Raw milk farmer
The trial date of Loganville dairy farmer, Vernon Hershberger, on raw milk issues was re-set this past Friday to May 20.
Prosecution of the raw milk producer had been scheduled to take place at the Sauk County Court House, Jan. 7, but was postponed after his attorney Elizabeth Rich, raised Constitutional issues in the pre-trial hearing Dec. 20.
Rich contended that the milk producers' religious beliefs had prevented him from legally opposing an agency order that lead to his prosecution. Hershberger was raised Amish, a group that shies away from legal confrontation.
The Sauk County farmer is accused of operating a food establishment without a license, operating as an unlicensed milk producer, operating a dairy plant without a license, and violating a hold order placed on products at his farm during a raid by Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) compliance officials in June 2010.
Wisconsin Department of Justice attorneys Eric Defort and Phillip Ferris have focused their prosecution on the violation of licensing requirements and the breaking of a hold order.
The defendant's attorney, on the other hand says that this is not a "one black and white issue: did the Defendant hold the requisite licenses for his activities, or did he not."
Rich says that Hershberger for more than 10 years has tried to comply with the law.
Hershberger, owner of Grazin' Acres farm, leases his cows to members of a food buyers club, a group of 100-plus people, who have rights in the animals and the raw milk they produce.
Although the charges leave out any discussion about raw milk, Hershberger's supporters believe that his prosecution is tied up with the product.
More than 20 Hershberger and raw milk supporters attended the Dec. 20 pre-trial hearing, many bringing their children. Zivile Kudzin of Madison had her husband and children in tow. "We are here supporting the farmer," said Kudzin. "We believe in raw milk."
Hershberger sees the production and distribution of raw milk as tied in to the community. "This case is … about people being able to contract and share with their neighbors," said Hershberger. "Sharing food, trading food, bartering."
A hearing to consider the First Amendment issue is scheduled for March 18.