December 23, 2011
Milk may do a body good, but selling it without the government’s stamp of approval does not. Dan Allgyer, an Amish dairy farmer, is finding that out the hard way. The federal government is trying to slap a permanent injunction on him preventing him from selling his cows’ product to willing customers in other states — all because Allgyer and his customers prefer to trade in milk that has not been pasteurized.
The sale of unpasteurized, or raw, milk is legal in Pennsylvania, where Allgyer lives. In Maryland, where some of his customers live, it is not. The Food and Drug Administration has decided that interstate sales of raw milk, particularly when the state for which the milk is destined bans its sale, are illegal; and that is why Allgyer now finds himself in hot moo juice with the feds.
Currently a food-buying club in Maryland called Grassfed on the Hill sends a truck to Allgyer’s farm to purchase and pick up his milk. They then transport it back to their home state, where it is distributed to club members in private homes. Allgyer is not personally selling the milk in Maryland at all.
The FDA, whose headquarters are in Silver Spring, Maryland, apparently got wind of this arrangement and launched an investigation. The agency spent over a year and countless tax dollars on an undercover infiltration of Grassfed on the Hill. Its agents joined the club under assumed names, placed orders for milk, and went into private residences to pick up their purchases. Then the FDA conducted an armed, pre-dawn raid on Allgyer’s farm in April 2010, during which agents found raw milk coolers marked for various destinations in Maryland. Now it had all the evidence it needed to prove that Allgyer was engaged in the dastardly act of selling raw milk across state lines.
The Department of Justice is asking U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Stengel for summary judgment to impose the injunction on Allgyer. All the judge has to do is sign the government’s ready-made form, and Allgyer will be banned from ever selling his milk to folks from out of state again, at which point he will be “essentially … out of business,” according to raw-milk advocate David Gumpert.
Actually, he doesn’t just get to be put out of business. The proposed injunction provides for the added privilege of having his farm inspected whenever FDA agents are bored or just have the urge, AND he gets to pay big time for the privilege (at rates of $87.57 or $104.96 per hour, plus 51 cents a mile for their travel, plus the regular government “per diem” for meals and hotels). One inspection that lasts a day or two, and involves two or three agents, who, of course, have to write up a detailed report afterwards, could cost $10,000. Maybe they decide to do it once a year, maybe once a month, maybe once a week. Whatever their pleasure.
At the end of five years, Allgyer can tell the court he’s been a good boy, and appeal to have the injunction lifted, and maybe it will be and maybe it won’t. If not, the inspection arrangement continues.