and industry has increased quite a bit.
I’ll give you an example is that I think what Alvin Schlangen is going in Minnesota is legal right now. There is just a provision in the Minnesota State Constitution that says a farmer has the right to sell and peddle the products of the farm. But anyway, just this controversy where Alvin Schlangen and another farmer, Mike Hartman who the Department of Agriculture has been going after on and off for the last ten years or more… People thought it was a good idea just to pass a raw milk bill, clarifying the issue.
This bill has not gotten a hearing yet and there was just an attempt to get a hearing on it about a month or so ago between the dairy industry, the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, they sent 14 lobbyists to convince this committee not to have a hearing on the bill. This isn’t something that had been voted on through committee and was up on the floor for a final vote. This is basically just a preliminary hearing and they sent 14 lobbyists out to stop it. It gives you an indication of the opposition to it among the dairy industry and the regulators at this time.
Bill: Wouldn’t the dairy industry make…? Wouldn’t it kind of make sense if the dairy industry just leaned into this a little bit because don’t you have a new product? We’re all looking for new products. So instead of just having some celebrity have milk on their lips or whatever their… Remember that—the TV thing where they…?
Pete: Yeah, sure. Got milk.
Bill: Got milk. Wouldn’t it just be better to have a new product and have different variations of how much cream and how much… different types of things like that? I would think that it would help the dairy industry but just the size of it maybe is so big that the lobbyists just want it streamlined the way that it is.
Pete: Yeah, I think if the dairy industry was looking out for the best interest of their members and producers it would do something like that. These are right out of the USDA statistics—In 1970 there were over 600,000 dairy farms in this country. Today there are, I think, like 52 or 53,000 left. Especially for the small farmer, you have this system where they get paid the equivalent of a buck and a half to two bucks a gallon for selling to cooperative or creamery that’s going to process the milk. That’s basically, with inflation, that’s far less than they got say 40 years ago. In the meantime the cost of their inputs is going up and it’s just the small dairy farmer is at a point where they have to get out of the commodity market.
There are several things they could do. If they had the money they could buy pasteurization-bottling equipment and sell pasteurized milk direct from their farm. That’s really expensive. They could also make value added products—cheese, yogurt—but that’s a significant startup cost there. The third option is to sell raw milk and here the startup costs are the least and it’s a product where the demand is increasing. Just according to the survey the Center for Disease Control put out like five years ago, at that time there were between 9 and 10 million raw milk drinkers in the country and I think that number is growing all the time.
Andy: Well Pete, just real quick—thanks for what you’re doing. This is Andy, by the way. One of the things I think that people get concerned with is they do want to know why state’s money is being spent on enforcing rules against raw milk when you have meth labs out there and other things that probably could use a little bit more attention than the consumption of raw milk. So do you really see an end in sight or is this going to be a long, long road?
Pete: I think it’s a long process. As far as a lot of these state health departments, they’ve kind of just been indoctrinated and it’s paradigm that the only good bacteria is a dead bacteria. Raw milk is a live food. There obviously are illnesses that have been attributed to it but if you look at both the track record of both raw milk and pasteurized milk products compared to other foods out there like produce, historically it’s good. The track record for safety is good. There is just a belief system in these public health departments around the country that has to be broken and just… Sally Fallon has said the way you do that is one retirement at a time in these state departments of health.
Andy: We agree. We’re all huge raw milk supporters here but I do have in front of me the rebuttal to the FDA article that the Weston A. Price Foundation put out, “Raw Milk Misconceptions and Danger of Raw Milk Consumption.” It’s an awesome article, first of all. It’s 18 pages of just awesome information and pretty much educates you based on details of what the FDA says and then obviously the rebuttal of Weston A. Price– a lot of good information. I think if anybody was to pick that up and read it they would definitely be surprised at how much raw milk can actually do for you, health wise.
Pete: Yeah, and there is a lot of intellectual dishonesty you’re getting from the regulators. CDC put out something earlier in the year about how you were 150 times more likely, I think, to get sick from raw milk than pasteurized milk. I forget exactly what they said but they…
Andy: That’s a crazy number. One of the things—I didn’t mean to cut you off—but since you mentioned the CDC, concerns I have kind of within my peer group too is if I was to go out and purchase a cow and milk that cow and let my children drink the raw milk from that cow could I legally be held accountable for any kind of…? Would it be considered child abuse?
Pete: Well, it’s interesting. There have been a few cases. There is one case in Florida, where I am, about five or six years ago where there was a custody dispute between ex-husband and ex-wife over their kids. The wife wanted complete custody and one of the grounds for trying to get complete custody was she told family court her husband was providing raw milk to the children. And what actually happened in that case was the judge let the custody be split but she told the ex-husband that if she got word that he… She ordered him to stop feeding the kids raw milk, just warned him that if she got word that he was continuing to do that, that she would give full custody to his ex-wife.
Bill: What’s interesting, guys, about that is—Peter is an attorney—cases set there, where the real issue was this “he said, she said” in the custody issue and so but precedent law gets set, right? Case law gets set as a result of that so then some other attorney gets a hold of that case law. Then that gets brought up at the next possible thing because there are researchers. They’re like swarms too, Pete. They’re looking for… The researchers are swarming for whatever data to support their case so they’re going to try to leverage whatever it is and it just spreads.
Likewise it can go the other way if we can convince people and we can get enough trials. That’s why I think that what you’re doing is so important because if you can get some precedence established then… It’s the same thing that happened in homeschooling when you just had precedence set and it just swept the whole country and you could have this sweep the whole country too by having… So the battle is—as I see it—it’s at the consumer level and it’s at the popular level and Dave and his book and all the things that—Gumpert and all that—that’s important but what you’re doing is really at the locus of the issue because if you can win some of these cases then it’s like dominoes.
Pete: Yeah, and it’s not easy. One of the things that homeschoolers were able to establish is that there is this right to privacy under the subset of due process clause in the Constitution where they were able to… As part of their argument they were able to establish that the right to privacy includes the right to provide their children the type of education they believe best for them. There was a Supreme Court case 40 years ago, Wisconsin versus Yoder, basically holding that. That was a case when the Amish family wanted to homeschool their children.
Really, if you look at some of these Supreme Court cases, there is one case in particular that says you have the right to the custody and care of your children, another case that says there is a presumption that parents act in the best interest of their children. So it just seems that the right of parents to feed their children the foods of their choice should be in there, recognized, but it’s still something that the Supreme Court hasn’t heard yet and something that’s not recognized in this right to privacy sphere.
Bill: Well, and it’s even bigger than this because where I—and again, I see it as kind of one of these real big things because if the government can tell you again, what you can put in your body, especially if it’s something empirically proven to be healthy for most people—if they can tell you what to put in your body and what not to be in your body, they’re the source of law. We always talk on this show, Peter, about you can find the God of any society by finding what the source of law in that society—where law comes from. That’s it is God. And so you find out quick here, who is in charge. These raids—all of these Gestapo tactics—you find out pretty quickly what the idol of our civilization is and it’s Hegelian to the core. It’s that government is God and that government will tell you what you can eat, what you can’t eat, when you can eat—soon it will be when—what your kids can eat and…
Pete: Right. I can give you an example of that is we have a case in Wisconsin where basically a buyers club that had formed an LLC bought a number of cows from this farmer—lock, stock and barrel, had complete ownership in them—the right to any calves. The farmer didn’t have a shred of ownership in the cows and they contracted with the farmer to board and milk those cows for the members of this LLC. In addition, there were a couple individuals who also bought a cow—full ownership in a cow—and boarded the cow with this same farm. Just under Wisconsin law, a dairy farm is defined as any farm where milk is produced.
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture just believes they have jurisdiction over any farm with that definition, including someone who just has a family cow if milk leaves the premise—where that cow is located. This judge hearing this case ruled for the government even though these people had complete ownership of the animals and he just said there is no fundamental right to consume milk from a cow you own. So it just shows what their outlook is and that yeah, the state can interfere in any of these private arrangements if they want.
Bill: So do you find any…? As you look at a lot of the judges that you run into and judges are interpreting the law… Andy and I were talking about that a little bit ahead—the law is the law and sometimes there are just some bad laws. But do you find any judges—federal or state—that are somewhat sympathetic to your pleadings?
Pete: Yeah, I think… I was mentioning we just challenged this interstate ban on raw milk for human consumption. I think the judge here was somewhat sympathetic to what we were saying. He ultimately wound up ruling against us but at the same time we made some statements just pointing out the weakness in the law, of this ban. He says, “Here you have this law but FDA doesn’t enforce it against individuals,” which the agency admitted who crossed state lines to pick up raw milk and he said, “There has never been an enforcement action against say an agent for a buyers club or an agent going across state lines for a group of people or for a farm knowingly selling to people out of state.” So even though he ultimately ruled against us I think he set something up and kind of sent the legislature a message that “You’ve got this regulation, which doesn’t work and shouldn’t have been issued and it’s up to you to do something about it.”
Bill: Can you tell us a little bit about HR778? What’s the current status of that?
Pete: Actually, it was HR1830. The prior session at Congress was introduced as HR778 and this is a bill that would in effect do away with the interstate ban on raw milk for human consumption. It was introduced by Ron Paul, both live session and Congress, and this session… Last session he couldn’t get a single sponsor. This session we were up to five sponsors. There was even a chance for a hearing on it at one time, which is… But Congress wound up… Yeah, the committee that had the bill wound up not holding a hearing. But what the bill would do would… Right now, if you cross state lines with raw milk the way this regulation reads you’re in violation of federal law. What the bill would do would be… would take that away. You’re not in violation of the law if you cross state lines with raw milk. If the labeling is incorrect on the milk yeah, that could be a violation. Or if it’s found that the milk contains pathogenic bacteria—that would be a violation. But it’s not a violation just because you’re crossing the state lines with raw milk and that’s the way the law reads now.
Bill: It’s interesting. I’m just trying to do a little research on it. Organizations supporting—this is just what I found—HR778: Weston A. Price and Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund. That would probably be appropriate. Organizations opposing 778: The American Medical Association, The American Academy of Pediatrics, National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments—you were at that conference last year, weren’t you?
Pete: In 2009 I was. Yep.
Bill: National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. So you’re up against… This is truly a David and Goliath story because you’re up with… How much money is just in those organizations alone, that I just mentioned? How much money is lined up against you?
Pete: They all sing from the same song sheet. They all use the same press release—pass it down. Probably the press releases change very little over the years. As a matter of fact, John Sheehan, who is the head of FDA’s dairy division and FDA is just, in my view, at the center of the opposition to raw milk, has sent testimony… I think the first time I was aware of it was like 2005 or 2006 and he sent basically the same testimony to state legislatures ever since then. It’s changed in minor ways but very little. Like I was telling you before, they have this belief system and they’re not going to let consumer demand or some of these positive studies coming out of Europe about raw milk get in the way of that belief system.
Bill: And where is all the consumer advocate…? Where is the other consumer advocate people on this? No one? It’s just off the map?
Pete: Yeah, just if you’re talking about the big consumer groups. Yeah, the national groups like Center for Science and the Public Interest are also dead set against it. There are other smaller groups like The Organic Consumers Association. They haven’t been that vocal on it but from what I understand they are in favor of raw milk.
Andy: Well I’m sure over the last year or so of the campaign trail Dr. Paul has had to really get the word out there and help you guys out. My wife did see him speak here in Illinois—I’m sorry, it was over in Iowa—but he did mention raw milk and…
Bill: He did, didn’t he? I was there. Good point.
Pete: I can tell you he mentions it every speech now.
Andy: Which is amazing.
Pete: From what I’ve heard, I’d say in possibly even the majority of his speeches that line on raw milk gets the most applause. He realizes it’s an issue that’s struck a nerve and I think he’s picked up quite a bit of support.
Andy: Yeah, and whether you understand the health benefits of raw milk but it’s a perfect way to describe the government stranglehold on my personal beliefs and what I choose to consume. I do think he passionately believes in the raw milk movement and would like to see us have the ability to decide for ourselves what type of milk we drink. But I do see here the Farm to Consumer Foundation. Can you tell us a little bit about that? I see Cow Share College and Goat Share University?
Pete: Yeah, there our sister organization. They put out an educational teleseminar several times a year and it just enables farms, especially in states where raw milk is illegal, to raise capital first of all by selling ownership interest in their dairy animals and then secondly just get an income stream by boarding the animals they’ve sold interest in at their farm and charging a monthly service fee. On the consumer side, it’s a way, again in states where the sale of raw milk is illegal, for people who are willing to invest in a dairy animal or herd of dairy animals to have access to milk from those animals and it also, I think, sets up a stronger relationship between the farmer and the consumer than just an instance where a farm would just be selling raw milk. It gives the consumer a little more skin in the game.
Andy: Yeah, I’m a huge fan of anytime something gets debated, I like to see both sides of the story so anybody that holds their ground on pasteurization, homogenization, doesn’t know about raw milk—this would probably be something they should get involved in or at least look in. So I see it’s a four part teleseminar series. I guess the next one is August 7th?
Pete: There is actually… I think we have in June another version of it, which is just a one-part Q and A, just for people who have questions about it.
Andy: Okay, so if our listeners wanted some more information on this they could just visit FarmToConsumerFoundation.org?
Pete: Yeah, they can go to FarmToConsumerFoundation.org and there will be more detail on the site.
Andy: I know there has been other things like the movie Farmageddon came out—the food documentary—and they were actually able to… People were visually seeing law enforcement have people on the side of the road pouring out their gallons of milk in the grass along the edge like they were trying to smuggle some kind of narcotics. I think it was the Carolinas that were highlighted in there—North and South—but it is amazing and when you hear about the raw milk battle, sometimes if you don’t educated yourself you have no idea what the big discussion is all about but when you see things like that—guys showing up in riot gear just to bust the family of husband and wife and a couple kids that are consuming raw milk, it definitely does… It hits close to home with myself because I like raw milk.
Pete: Yeah, what you have to ask is where is the injury in these cases? Most of them none of these farmers have been accused of making any sick. The injury that occurs is when these regulators intervene and separate consumers and families from their source of food and just run these farmers out of business through these series of enforcement actions.
Andy: Do you think these law enforcement officials ever sit down and put on their riot gear and have to sit there and laugh at themselves a little bit and say…?
Bill: What’s going through their heads? That’s got to be something.
Pete: Unfortunately I think what happens is that these law enforcement officials, when they’re working with the Department of Agriculture, Department of Health are only hearing one side of the story. You’ve got these Department of Ag officials demonizing these farmers for providing healthy food to families who want it where the food is not sanctioned by the government as a healthy food or the government-corporate alliance as a healthy food. So I’ve just heard of a couple cases where… There is one case, actually, in Minnesota where a private residence that was a drop site for a farmer…
Andy: It’s just funny you say “drop site.”
Bill: It sounds like a drug deal!
Andy: That what it sounds like—Cartel…
Pete: This family had a criminal search warrant executed against them. They had several policemen barge into the house. By the end of the search the policemen were playing with a couple of children. It doesn’t hit them until they’re in there that “Wait a minute. There really isn’t anything wrong going on here.” It just gets back to the gist of following orders defense.
Andy: Well, my daughter has all these puzzles and books and it always depicts a nice little farm scene and I should go to her and be like “That cow is probably giving milk to those families and it’s wrong. They’re wrong.”
Bill: You should make a new puzzle for your kids with people selling raw milk and with riot gear, with cops coming and stuff.
Pete: Unfortunately what happens is you get… Yeah, just a lot of these kids become traumatized and the adults become traumatized in some instances too…
Andy: It just seems like a huge waste of….
Pete: …as a result of these raids. They never look at their government the same way after that.
Andy: It just seems like a huge waste of funds, another fraudulent spending on the government but that’s the way it is. Thanks again…
Pete: They’re protecting economic interests is what is going on.
Andy: But it is frustrating.
Pete: The conventional food system makes a lot more people sick in this country than the local food system does but if you look… They’re just putting a disproportionate amount of their enforcement dollars into policing the local food system.
Bill: But what’s interesting, Peter, and as an attorney this probably resonates well with you, it’s a lot like just let’s say the police force—well Chicago’s not too far from us—it’s easier to go bust some Amish heads than it is to go after some drug dealers, right? Because the drug dealers are probably going to shoot back at you, give you a hard time, run away—whatever those things are. This is really a cop’s dream, right? To be able to go to an Amish or to be able to go to a farm…?
Andy: “Let’s go pick on the pacifists.”
Bill: Yeah, they’re not going to run away. They’re not going to… They’re just going to… And then the state’s attorney can pose with the head of an Amish man that he… Levi’s head that he’s got—he’s holding it by the hair—that he’s enforcing the law and he can demonize all of this. If he’s running for office that year then he can say, “Look what I’m doing to help my community.” It just seems like the perfect thing to bust really passive, taxpaying, honest people compared to busting people who are lawbreakers.
Pete: And if you look at that from the regulators’ standpoint you’re going to have many more health problems with these huge slaughterhouses but you’re talking about outfits that are going to throw lawyer after lawyer after the regulator. They can more than hold their own if the regulators just try and win some kind of a war of attrition where with these small farmers, if the lawyer keeps throwing one charge after another like they have with Alvin Schlangen. Alvin has criminal charges against him in two counties. He’s got an administrative proceeding going against him. Would the Minnesota Department of Agriculture do that to Cargill? Would they do that to Land o’ Lakes? Yeah, I don’t think so.
Bill: So the key here maybe is, especially for these small guys, is to getting together and having representation, right?
Bill: So what’s the way for them to do that? If you’ve got a small herd or maybe even if you’re trying to start a small herd for these purposes, you definitely want to make sure you have legal representation so how does this…? Let’s say I want to do this or Andy, let’s say we want to do this. For me, I’d want to make sure somebody had some knowledgeable attorney that if push came to shove could at least fire a couple cannons back at him to do what you just said about Cargill. You don’t want to go this alone.
Pete: Right, and just what we’ve been able to do in a number of cases is level the playing field where they can’t do what they’re trying to do with Alvin—bring an administrative case against someone then bring a judicial case and just deplete them of the resources. What we enable them to do is just to just keep putting their resources in the farming operation where they don’t have to pay lawyers. In most cases when we represent someone it’s not going to cost them anything beyond the annual membership fee.
Bill: And what’s the annual membership fee and how does somebody…?
Pete: Okay, yeah the annual membership fee for farmers is $125.00 and for consumers it’s $50.00. You’d be surprised. There is at least one case I know of—a couple of cases—where we have represented people who were mainly consumers.
Andy: Now you say “farmer.” If I just have one cow and…
Pete: Yeah, you’re a… As long as you sell the products of the farm or make money…
Andy: What if I didn’t sell it? What if it was just for my…?
Pete: [inaudible 0:38:03.3] direct to consumers you would… Yeah, you would qualify as a member [inaudible 0:38:11.2] and when you think you could just pick up the phone—have one phone call with an attorney and be billed more than $125.00.
Bill: Oh my goodness, yeah.
Andy: Yeah. Well Pete, I applaud your efforts because to maintain professionalism that probably takes a lot because I know I’d probably be jumping on the judge’s desk with my hands fisted.
Bill: You would do that.
Andy: I would do that. Yeah, because I get revved up and I sometimes don’t know when to throttle back but it takes professionals like you to really enforce the raw milk movement and to represent these farmers and hopefully apply some common sense there.
Bill: You don’t want to be your own attorney in a case like this.
Andy: Well I want to know when there are actually going to be legal implications against the cow. That’s what I want to know. When are they going to start getting arrested because they’re the ones that are giving us the raw milk, right?
Pete: Well, there’s actually… We have a couple…
Andy: That’s a joke, Peter. I hope you don’t have an actual case.
Pete: Yeah, but we have a couple key farmstead cheese operations we’re representing now and one of them had a seizure order executed against some cheese they had at their facility by FDA and yeah, under the law of seizure the cheese is arrested. We haven’t had a cow arrested but we have had cheese arrested.
Andy: Who handcuffed the cheese? That’s what I want to know.
Bill: You have to have special handcuffs to haul cheese off. Do they come in with big, black boots and riot gear for the cheese seizures too?
Pete: Well, I guess… Yeah, it was a US Marshal who came in. So yeah, they might have had their riot gear on.
Bill: I hope none of the evidence disappeared. Instead of eating donuts maybe some of these cops would stop by the side of the road and eat some of the evidence.
Pete: Well they would definitely be healthier if they ate the cheese instead of the donuts.
Andy: Who’s going to clean out that evidence locker? That’s going to be a mess.
Bill: Let’s shift subjects a little bit to… I’m on your site right now looking at the swarms part of your site and this at FarmToConsumer.org and you’ve got a little section called “Swarms” and I think it’s interesting because you quote the Declaration where it says—this is a complaint against George III—“He has erected a multitude of New Offices and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.” Just think—the founders would really say this is worse than anything George III—all of this stuff going on—this is definitely worse than that.
Pete: Oh yeah, here you’ve got… The founders didn’t have back in the day… If you’re a farmer you’ve got three levels to contend with. You’ve got the federal level, the state level and the local level. Enforcement action can be taken by any level. So if the farmer—could be FDA, could be USDA, if it’s a water issue could be EPA going after you, at the state level it could be the Department of Agriculture, Department of Public Health, the Department of the Environment, at the local level could be the County Health Department.
Actually at the state level—going back with the state level—could be the Bureau of Labor. If you have a farm internship program and you can’t afford to pay a farmer but you can get someone to volunteer, we’ve heard of stories where the Bureau of Labor is just saying that “No, you have to pay at least minimum wage to these people and we’re going to tax you accordingly.” And then at the local level you have the County Health Department. You could have the Board of Animal Control or the local zoning board. So it’s just one maze of regulations after another that these farmers have to put up with at the federal, state and local levels. Yeah, it’s far worse than anything the founding fathers dealt with back in the day.
Bill: Well, the founding fathers raised a lot of pigs, I think, early on too, in addition to having a few cows. Peter, just in the time that we’ve got, let’s talk a little bit about what happened in Michigan with the DNR and then also you’ve got the same issue in Kentucky and a few other states. A lot of these hogs that are called invasive species—some of those are heritage varieties that have been around before a lot of the hybrids that are in confinement set-ups. It’s kind of interesting how they’ve defined the actual heritage varieties out.
Pete: Well, it’s just a lot of these things you follow the money and what you had in Michigan was the Department of Natural Resources—they got licensing fees from people that hunt on public lands. What they didn’t get licensing fees from were people who hunted on these private preserves. The typical common sense definition of a feral hog is a hog running in the wild, outside a contained area and these hunting preserves were high fenced. Hogs rarely, if ever, escape from them.
So that usual definition of feral hog doesn’t help the Department of Natural Resources if they want to get rid of pig hunting on the preserves. So instead they came up with this other criteria to determine whether a pig is feral and just based it on different physical characteristics that just about any pig would have. So they [inaudible 0:44:03.1] after the pigs in the hunting preserves but they’ve also gone after these heritage breed farmers and what do you know? The Michigan Pork Producers Association was also in favor of this invasive species order banning possession of feral pigs because it is a way for them to reduce competition.
Bill: I saw a number of the pigs… I can’t remember… Was it Berks? I can’t remember. In Kentucky, when they did this, one of the breeds that just got banned was a breed that was common to folks in this area that were raising hogs. I can’t remember the name of it but it was just a common variety and it was an interesting variety because it was fatted differently and it made better bacon than just… well, Hampshires or whatever I was showing at the fair at the time. But some of these Berks were really good bacon pigs. I think it was Berkshires that were made illegal by this too. How do you stop this stuff?
Pete: Right, it’s got nothing to do… What they are trying to do is say, “Well, there are potential diseases these wild pigs have like Pseudorabies or Brucellosis and I know at least in the Michigan case I think there was an official from the Pork Producers Association that admitted there hadn’t been any cases of Pseudorabies in Michigan. So again, they’re using the public health to deny people the foods of their choice and deny the small farmer the right to make a living. In Michigan, Mark Baker who is a hog farmer and his attorney Joseph O’Leary, along with a few other people O’Leary is representing have just done a really good job before framing the issue correctly. Yeah, right now there are four lawsuits against the Michigan DNR seeking a court order to just stop the implementation of this invasive species order. I think things are looking good there but you don’t take anything for granted until the order is officially dead.
Bill: Well weren’t they sending people…? Did a bunch of hogs…? Weren’t they shot, just on sight?
Pete: Actually, one of… This one game preserve did shoot their animals because they thought they were left with no choice. Either they shoot the animals or they get fined or even…. It’s a felony to possess these hogs so there is even potential jail time. So this one owner whose case has been publicized just was in a no-win situation. Either he shoots the hogs and loses all the money or he gets fined thousands of dollars or potentially even jail.
Bill: I guess all hogs, when I was young, there really wasn’t a lot of confinement set up so by the definitions of how we used to farm these hills, almost every hog would be—regardless of its DNA—would be a feral hog because you just turned your hogs out by the crick or whatever and they just…
Pete: Right, and that’s something I think people have to watch out for everywhere is what I think you’re going to see and I’ve already heard of a case in another state is that possibly USDA or just a state Department of Agriculture—in Michigan’s case the Department of Natural Resources—are going to use this threat of potential disease to establish that only hogs raised on concrete, like the Capos, aren’t susceptible to any disease so we’re going to have to get rid of these breeds that are raised outdoors.
Bill: And it’s the same thing… Guess what happens when you—in a confinement center—you’re likely to have more disease or if you don’t, disease is so prevalent that you’ve got to hit antibiotics and steroids and everything so hard in a confinement center that you create a whole new set of problems. So it’s amazing that they probably—with these big guys that have lawyers, these big firms on the confinement—they won’t touch them, irrespective of disease levels, but they’ll go after a guy that’s got ten pigs out in a field and make him literally a felon.
Pete: Right, and what you’re dealing with these confinement operations is another big industry—the pharmaceutical industry—because it’s on… I’ve seen it on the Congressional record that about 70% of the antibiotics sold in this country are sold for animal use and it’s mainly non-therapeutic so it’s just a tremendous cash cow for the drug companies.
Bill: Yeah, just mix it into the feed, right? For a lot of these cases it’s just part of the protocol for raising pigs.
Pete: It’s to make them grow—not because they’re sick or anything. And so you’ve had all these diseases form on these feedlots. A lot of people think MRSA is the responsibility of the feedlots—the feedlots were the cause of it.
Pete: So yeah, that’s where the real health problems are but yet the Departments of Agriculture conjuring up these potential threats, which haven’t materialized just about anywhere in the country, as justification to potentially shut down some of this outdoor farming and of course, the national and state Pork Producers Association are right behind them, supporting them all the way.
Bill: Oh sure. Sure. Anything you guys have, as we get ready to kind of start to wind down a little bit? There is a lot on the table here, Pete, and a lot for you to be defending. Listeners that want to go to FarmToConsumer.org can learn more about what Pete’s doing. As I said, this is a David and Goliath situation so he is up against some really big guns and it would be a good idea to join up with him, even if you’re not a producer, to become a member. At least go to the site and look around. There are some great articles there. Anything you want to say as we close up there, Pete?
Pete: Sure yeah, I just think that people can’t take access to the locally produced food for granted and we’re there to protect their access. Just one other issue I’d like to hit on quickly is that as many people know, through this FDA approved safety modernization act, FDA now has considerably more power to regulate intrastate commerce—commerce within the state. This interstate raw milk lawsuit we had against them brought out their views on freedom of food choice. They said on the public record, “You have no fundamental right to feed your children the food of your choice” and that “You have no fundamental right to your own physical and bodily health” so this is the agency they’re dealing with.
And unfortunately what’s happening is they are integrating food regulation. They’re taking over more of what was once state autonomy to regulate food. So I think just people ought to concentrate on the local level. In Maine there are a number of these food sovereignty ordinances that have been passed, which allow direct farmer to consumer transactions without the producer needing a permit or an inspection and that’s, I think, where this is going to be won more than the state or federal level is that of the local level. People need to take responsibility to protect their food source and these local food sovereignty ordinances are one way of doing that.
Andy: Exactly, so basically the FDA’s standpoint is “What you consume doesn’t concern you.”
Bill: “It’s our business.”
Pete: They know better than you do.
Andy: Yeah, “We’ll decide what’s good for you.”
Bill: Yeah, we know, and that’s the beginning of any tyranny, guys. That’s a good way to close. As you move into any area and the government assumes a role of God, it starts to act like God and God’s got a pretty big stick and the FDA’s got a pretty big stick and they’ll come and swat you with it, Pete, if you’re not a good boy.
Pete: And I’ll guarantee you, if you did everything FDA says to do as far as eating the foods they believe you should be eating or if you do just the opposite and disregard every piece of advice they’ve given you on nutrition, you’re going to live a lot longer if you disregard every piece of advice they’ve ever given you on nutrition.
Bill: That’s a great way to end this show. Pete Kennedy, thank you so much for spending time. We know that your time is important. We also know that our listeners’ time is important and we really appreciate the last hour with us. Thank you again for listening to Off the Grid Radio.