Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund Files Appeal in Wisconsin Raw Milk Case
The absolute right to private, unregulated, direct trade with a local raw milk producer is being fully tested in the heart of "America's Dairyland." The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund decided to appeal the jury verdict of farmer Vernon Hershberger in the recent case, State of Wisconsin [Plaintiff] v. Vernon Hershberger [Defendant]. The appeal was filed in District IV of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. Likely, the case will be reviewed by a three-judge panel.
Hershberger was found guilty on only one of four criminal counts, the violation of a hold order.
Hershberger operates Grazin' Acres, a dairy farm in Loganville, Wisconsin. He provides food for over 200 families.
At issue in this case was whether or not Hershberger needed a retail license, a dairy plant license, and a milk producers license from the state to operate his business. A jury of his peers found that Vernon was not breaking licensing laws, exonerating him on the three counts of operating without licenses.
The jury was also charged with determining whether or not a hold order was issued, and whether or not Hershberger had violated the order. The hold order was placed on Hershberger's coolers in the farm store by the Wisconsin Department of Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) on June 2, 2010.
During his trial, a heavily redacted hold order was submitted to the jury for review. Attorneys handling the case believe the jury would have cleared Hershberger of all charges had they seen the full hold order. The redacted portion of the order said the food was "misbranded or adulterated." Attorneys believe Hershberger would have presented a convincing argument that the food was neither adulterated nor misbranded.
A team of attorneys retained by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund filed the appeal on July 2, 2013. Elizabeth Rich, Glenn Reynolds, Amy Salberg took the original case to court in May 2013, and will stay on the case.
"Had the jury been given enough information to understand the totality of the circumstances, we believe they wouldn't have convicted Vernon of violating the holding order. His conviction was not consistent with the jury's acquittal on the other three count," says Rich.
For the one count on which Hershberger was found guilty, the potential fine was in excess of $10,000. The judge showed leniency. Hershberger was given a sentence of no jail, no probation, just a $1000 fine plus mandatory court assessments. The total damages of $1513.00 were paid by two of Vernon's supporters immediately after the sentencing.
The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund defends the rights and broadens the freedoms of family farms and artisan food producers while protecting consumer access to raw milk and nutrient-dense foods. Those concerned can support the FTCLDF, a U.S. based 501(c)(4) nonprofit, by joining or donating online at www.farmtoconsumer.org or by calling 703-208-FARM (3276).