We have upped the ante in our efforts to broaden the availability of raw milk to those who want access to this prime food! Our legal representatives (Gary Cox of Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund and Sam Bonney of Waterloo, NY) have filed a complaint in Seneca County court on our behalf, contending that because we only provide milk and milk products to the members of our LLC, a private company, we should not fall under the regulation of the NYS Department of Ag and Markets. We do not yet have a court date, but we will let everyone know as soon as we do. This case will hopefully set a positive precedent for the state of New York and further define the limits of the rights of Ag and Markets to restrict your access to raw milk.
So yesterday two inspectors from the Dept of Ag and Mkts appeared at our door in the middle of a snowstorm! They had come to “witness” the destruction of the dairy products they had seized back on October 11. Following that seizure Ag and Markets held an administrative hearing and determined through examination of their own evidence that our products were unfit for human consumption and had to be destroyed. Interestingly, our lawyer found out through a series of informal emails with the Ag and Markets lawyer that they had decided to destroy our stuff even before they held the hearing! Anyway, they came yesterday to carry out the destruction, which involved standing around while Steve and I dumped yogurt, buttermilk, and milk from organic, grass-fed cows into buckets and then they “denatured” it by dumping in a gallon of bleach, just in case we have the audacity to feed it to our pigs! (Since when is the Dept of Ag and Markets protecting pigs from the dangers of raw milk!) While they were standing around they noticed good, new yogurt in our cooler and asked if that had been made since the seizure date. We said yes. The inspector then said he would have to inventory that and take some photos. We said over our dead bodies (not our exact words). He then asked if we refused to let him take photos and we said yes. I also added that he only had the authority to do the destruction of the seized stuff and nothing else. He replied that he had every right to take photos. I said, no, that he was trespassing if he did anything other than carry out the destruction. At that point he left the room to call Albany and get his orders. He returned and said they told him to get the photos and that he had a perfect right to do that. I said if he tried to take photos I would call the sheriff. He again said he had the right to do that so I left to call the police. When I returned to the room Steve was still dumping yogurt and they inspectors were still standing there. when we were done, about 15 minutes later, the deputy arrived along with a reporter from the Fingerlakes Times whom I had also alerted.
The inspector introduced himself and told the deputy he had been sent from Albany to take photos and inventory any product made since the seizure. The deputy asked to see proof of his authorization to do this in the form of a warrant. The inspector suggested the deputy should talk to the Director of Ag and Markets in Albany, but the sheriff said “I could talk to the Pope and it won’t make any difference unless you have a warrant.” After a few more phone calls to Albany the inspectors were convinced that they were licked and departed back out into the snowstorm without the evidence they had hoped to obtain to use in their hearing in January.
We will keep you posted as things unfold in the following week. Meanwhile, keep publicizing this situation. Now that we are taking it all to court we will need lots of support and press. We will post a press release here soon.