Wisconsin’s Battle Over Raw Milk Continues – Despite Governor’s Veto!

On Wednesday, May 19 Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle switched directions, vetoing the raw milk bill that he previously said he would sign. It appears that the the state’s Dairy Business Association put forth enough pressure to influence Doyle’s decision.

“Big agriculture dominates this state,” says Joe Plasterer, the consumer representative on the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. “It’s like the auto industry in Michigan … and now look at Michigan. It has a shell of an economy.”

Jessica VanEgeren reports the following in today’s Capital Times…

Farmer defies warrant, keeps raw milk business open

A Sauk County dairy farmer who was handed a warrant Wednesday for operating a farm without a dairy license and selling raw milk products said he is ignoring the authorities and is open for business.

“This is how I make a living,” Vernon Hershberger, a Loganville dairy farmer, said Thursday morning. “We are going to go right ahead and do business.”

Hershberger said roughly 100 families, including some Madison customers, purchase raw milk, yogurt, cheese, butter and ice cream from a store on his farm that is open for business Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

It is only open to “members” who pay annual fees to purchase his dairy goods. The store is not open to the public.

By 10 a.m. Thursday, a handful of families already had arrived at his property to purchase his products.

“We got a lot of support,” said Hershberger, the father of nine whose only source of income is the money he earns from selling his dairy products.

The raid by officials from the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection comes on the heels of a veto by Gov. Jim Doyle last month of a bill that would have allowed the sale of raw milk for a limited trial period and only to customers who traveled to farms to purchase the product. The bill would not have allowed for raw milk to be sold in retail stores.

Even if the governor had signed the bill, Hershberger would be in violation of state law because he does not have a dairy license.

He did have a Grade-B dairy license that he did not renew in February.

Lee Sensenbrenner, a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, said Thursday that it is standard procedure for the department to send out a questionnaire when a license is not renewed.

Sensenbrenner said DATCP officials obtained a special inspection warrant from a Sauk County judge to search the farmer’s property when Hershberger failed to return the questionnaire.

“They went there because they couldn’t get information and the questions answered through regular methods,” Sensenbrenner said.

With the warrant in hand, two or three Sauk County police vehicles were stationed on Hershberger’s property while authorities searched his property for several hours.

Before leaving, they sealed the coolers that contained the farm’s dairy products, said Hershberger. The power to the coolers was left on.

Sensenbrenner said the state takes issue with the fact Hershberger does not have a dairy license or a license to run its store.

“You need a license to run a retail store and a license to operate a dairy farm,” Sensenbrenner said. “If you want to be a dairy farmer, you need a license.”

Hershberger said he does not need a retail license because the store is not open to the public.

“We farmers are not perfect people,” Hershberger said. “But we have rights. A private individual has rights.”

Sensenbrenner said it will be up to the Sauk County District Attorney to decide if charges are filed against Hershberger.